I have been toying with this blog post for a while now.  Trying to decide how exactly I wanted to describe and express my Olympic experience… the journey before and the emotions after. 

The basic gist of my Olympics included having an amazing set up rooming with Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Melissa Bishop, Phylicia George, Angela Whyte, Nicole Sifuentes, Jess O’Connell & Maria Bernard.  Having the majority of my roommates come in with previous Olympic experience helped calm me. 

The Olympics were an opportunity for me to foster relationships… with my sport, my teammates, and the bears that I’ve poked.  It was a chance for me to fall in love… with the marathon again.

I wish I could say my Olympic prep went off without a hitch and training for it was the dream of all dreams.  The reality was far from that… it was ugly.  Sickness in April.  Junk Iron all Spring.  A jenky left leg that has been a growing pain in my “not so runner sized” ass since 2012.  Emotional stressors.  And finally, the #doubledouble debacle.  (What can I say? Sometimes I tend to rock the boat).

Those who know me well know that I do not download music.  Instead, I travel around through my gypsy life with a stack of old CDs in a beat up silver case held together by a rubber-band.  When I packed up my car… my life… my home and made my way out to Arizona in January I made sure to run back into the house and grab my music stack.  When I left AZ and spent two months in Vancouver, much to Natasha’s dislike, I came with my amazing music selection.  When life took an unexpected turn and I packed up and returned home to London, Ontario for my final Rio training block, the musical stylings of Lanni came with me.  My soundtrack to the Olympics.  We are talking nothing much newer than 2010… other than a Wiz Khalifa and Miley Cyrus CD my roommate burnt for me…  a lot of mixed CDs that my siblings were looking to toss that I rescued, a few I burnt back in high school. 

Throw in a disc and I am instantly 17 again driving with my sis Randi and friend Bethany to Port Stanley Beach.  A Tragically Hip CD that I titled “God’s Band” in the hopes of convincing my southern friends to like them. Pop in another and it’s driving to my late night law classes at Michigan State belting out some Kings of Leon.  There is one though that I can’t tie to a particular time… one that seems relevant to the last 4 years.  “Let’s break up”… a mix CD my older sister gave me and one that I am not embarrassed to say has been played a time or two-hundred during the end of a relationship (don’t worry… this isn’t a break-up blog… I already did one of those).    It has been the soundtrack to countless drives up and down I-75 between Chattanooga and London, Ontario.  The disc most regularly left in my car’s cd player.  The cause of a lot of bad car dancing… worse singing.  It’s scratched.  It skips. It’s perfectly imperfect.

It opens up with Metric’s “Help, I’m Alive” and leads into “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”. It also has gems like “Bulletproff” “Magnetic Baby” and Madonna’s “Revolver” and “I’m not Sorry”… I heart Madonna… and I’m so not sorry.

It’s the opening song that I have worn out… its chorus and verses often stuck in my head on training runs.  The song that was running through my mind on the start line of both races.

“If I stumble… they’re going to eat me alive”

Everyone wanted to weigh in on the double.  Everyone had their expectations and opinions.  If I pulled it off, would it be good enough?  If I failed?  “They’re going to eat me alive”.  Do not be upset or confused here.  I loved the support I received and will forever be amazed by the way the Canadian and running community at large stood up and took up for me… wanting to see me run both events in Rio. ‘preciate ya.  But with the attention came pressure.  Suddenly everyone was weighing in on my personal goals and aspirations.  My intentions and abilities celebrated by most, questioned by some. 

For some reason it was not until I stood on the start line of the Women’s 10,000m that I realized there was no turning back.  I trembled… time to find out if I would be eaten alive. 

“Help I’m alive. My heart keeps beating like a hammer”

Like most races, once the gun went off my mind turned to the task at hand and the nerves melted away.  Unlike the track races earlier in the season, I felt in control in this race.  The pace was on a runaway train. We had a few trip-ups… but I never gave up.  I fought for every step. That’s what I do.  If the concern was whether I would put in an “A” effort knowing there was something bigger and tougher to come in 46 hours, those thoughts were for the jaded… the faint of heart. I have never been attracted to easy.  I crossed the finish line with nothing more of myself to give.

“Hard to be soft. Tough to be Tender”

Being in professional sport… having a professional career outside of sport… being a woman doing both… it does not allow for much time to do much of anything other than present myself as tough… as hard.  Looks can be deceiving.  Miles and miles run have hardened my body… hours and hours of work have toughened my mind.  Both requirements to get to the Olympic level in sport. Necessities for parts of my life but not allowed to harden me to life.

“If you’re still alive… my regrets are few.  If my life is mine. What shouldn’t I do?”

My expectations and reality were quite different during those 46 hours.  I thought I was going to be emotionally and physically drained.  I thought I might feel dread.  I thought the fear of stumbling was going to hit.  Instead I was amped.  In the place of fear was confidence.  I was not bothered by the doubts of others… the inconsiderate thoughts of those who were too stubborn to truly try to know me.  I was going to work.  And I’m good at what I do.

Running that marathon was one of the best experiences in my life.  There were parts that were tough.  Patches here and there where my head trumped my heart… other parts where I was running with pure heart.  I can be analytical about most things.  Overly pragmatic apparently.  But when I think of that race it isn’t the splits or tactics I remember… I remember running with a calm I haven’t felt before.  I remember the excitement of knowing you were watching.

“I get wherever I’m going. I get whatever I need”

Relationships end.  It happens.  Usually you see it coming… other times you feel a little blindsided and confused. My relationship with the Olympics started out rocky back in 2012.  We got over our initial falling out, apologized and actually forgave. We faced a few more bumps and grew together the last four years.  I have come to view my road to Rio as a well-rounded and full relationship.  It was ugly at times. It was hard.  It was worth it. 

As I find myself in the final weeks prep for New York City marathon, I once again find myself with my busted CD case and stack of CDs.  I find myself listening to “let’s break up” slightly unsure of which ended relationship it’s helping me run through.