Saturday, February 28, 2009

Homeward Bound

Hello Everyone.

In a few short hours, I will be homeward bound. I have to look forward to one hour on the train to Schiphol Airport, a lovely eight hour flight from Amsterdam to Toronto, the drive from Person Airport to Peterborough, and I'll be home!

I am looking forward to meeting you all on Tuesday at Queen Mary and Wednesday night at St. Andrew's United Church!

Your Athlete,

Friday, February 27, 2009

My Sport Idol

My sport idol is Kajsa Bergqvist. For over ten years, starting in 1997, she was a consistent fixture at the top of world high jumping. Naturally gifted, she grew up competing in the array of track and field events. In fact, until age 18, she was competing in the heptathlon. As a high jumper, she competed and was a medalist at various top-level meets, including the European Championships, the World Championships, and the Olympic Games.

Her career highlight was when she came back from a potentially career ending achilles injury to set the indoor World Record for women’s high jump, at 2.08m in 2006! While I had always enjoyed watching Kajsa jump and compete, this comeback was a true test of character and talent and I admired her for that. In January 2008, she announced that she would retire from high jumping. She had found her life entering a “new phase,” ready to move forward with life outside athletics.

It was through Kajsa's website that I learned of one of my favourite quotations: Dream! But don’t forget to live, and then maybe you’ll find yourself living your dream! From this I learned that we need to have passion at all times in our lives and embrace every moment, both on and off the sport field!

Your Athlete,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rough Week

I trust we have all had days like the ones I have had lately. Days where the routine things in our lives take more energy and more focus than usually, your motivation seems absent and you just feel blah!

Well maybe there are some lucky folks who never find themselves feeling this way, but I know for me this is not the first time. Talking about this with Bart and Aquil it is clear that this time of year is usually accompanied with a crash-dip-block, or whatever you want to call it.

I am happy to say that training has been going well. My times in running workouts are where they need to be or better, for a while I had maintained a relaxed focus in training, my weight training is building up strong, and my technical work is starting to come together. In addition, the new eating schedule I am working with has been going well. I am sleeping an average of 9hrs a night. So on the surface, things were looking ok.

However, I was struggling. I have spent the past week feeling disconnected emotionally from what I was doing. Perhaps it was a sign of over training, or maybe I just checked out early – I am looking forward to going home in just about a weeks time, and I think when I booked my ticket, I was already home in my head.

I think a part of my problem has also been that when things are going well I allow myself to set my expectations a little higher and higher, and forget to stop and put things back in check. Both my head and my body are tired and lacking focus and coordination. I need to accept that this is a moment I need some rest. I need to talk more and let people know what is happening with me and express what I am feeling so that I can make some changes.

The problem may seem strange to someone outside of sport: I am exhausted, but the hardest thing for me in this moment is to take a break. This highlights the importance of a good working relationship with your coach and having trust in him/her. At a time like this, I have to rely on Bart to see my tiredness and scale down the training, remind me to have faith in the hard work we are doing and know we are still moving forward even when we slow down. He reminds me that courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

Your Athlete,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A day in the life of . . .

This is more or less what a typical day for me would look like:

08:00 wake up
08:30 first cup of coffee – I love coffee!
09:00 meal 1 – I have a set meal plan so everyday the same, except Sundays!
1 piece of fruit
30g oatmeal
200mL milk
20g raisins

09:30 second cup of coffee
09:45 bike to Papendal for practice number one
10:00 – 12:30 training (running and throwing events)
12:30 bike home
12:45 meal 2
50g muesli
200mL yogurt
2 kiwi

13:00 - 13:45 shower, check email
13:45 – 15:00 mid-day nap
15:15 meal 3
2 slices of bread
1 slice cheese
1 hard boiled egg without the yolk
100g cucumber
1 grapefruit

15:30 third cup of coffee
15:45 bike to Papendal for practice number two
16:00 – 18:00 training (weights, knee work, jumps)
18:00 meal 4 protein shake
15g protein
5g glutamine
150mL milk
18:15 bike home
18:30 shower
19:15 meal 5
50g pasta/rice/Chinese noodles
75g meat (chicken/beef/salmon)
200g vegetables
19:45 relax, check email, watch a movie or some tv, read if I’m not too exhausted!
22:30 meal 6
2 slices of bread
30g chicken
1 banana
23:00 to bed I go!

So if you are looking for me, I am either eating, training or sleeping!

I love it :>

Your Athlete,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Be the Doer of Deeds

One of my best friends, Khalila, was sharing with me her thoughts on how we all find ourselves questioning the path we choose at some point. I believe our lives are defined my opportunities, even the ones we miss. We are confronted daily with choice after choice and while we have “helpers” such as parents, siblings or teachers in our lives that can guide us, the final choice is always our own.

One of my favourite quotes, from which I draw strength, is by Theodore Roosevelt in his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, April 23, 1910. It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

For me, this relates to the need for personal strength. When we make some choices, not everyone is happy with them. I am reminded of a difficult moment in my career when my former coach disagreed with my choice to train in Holland and confronted me with his hurtful opinion. In fact, a handful of people so close to me did not see this for the opportunity I had. I chose from something unknown to them and as Khalila told me, even people we hold dear can hurt us. That is the difficult part.

However, the relationship you have with yourself is what is important. It is up to you to know what you want and be ready to stand up for that choice. I hope that you are never afraid to try new things and take chances. Just try it. Just see what is possible.

I believe in you!

Your Athlete,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Meet Aquil Abdullah

It has been said, the greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches but to reveal to him his own. In doing this for me, Aquil is someone, second only to Bart, who has been there through my tears and frustration that can come out of training.

The most important lesson Aquil has taught me is to define what is hard and only then can you begin to change it. When I find myself at a lost with a given situation, you can bet that one of the first calls I make is to my friend Aquil.

At first I can only say that I do not know exactly what is wrong, things just feel so hard. And he will say, Susan that is not enough. Tell me what is hard. What is possible to change now? What are you going to focus on to turn things around? He has reminded me of the life lesson of breaking things down. When something is not working as a whole, break it down and find one part to focus on and regain control. Then piece by piece it will come back to you.

Aquil Abdullah and his partner Henry Nuzum in double sculls.

To highlight an important moment in his career as an athlete, Aquil was a finalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens rowing doubles, finishing sixth! However, this was not before he experienced the heartbreak of missing the 2000 Olympic Games by a fraction of a second (only 0.33sec). For me, he was someone who knew what it felt like, what it meant to me, to miss out on the Beijing Olympics by a mere 3 points.

With that, his second lesson for me to learn was about finding the courage to dig deeper in training and competition. As he was once told by his former coach, he told me that you will not soon forget this feeling. You need to learn to use if to push yourself in the following training and competitions when you think you cannot go further – you dig! You dig to China if you need it!

What a great friend and supporter to have! I mentioned before that it is important to surround yourself with strong people that can help you achieve your goals, and I consider myself pretty lucky to have Aquil there for me, to bring out an athlete in me I had only dreamt about until now!

Your Athlete,

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Answering the Caterpillar and my Coach

Thinking about the classic Alice in Wonderland, I am reminded of the Caterpillar’s question, "Who are YOU?" Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present--at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."

Just as Alice sensed herself changing, I have looked back over the past three years and asked myself how I had changed. This came about when Bart asked me, who I saw when I looked in the mirror. And after some time to think, I had this answer for him:

I recently finished reading the novel, for JOSHUA, where the author comments, "getting anywhere means you have to make a journey. But on this journey, to find where you belong, you really only have to travel one direction – you have to travel inside yourself, not down long, narrow roads."

I came to Holland three years ago now because of the opportunity I saw to get a fresh start. I still had a strong passion to be a top athlete, but I needed to start over; the paths I had been down had not taken me where I wanted to go. Therefore, I showed up in Holland with the courage to take the risk, but lacking the knowledge of what it really meant to do it. I thought I did. However, I still only learnt what it meant in my head. I still only committed this to thought and not to action.

That first year was all about learning technique, theory, patience. I realized that despite my years in the sport, I still had so much to learn. The second year was about testing my commitment, and my passion. The obvious struggle over various injuries was not always about the physical recovery. The mental recovery was sometimes the harder part. It was important for me to look at the reasons why I was going through these various struggles and to know it was something I wanted.

Year three was about owning my dream, my goals and my journey. I remember training one afternoon with Bart and discussing how suddenly I truly knew what I wanted, that my goals were now mine and not that of my former coach or my dad's, but mine.

Since then, I am beginning to appreciate what I have achieved with my life and for surviving all I had put myself through. The novel talks about how "as human beings we want to be rewarded with a Technicolor dream instead of a black-and-white reality – it's about being grateful for what I have and not resentful, angry, or hurt over what I don't have." I do this too much – look forwards too often and miss the present moment.

The author writes, at the end of his journey, “you can never be less than who you were created to be. You never have to qualify. You never have to prove yourself. You just have to be.”

So to answer the Caterpillar and my coach, I would say I am someone who has spend a long three years learning who she is and what she wants. I am ready to be Susan, someone with passion, a strong work ethic, and a dream!

Your Athlete,