Upcoming events –

Napa-Sonoma Half Marathon, July 20, 2014
Noble Canyon 50km Trail, September 20, 2014

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Post-Olympic reflections

November 23--Post-Olympic reflections

Life has returned to normal, as much as life is ever normal around here. I'm back to my usual routine of training and working yet still struggling with the ever-present post-Olympic quandary of "What next?" I remember returning from Sydney four years ago and asking many of the same questions: should I continue training full-time? Should I get a real job? Should I become a male fashion model? Or not. :) But really, it is a difficult time of transition after the Olympics are over. Like everyone else who competed in Athens (and even those who didn't make the team), I have spent the past several years thinking about and preparing for the Olympics and now that they are over, there is a bit of a let-down. It would be easy to wallow in a bunch of meaningless psycho babble about postpartum depression or some such in an effort to make sense of it all, but basically it comes down to 'the Olympics are over. Now what?'

I had an interesting talk with one of my Olympic teammates. My teammate said, "It's really weird but now that I'm back to my regular life, my house, my family, nothing feels that different. I'm an Olympian, yes, but I don't feel any different." I nodded and said, "Yeah, it changes you in many small ways, mostly internal, but it's not as if going to the Olympics suddenly transforms you into a better person, or someone with super-human abilities." We decided that as amazing as the entire Olympic experience has been, we were both happy with who we were before it all started. I think that if you are hoping for the Olympics to improve you, make you more attractive, or popular, you're in for a big let down. I'm sure that many athletes, especially the gold medal winners, come away with many extrinsic rewards. But as a racewalker, I find that I'm deeply invested in the sport because of what I get out of it intrinsically and while I wouldn't trade my Olympic experiences for anything, many of those intrinsic rewards can be achieved without going to Athens. Feelings of empowerment, self-worth, and health can be achieved by racewalking in New York's Central Park or Portland's Waterfront Park. There just aren't thousands of people watching and cheering for you.

I had a good conversation with the Training Center's sports psychologist recently, too. He reflected that the accomplishments of Olympians are amazing but you can't immediately infer that the people who achieve them are equally amazing. In his profession, he has seen more than his share of Olympians who struggle with all sorts of issues. It reminds me of something my friend Jefferson Perez said of himself during a talk to other athletes at the Olympic Training Center. Jefferson, from Ecuador, is the world record holder and reigning world champion in the 20km walk. He said, "I am an ordinary person, but I do extraordinary things." His point was that while his actions may make him appear to be super-human, he is a normal guy who works very hard at what he does and has acheived astonishing results. To look at him and talk to him, you would agree that he seems ordinary: modest, quiet, and physically imposing. He is like Meb Keflezghi in the marathon, unassuming but very very good at what he does.

So, that brings me back to how ordinary my life is now that the Games are over. I'm continuing to train with Coach Pena with plans to race the 50km Nationals in February. I'm working my same old part-time job at Southwestern College until I can find something that is a bit more challenging. It would give me great satisfaction to be able to combine my writing, traveling, and communicating skills into some kind of employment. Until then, I will continue to enjoy the little things in life here in San Diego. My wife and I seem to have nurtured a few plants back to life in our garden. Perhaps we'll be harvesting spinach, tomatoes and peas soon to go with the sweet basil and mint that didn't die in the withering summer weather. Recently, we spent a fun afternoon at the 'World Famous San Diego Zoo' watching the hippo swat a big green ball around with its gaping mouth and the spotted-necked river otters chase the gibbon monkeys. A couple weeks earlier my training partners and I went for a really nice hiking adventure up in the mountains east and north of the Olympic Training Center. Check out the photos at snapfish.com. The next event on my schedule is the Seattle Half Marathon and then a 'Walk with an Olympian' day down in Portland before the USATF Annual Meeting.

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