In a season that includes ten races spanning fourteen weeks, it’s quite remarkable the breadth of emotions experienced as performances exceed, or fail to meet my expectations. The fifteen hundred meter race never has less than twelve competitors line up on the start line so unlike most sports where there are just two opponents battling for the ‘W’, victories can be few and far between when racing the best in the world. In my Olympic silver-medal winning season of ’08, the only victory I got was on the road, at the Fifth Avenue Mile. Often we hear coaches on ESPN saying they’re making progress, but at the end of the day all that matters is the win/loss column in determining their success. We can’t live with that attitude as runners. Evaluating a performance must always be relative to one’s overall season plan. Being a fitness-based sport as opposed to a skill sport, peaking is of utmost importance. One must train in order to be at their very best when the championship race comes around, and in order to do so, it is near impossible to expect your best for every race. In light of that, as we cross the finish line after races, it is important to reflect on how we have performed relative our own individual expectations, be they times, or strategy, and how that fits into the overall plan our coaches have put in place.
My training has gone pretty much to plan this year. The times I have been able to knock out in practice, along with the mileage goals, and recovery/energy levels throughout the many weeks, have been as good as I could have hoped for. Until last night in Paris however, I never really achieved the result I have been looking for in races. Part of this was because I had set a too narrow goal range, and also because I was comparing myself to my competitors too much. The result was that I was leaving track meets feeling frustrated and with little joy to show for the experience. In truth, my results were actually very decent. A 3m51.9s mile (finishing 10th), and a 3m36.4s 1500m (2nd) are good solid runs to open a season, but I was putting pressure on myself to try and live up to performances I would think would be expected from an Olympic medalist. My father-in-law had observed this through my body language on the start line. As Sierra and I departed for Europe last week, her Dad told me that he wants to see that smile on my face when we are introduced on television. He summed it up perfectly – He
hasn’t seen that from me yet this year. I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. I was far too serious, and worrying too much about how others would be evaluating my performances.
As the camera panned past me in the Stade de France last night, I hope a few of you caught the double thumbs up and the smile I sent back to Michigan to show my Father-in-law I was back to my old self – Enjoying being part of the show and ready for whatever happens.
So how to respond when the result you were looking for finally comes your way? Celebrate, enjoy the moment and be thankful for the opportunity because these moments are few and far between. They are the moments that keep us hungry in training, and make all the hard work worthwhile. There is still a need for perspective however. Each race carries differing weightings of importance, of which the world championships is the utmost. Paris for me was like the first qualifying round. Crossing the line I couldn’t resist a fist pump to signify the task was complete, and everything was on track. At the end of the season I hope to look back and see that I kept to the plan and this was a very important marker towards reaching the primary goal. The Stade de France is an Ebenezer for me. Thank you God!
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12)