Olympic Inspiration

First off, I had no idea how much I depended on my narcissistic running commentary for blog material.  As the last two months have left me with no training and all the time in the world to write, my blog should have been a bustle of activity…annoying people even more frequently than I used to.  Instead, it went silent for all of June and July.

Here’s the update on my foot…still injured, absolutely no progress since the first day of injury, still pissing me off to new levels daily.  I’ve moved on to seeing an orthopedist who has moved the diagnosis back to plantar fasciitis.  For two more weeks I’m restricted to an AirCast that evidently will keep me from gnawing my leg off out of frustration.  I’m not sure what the next step will be if the foot doesn’t miraculously heal in the next 12 days, but I’m praying it’s not more rest.  I’ve already waited for two and a half months for my foot to heal on it’s own, in my non-medical opinion…it’s time for something else.

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To be completely honest, the last two and a half months have been an unbelievable life change for me.  I went from work+travel of 65+ hours/week to spending lots of time at home or sitting in the office in Denison.  This was sheer torture all by itself but then losing my hobby in addition has been equally difficult.  I literally went from being on the move (either with my legs or in my car) around 80 hours/week to nothing.  I’ve tried to stay as positive through the process as I possibly could, but there are certainly moments that challenge that attitude.  Which brings me to the point of this post…Olympic Inspiration.

For the last two weeks we’ve all watched the Olympics to some extent and have all been inspired or disgusted by a few moments from the games.  For me, there’s always something I see that shocks me at the games.  Something that inspires me.  Something that tells me I’ve got great things left in this body of mine.  There’s also the moments that I wish I could erase from my Olympic memory that make me scratch my head.  For the London 2012 games, these are those moments:

The Best Performance – Usain Bolt

With the Olympics, comes Olympic competition.  The greatest in every sport take to the Olympic stage and the margins that define the winners and losers are ridiculously slim.  This is what makes Bolt’s performances that much more unbelievable.  Not only is he winning gold, he’s setting world records that are as close to untouchable as I’ve ever seen, and he’s doing it while easing up over the last few strides.  Whether you like Bolt’s “look at me” attitude and antics, I think you must respect and appreciate that he’s doing things we’ve never seen. 

To put this into perspective, Michael Johnson smashed the previous record at 200 meters at the 1996 Atlanta Games.  The standing record had been there for nearly 17 years and Johnson blew it away by 4 tenths.  To break a long-standing record by a huge margin in absolutely unthinkable.  Four-tenths of a second in a 19.5 second race is more than 2 percent.  Johnson was 2% better than anyone who had ever run that distance.  Then came Bolt who not only broke the record himself, but has taken it below 19.2.  I honestly thought Johnson’s record wouldn’t be broken until I was either retired or dead.  The fact that Bolt has broke the unbreakable, and done it while easing up at the end is just preposterous to me.  Arrogant or not, Bolt is the greatest ever.  It was a pleasure to watch.

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The Worst Performance – The US Women’s Soccer Team

Can these girls be any more full of themselves?  In the case of Bolt, he speaks of his accomplishments but doesn’t dance directly in front of his competitors.  Look at the photo above, Bolt is all alone on the track, not doing that in front of his opponent.  Bolt backs it up…he’s peerless and those that take the track with him have the utmost respect for him, that’s not the case with the US Women’s Soccer Team.  They saw solid competition in this tournament and didn’t even have the respect to acknowledge it.  They ran choreographed celebrations after scoring and then cried foul when an opponent had enough of their crap and sucker punched their best player.  This team was unbelievably fortunate to get out of the semis when Canada gave them all they could handle, then had the officials take Japan’s chance to win in the final.  While I would normally say they won on the same field that everyone else played on, they did so with a complete lack of respect for the opponent, the game, and the Olympic spirit.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo once again decided to stir things up by criticizing the match commentary after their 4-2 win over France to open group play.  It’s not enough to win, they insist the match commentary must praise the way they win.  Then add Carli Lloyd’s me me me interview after the gold medal match and I honestly could watch the US Women’s Soccer team fold and wouldn’t care.  If this is what we’re trying to build to inspire our youth…kill it.

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Moment that made me laugh – US Women’s Gymnastics

The US Women’s Gymnastics team was dominant in London and all five of them seemed to have taken their media training as seriously as any of the athletes there.  Interviews with them might as well have been scripted because they never broke from the rehearsed answer.  “It’s all about the team.” “We all root for each other.”  The usual cliches.

But they backup up all that talk with their actions.  At every event final and during the all-around, the members of Team USA not competing were at the arena supporting their teammates.  In a sport that is all about individual performance, they competed and celebrated as a team for the entire event.

This isn’t what made me laugh, but rather set up the moment that made me laugh.  During the vault final, American McKayla Maroney finished a disappointing second.  She was the clear favorite and didn’t execute on that given night.  Her disappointment spilled into a viral phenomenon, “McKayla is NOT impressed.”  Her expression on the medal stand has been photoshopped into images from the White House to Blake Griffin’s dunk over a car.  Then came the moment that made me laugh.  A tweet from Aly Raisman…

ImageThey actually upped the ante with this one.  Embracing the whole idea and posting the funniest tweet of the Games.  For Maroney, to be able to let go of the disappointment and participate in this shows a humility that athlete’s years older couldn’t understand at these games (i.e. the US Soccer team).  These girls gave nothing but the rehearsed answer at every interview and then broke this out…well done girls!

Person I took the most inspiration from – Allyson Felix

Allyson took silver in the Women’s 200 meters at both Athens and Beijing.  To come back for the third consecutive Games and compete at that level is inspiration by itself.  Then to win, and follow it up with a pair of relay golds…it was impossible not to feel good for Allyson.  But, the reason I find her inspiring isn’t just that she won, it was her mentality.

Allyson has publicly said she needed to be more selfish after Beijing.  She felt she was stretching herself too thin, trying to please too many people other than herself.  She took the process that had brought silver twice, changed the process which changed the results.  She felt she had to run for herself.  Then when her time finally came, there was no doubt…Allyson deserved it, she EARNED it.  A true story of perseverance and inspiring on so many levels. 

ImageThis brings me back to…me!  I could not agree more with Allyson’s philosophy and training.  If you keep doing the same things, you get the same results.  She (now) runs for herself, same as I do.  While I respect every other reason that people run for (for those who can’t, to inspire, to lead, countless others), I flat out run for me.  If no one ever reads the babble I put on my blog about my own running experiences or ever sees the finisher’s medals that hang in my house…I wouldn’t care.  They’re purely for me.

A close second for inspiring performance – Lisa Uhl and Shalane Flanagan

Being an Iowa native, I was pulling for Lisa.  She ran the 10,000 meters and finished 13th in London.  While not on the medal stand, Lisa still put together a personal best at the Olympics.  Seriously, how many people can say they’ve been to the Olympics period, and then know that they had their best performance on the Olympic stage?  Medal or not, to be your best at the Games is phenomenal.  Couldn’t be prouder of my fellow Iowan!

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And lastly, marathoner Shalane Flanagan.  Shalane, like Lisa, didn’t win a medal.  She finished 10th during a wet run of 26.2 through London.  But I absolutely loved her attitude post-race, best shown by her tweet afterward…

Image“I ran the marathon in the freakin Olympics!”  I love it.  I felt the same way after my 5:00:23 performance in Austin.  “I traveled all this way and finished with an experience of a lifetime!”  Then I got the same feeling in Fargo after my 4:13:53 with friends and family waiting at the line.

While I found it incredibly difficult to keep watching the Games while knowing my foot injury keeps me from training, I’ve seen that my attitude toward running is shared with those that are the best in the sport.  Enjoy the experience, be your best on the biggest and brightest stage, keep battling, change what doesn’t work or repeat the results.  It will probably be until 2013 until I get the chance to marathon again…but I can’t wait.

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