I will be spending the week in Eugene, waiting for my opportunity to earn my spot on the Olympic Team. Being here for a whole week is a great thing, but it comes with it's own set of challenges. You can feel the excitement, cut the electricity with a knife, and feed off the emotion that surrounds you. But at the same time you have to be careful. You don't want to expend all your energy throughout the week and then find yourself depleted by the time it comes for you to compete. You don't want to stay on the Olympic "high" for too long, because it can literally drain you. Everyone prepares differently for big meets, and I can't tell you that I have found the perfect formula, but I do know that I have had the blessing to experiment in years past and find out what does and doesn't work all that well for me. Of course at the time I didn't know I was experimenting, but because past experiences can be our best teacher, I have learned over the years what kind of person I am not and shouldn't pretend to be.
*Don't be a social butterfly: I have been in the sport for so long that I know a lot of people. I have many friends that are competing, half the coaches I have worked with at some time in my career, and there are a ton of people to air kiss with and make small talk. But it is hard to be "on" all the time. I have chosen to not stay at the athlete hotel so that I can make sure I keep my time more to myself and that I don't feed off of others emotions too much. People are having their highest highs and their lowest lows this week, and I don't want to join them for either. The hotel lobby at meets is an experience in and of itself, and the Olympic Trials just exaggerates this. I have my own little studio where I can eat breakfast in solitude, and I don't have to be reminded every waking second of all the hoopla that is here.
*Know who you are: I remember back in 2004 when I was a competitor at the Olympic Trials, I made the decision to be super focused and serious, and I played that role the whole week before I competed. The problem? It wasn't me. I see athletes that do this… they walk around with a scowl on their face and it's as if they look right through people because they don't notice anyone or anything, they are that focused. So I tried to be that person because I figured that's what you are supposed to do when you are really serious about what you are trying to do. But it takes far too much energy to be something you're not and when you spend energy "trying", it doesn't work. I need to enjoy what I'm doing. I need to have a smile on my face during my warm-up and laugh if someone says something funny. I need to acknowledge people who say hello to me and wish me well, because this is who I am. I feel most confident when I am excited and relaxed.
*Believe your toolbox is full: Have you ever tried to cram for a test? Stayed up all night trying to learn things you didn't bother to learn throughout the semester? It sucks and it's not a very good way to prepare for something important. It is easy to get to this point and start to worry about all the things you still need to improve and technique you wish you had. But at this point, as my college coach would so eloquently tell me, It is what it is. I am not going to improve physically any more these last few days and I can't waste precious energy worrying about all the things I wish I did better or try and learn something I haven't quite been able to in the last four years. At this point the best thing you can do for yourself is trust in your toolbox and believe wholeheartedly that your preparation for this moment is enough. Celebrate what you have and forget about what you may not have. It can't help you to worry about anything at this point, so don't. My body is as healthy as it is going to be and so it is healthy enough. My technique is as on point as it's going to be, and so it is great. And so for the million and one times I am going to be asked over the next few days "Are you ready?", my answer will continue to be a resounding YES.