It never fails. Before every 800m race, I’m in a panic. “Why do I do this? This isn’t fun. I’m scared and stressed out. I can’t do this anymore. I’m retiring.” Then I cross the finish line, am surrounded by my competitors who instantly bring water, high fives, hugs and congratulate me on getting through another heptathlon, no matter the result. It’s then that I remember why I do the heptathlon. The adrenaline, the thrill of competition and the opportunity to compete against a group of very talented women who make me a better athlete. I instantly get excited for my next heptathlon.
But crossing the 800m finish line in Rio I didn’t have this feeling. I was mentally exhausted. I have never been so thankful to be finished something in my life. I felt like I never wanted to do another heptathlon again. This feeling confused me.
I took 3 months to completely get away. I didn’t think about those feelings. I didn’t want to make any decisions based on my mental exhaustion. But as the start of the 2017 season drew nearer, I felt more and more resistant to begin training.
I gave the last 4 years everything I could. I put my life on hold. Track and field was the priority before everything else: my family, my friends, my marriage, my future. This is something I chose to do and I don’t regret it for a second. It made me happy to pursue something I was so passionate about.
But I’ve done it. I went after what I set out to do and whether I achieved it or fell short is not the point. The point is that I know deep down that I gave it every ounce of energy I had and that if I went back and did it all over again, I would not change a thing; I could not have done anything better. Isn’t this the point of sport? Isn’t this the point of challenging yourself to something? To do the best you can do?
I no longer have the passion for track and field or the heptathlon that I used to because I know I can’t advance any further in the sport; I’ve given it all I can, and I refuse to come back and half-ass it because I love and respect this event and sport too much. With that, I’ve decided to retire. It’s time to move on to my next passion, the next thing in the world I hope to make an impact in.
The list of people that have been a part of my career is large, and I’ve been fortunate enough to thank a lot of them personally. But here are my last parting thank you’s:
To the people who have had a daily part in making my athletic career a success. I couldn’t have done it without you.
To the University of Oregon and all my coaches there, for believing in me and giving me a magical place to develop my talent.
To my main sponsors and Athletics Canada who have stuck with me day in and day out through this 4 year cycle. You had a large part in me reaching the podium.
To my country, province, and hometown. For allowing me the opportunity to represent you on the world stage.
To my Canadian teammates and track friends. For your constant encouragement, companionship and distraction when it was needed most. I will miss being on teams with you and cheering you on in the stadium.
To my family for their endless support. Although the last 4 years have been exciting, I know they were also stressful on you.
To my competitors. Thank you for pushing me and making me the best athlete I could be. You ladies are what I will miss most about the sport.
And last but not least, to my husband who I know I wouldn’t have been able to do this without.
I think it was in the summer of 2001. If that’s correct, I was in 7th grade, 13 years old. I remember waking up with nothing to do and going to the dining room table. There were newspapers laying there which I normally don’t care for, but the front page of one caught my eye. I wish I could remember the name of the newspaper; I think the title of the article was something like “Galactic Olympics” or “Interstellar Olympics.” On the front page was a picture of Earth surrounded by athletes from various sports. But there was one athlete with a larger image in the center, in front of Earth. It was a man I didn’t know doing something that looked familiar. I looked at the small caption next to the image “Roman Sebrle throwing the javelin.” That’s right, “javelin.” But who was Roman Sebrle? The article pondered who should represent Earth if there were to be an interstellar Olympic Games. The consensus was: Roman. I considered myself knowledgeable about sports. But out of all the athletes in the world we were choosing this man I had never seen doing something I’d never heard of; the decathlon. I left to go about my day and forgot about that experience until five years later when I heard that word again; "decathlon." This time, I was being asked if I’d consider trying it. I said “sure.”
It has been 10 years since then (secretly I find that fitting) and it’s my time to depart from athletics; to do something new. Frankly there isn’t much more I want to do in sport. I gave the most physically robust years of my life to the discovery and pursuit of my limits in this domain. Did I reach them? Truthfully I'm not sure anyone really does. It seems like we tend to run out of time or will before we run out of potential. That makes humanity limitless then, as far as I'm concerned. And I think that's inspiring.
To my supporters and sponsors; The things I have achieved were achieved together with you. At times when I was doubtful, you believed. And if I was confident, it was also because you believed. Thank you for the love and support.
To anyone I’ve competed with; To compete with you, learn from you, be challenged by you, and to be friends with you, are some of my most protected memories and experiences. Because of you it has been my pleasure to be an athlete.
To USA & Oregon; My birthplace Portland, my roots in La Pine and Bend, and the University of Oregon. I am a product of this environment. Thank you for fostering possibility.
To every coach I’ve had in sport; I know each of you well. Day by day, lesson by lesson, you helped me ascend. Thank you.
To Roman; Thank you for surpassing the limit. Because of you we now aim for higher heights. You will always be the inspiring first.
To Nikola Tesla and Elon Musk; you were my inspirations. From you I learned what it means to work, that ambition overrides adversity, and how to pursue a higher purpose.
To my friends and family; I love you and thank you for always being there, regardless.
To my mom; thank you for believing I could be superman.
To Brianne; I’ve never seen such a high level of strength sustained for so long. I love you. What now??