In November, I posted an article about my journey with the javelin; the struggle, the fear, and the attempt to trust my training, my coach, and myself. With the World Championship heptathlon right around the corner, and the javelin struggle still very real, I know it will be a key event if I want to give myself a shot at winning.
Here's the behind the scenes story:
From an outsider looking in, an elite athlete's life might look like it consists of working out everyday, traveling the world, getting sweet gear from sponsors, and receiving "nice relaxing massages" whenever we want. Yes, these things are part of an athlete's lifestyle, but the things that outsiders often don't see: the stress of competitions, the frustrations of a bad practice, the anxiety and worry of not being ready, and the fear of going "all in" on something and not knowing if it's going to work out in the end.
Javelin. It has been both my biggest strength and my biggest nemesis but recently, the latter. Harry would always tell me that I just have to trust the process; trust the training, trust him, and trust and believe in myself. In the past, I would tell myself at the beginning of a practice to be patient, that improvement doesn't happen overnight. I would pick up the javelin and do whatever drills were planned to help get me in the correct throwing position. For the first few practices of the season, I was content just throwing softly and working on the drills, but as more time passed, the more anxious and impatient I would get. I'd want to throw the javelin hard to see if all the drill work was paying off. Against Harry's orders, I'd just wing the sucker as hard as I could, body positions all over the place, and guess what...it wouldn't go far. Then would come the frustration, anger, feelings of defeat, and the "I'm totally effing lost!" phrase.
One day, after this exact kind of practice happened, I went home, calmed down, I realized that all those feelings were fear. I was scared. I was scared that I'd never figure it out. I was scared that I'd never give myself the opportunity to reach my full potential. I was scared that I'd pour all my time into it and it wouldn't pay off. I was scared of the unknown.
Something my sports psychologist often tells me when I get in a rut is, "If what you're doing right now isn't working, then why don't you change it? I know you're scared, but you have to trust your coach, your program, and yourself. You can do it." So that night I made up my mind that I was going to accept the reality of the situation, listen, be patient, let go of the unknown, and try to trust and enjoy the process. I told myself, "If you do this and still don't throw far, it'll be okay because at least you'll know that you did everything you could to give yourself the best chance for improvement."
So that's what I’ve been working on. Has it been perfect? No. Do I still get frustrated and have breakdowns at practice? Yes. Do I take a step backwards somedays? Yes. Am I scared about how I will handle the event during the World Championships? Yes. I'm only human.
“To know a species, look at its fears. To know yourself, look at your fears. Fear in itself is not important, but fear stands there and points you in the direction of things that are important. Don’t be afraid of your fears. They aren’t there to scare you, they’re there to let you know something is worth it.”
Yes, I’m scared. But I’m also excited. I think as athletes, we become obsessed with the pursuit of perfection. How much fun would it be if you did absolutely everything perfect and knew no one could beat you? It’s the challenge that makes it fun…and the win so meaningful.