Ok, I admit that I have put off writing this post for a little too long. I meant to sit down and do it last week, but I somehow got caught up in the intoxicatingly sublime way of being that involves having nothing to do and nowhere to be. Well, not absolutely nothing, but compared to my activity itinerary over the past three months, it felt very tame. And as most of us know, the less you have to do, the less you get done. So I instead made very good use of my Netflix membership and plowed through the end of Season 3 of Glee AND Season 3 of Scrubs, not to mention taking a good chunk out of Season 4 of Castle. It was also a very proud moment when I dusted off the Netflix discs that had been sitting, waiting for me since before I left for London, and watched those. I also found time to mail all the List packages and to make a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner for myself and a friend which was perfectly humble and quiet at home with absolutely no travel involved.
So after three long months of traveling, packing, unpacking, laundry, re-packing, restaurants, hotels, airplanes, in flight movies, overhead bins, photographs, autographs, smiling, and trying like hell to reconnect with all of the people who have been a part of my journey to this point, I am finally done. I spent all of last week sleeping in my own bed, cooking and eating in my own kitchen, and getting back in to the comfortable routine of my life in Princeton. I didn’t do much else last week, but I did finally feel like my feet were both back on the ground and I was able to just… be home.
So. What comes next?
Admittedly I’ve known for some time already this fall what the next step was going to be, as all along the way I’ve had people asking me–“what now?” or more specifically: “So… Rio?”
So here’s what I’ve told all of them: I’m committed to train for the 2013 season. My goal is to get back in to training over the next few months in order to be ready for racing and selection in the spring, and then make the 2013 World Championship Team.
Heading in to London, even as early as the fall of 2011 (like this post) I was preparing myself to be done with elite training and competition. I knew that there was a very real possibility that after the summer of 2012 I would be ready to retire from Olympic rowing. I was preparing myself to fall out of love with the sport and experience a sense of closure or finality. I expected to feel ready to be done. And then I wasn’t.
The thing that’s tricky about contemplating retirement is that Sport is a sly mistress. This summer was an amazing, rewarding, life-changing experience. Everything that winning an Olympic medal has brought in to my life has been so much more than I ever could have hoped and I am so grateful and (still) thrilled. But for every single happy photo I’ve taken, or autograph I’ve signed, or young person I’ve talked to this fall, there were probably ten times over the past four years that I was miserable and frustrated and just angry about training or selection. I have no idea how many times I wanted to quit, or scream obscenities at myself or my teammates or my coaches. I failed, a lot. I got my ass kicked, a lot. I got injured, lost races, was told I wasn’t good enough, barely scraped by financially, and continually found myself in the most dizzyingly ridiculous situations. A lot of what I did over the past four years just plain sucked.
This summer made me forget all of that.
As I tentatively move forward with an eye on 2013, I am wary of being lured back in to something that, at times, was maddening, and made me miserable. After all, one of the golden rules of competing in this sport at this level is that it is almost impossible to do anything good if it doesn’t make you happy and you aren’t enjoying it. Is it possible that all of the good experiences I’ve had since July can overrule all the bad experiences I’ve had since 2009 so I can break even and start over? I’m not sure. The only way to find out is to get back in to it, and report back to you from the inside.
I won’t tell you that I’m definitely training for four more years, or that I’m definitely aiming to go to Rio. I can’t know that at this point. Instead, I’m going to take the next steps one at a time, set immediate goals, and work my way back in to it. Even though this all goes too fast, four years is still a long time. I don’t feel any real rush to commit to four more years when what I can definitely do is focus on the next several months and getting back in to shape, making the World Championship Team and then attempting to win my first World Championship title. And yes, I’m going to do all of that from Princeton. For all the times I have lamented having to live and train in New Jersey, I do feel that my role is to be here, serving my teammates and the PTC. Someone has to make sure everything stays on track around here and the new girls are doing their power cleans right.
So what’s right now? I continue to work back into building base fitness with 2-3 sessions a day on the erg or the bike, doing work in the weight room and mixing in some running. I’m on my own through the month of December before camp officially strikes up again in San Diego in January. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Training alone is a Catch-22 in that it is lonely, but I also do not want my teammates and coaches knowing how slow I am right now (even though there’s a good chance we’re all a little out of shape right now). Moreover, words cannot express my impatience for my body to hurry up and be ready to sustain the same erg splits I was pulling at this time last year. But just like coming back from an injury, coming back from time off has to be patient, systematic and structured. I’m good with the latter two–the former, not so much. So when I am feeling like the slowest, weakest, most out of shape athlete on the planet, I think of it this way: right now, my job is to be excellent at getting back in to shape. That means I have to be excellent at doing steady state at my normal split +4. And I have to be excellent at lifting less weight in the weight room. And running a little bit slower. And the improvements will come. The process hasn’t changed, and neither has the approach that Tom gave to me my first summer in Princeton: “You can get the results you want. But you have to work.”
So. That’s what’s next. See you out there.
Long Live the Dream,