Proper Timing

Heartbreak is typically the term used for the ending of a long term relationship. Emotional trauma, wine emojis, Ben and Jerry’s. Reminiscing on the great times and all of the amazing things that relationship gave to you. Having moments of doubt, sometimes severe. Wondering if things could have gone differently. Needing your friends and family for support, and sometimes guidance, and sometimes just validation that everything is turning out exactly how it should.

A few weeks ago, I ended my nine year relationship with diving. There were tears, and long conversations, and two bottles of wine vanished from my apartment in one weekend, but it was a peaceful decision. It was the right decision, at the right time, for the right reasons. Like several months ago, when I expressed no need to justify my continued training, I don’t feel any strong urge to justify retirement besides stating that it was time. It was/is a decision I feel good about it. I gained everything I was going to gain from this sport, and even if I didn’t accomplish every goal I set out for myself I ended up growing in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Every perceived failure turned into a greater life lesson than achievement ever could- something that only hindsight shows. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly proud of my accomplishments. I recognize the impact not only being a Division One athlete can have, and being a Big Ten athlete is something I will always take pride in.

Sport has shaped me in to the person I am today. Sport has influenced every major life decision I have ever made, and shaped the character I have become. Few experiences in my life will impact me the same way diving has- from the personal and professional relationships gained, the physical and emotional strength, and the limits we pushed along the way.

On a lighter note- retirement is awesome. It is not what I expected it to be- I expected to feel a little more lost and a lot more confused, but I suppose that just credits that it was time to move on. I still work out nearly every day, promising to lift with my training partner until the US Olympic Team Trials while starting to RUN.

I am slow, and I have next to nothing for an endurance base, but we all start somewhere and this is my start line with no finish line in sight. I have been told multiple times as a diver to not run for longer than ten seconds at a time, as to not take anything away from my fast twitch muscles fibers. I have trained with girls who ran anyways as a way to keep their weight down (I may have been one of them some days, but never bought in to that mentality much). I have exercised induced asthma and last time I ran a 10km I cried. It’s exciting to be a beginner, and I’m looking forward to the process of improving over time.

In a sense, this post is a cliched nod to “when one door closes another door opens”, but I don’t like to think about it like that. This post is a lot less “crying over a break-up” and more “celebrating over a promotion”. I am excited, I am happy, and I am perfectly okay with the process that has led me to this point.

 

 

Post-Grad Living

 

While mad cleaning the apartment tonight (thanks to a 5pm cup of coffee and destroying the kitchen in an attempt to make chili), I found an old journal from my sophomore and junior years of college.I’ve kept some form of a journal since I was ten, and while I haven’t written much since Vietnam I always enjoy going back and reading through my old thoughts and emotional roller coasters. That’s the thing with writing a journal (that’s different than writing on a public platform)- you only really write about the highs and the lows. There is no in between. I spent a good 45 minutes tonight reading through the moments that, at the time, were the world’s biggest heartbreak or the best I’ve ever felt.

It’s funny how you think nothing changes day in and day out, but when I look back at four years ago I’m shocked by some of the things that passed through my mind and onto paper. “Nothing was ever accomplished through negative self talk” I wrote in March of 2012 (I probably definitely didn’t come up with that). I felt like every missed dive was a failure, and the only way to succeed was to repeatedly run into the same brick wall over and over.

Despite reading some things that made me feel sorry for what I let myself believe, I was able to read the transformation. I was able to read through learning all of those “big girl” dives, every motivating thing my coach told me when I couldn’t see the positives. It’s been an incredibly reminder, and somehow exactly what I needed to see. This weekend, I’m competing exhibition at a college meet. And I’m SO nervous. Like more competition anxiety than I’ve had in years. I’m not even sure of what I am afraid of, but reading through how I got through it before has been a lifesaver.

I have been diving since I was 15 years old, and I have fallen in and out of love with this sport before. There have been countless moments over the past several years that, at the time, I’m convinced would be the definition of me. Results that, in my mind, outlined a career, determined my worth, and dictated how I felt about the sport. I must be one of the only people in history to come ninth on EVERY single event at the Big Ten Championships. They took 22 people to the 2012 Olympic Team Trials when I came 23rd at Nationals. And yeah, I broke my foot 10 days before my final Big Tens, when I was in the best diving shape of my life. I have missed more dives than I care to admit, and yet I choose to keep diving after college when most people take the opportunity to pursue new endeavors. But I am stubborn, and I am not done. I may not have had a “real” competition since January, but doesn’t mean I am out. When I missed Trials in 2012, I committed with my coach to train for the 2016 Trials. I have no illusions of cracking the top eight divers nationally, as I’m just trying stay healthy and improve, not make another 5 years of corrections in a few months. It’s about finishing what I started.

It’s hard to train after college- I feel old. I get sore more often, random pain in my shoulders and wrists that weren’t there when I was 19. While I still train with the team, I don’t compete alongside them (this exhibition event an exception). I’m focused on my job, grad school applications, and paying bills on time. Diving is not my whole world anymore, and that took some adjustments. I trained twice a day for seven years of my life, and now I only train in the afternoons. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, which turned into me thinking I was delusional for wanting to keep training. I didn’t feel like I was enough, like I wasn’t “good enough” to keep training, that I didn’t have the “right”. I didn’t feel any sense of urgency, any passion. Things took a turn when I acknowledged that I was in a horrible place, and I started talking about it. Instead of taking a leadership role as a college senior, I turned to the college team to remind me what I loved about the sport. I turned to my best friends and told them of my perceived inadequacies. I turned to my coach and said “I don’t know what I’m doing”, and like he has always done, he brought me back to life. I turned to what I have done in the past, and looked for what I always loved about this sport.

In February of 2013, before my junior year Big Tens, I wrote “No matter what happens over the next week, you’ll be fine. You will still love this sport and this sport will love you back”.

Today, nearly three years later, I am giving myself a gentle reminder. I do not need to be nailing every single dive to love this sport. I do not need to be the “best” or “peaked” to love this sport. There is no score or quantifiable measure of success that gives me the “right” to keep training as a post-grad. I don’t need to justify training once a day, or make up excuses. I don’t have to score a personal best every time to recognize that I am still living the dream. I have acquired more joy from being a Hawkeye then I ever did being the “best” on a given day. I can’t think of a single dual meet that I remember my rank or score, but I remember tearing up my senior year thinking about how much I would miss it. I remember the opportunities I’ve had through this sport, and the friends I’ve made from other teams. I remember cheering till I gave myself a headache. I remember crying when we all took our last dives as collegiate athletes. That’s what falling in love with this sport again means to me. It’s time to remind myself that flipping through the air is a blast, that even on days I don’t love my body I’m thankful it does the ridiculous things I ask it to, and that the relationships formed on the pool deck will last a life time.

This fall, I forgot what it felt like to love the daily grind. And with six months left in a nine year career, I don’t intend to lose my favorite part of being an athlete. There is no requirement for being “good enough” to train as a post grad. I am enough. I do enough. And even if giving it my all is less than why it’s been in years past, does not make this year any less successful than previous years. I have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone else. This year isn’t about making a final, or learning new tricks, but about persevering towards a goal a made years ago. The only one I owe this year is myself. Seems appropriate that it’s during the holiday season I find myself seeking joy without justification.

Senior Nationals Recap!

So about two three weeks ago I had the opportunity to finish out my season in Victoria, BC, at the Canadian Summer Senior National Championships! I was competing in both the 1m and 3m springboard events, having retired from Platform diving with the end of my collegiate career, but not ready to be done with the sport completely.

This meet was a new experience for me. My training cycle in the weeks leading up the meet, quite honestly, sucked. We weren’t having Saturday practices, I was working a lot (i.e. missing practice times) and we had quite a few cancelled practices for a variety of reasons! After Spring Break I had my final set of x-rays and while I had permission to jump and run, and wasn’t even diving with any more tape on my foot, I felt out of shape, and sluggish, and slow. I didn’t feel like I could jump high or spin fast or be prepared for a Senior National meet. I was borderline panicking- in a constant state of anxiety about this impending competition. Frankly, I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

And while we’re being honest here: I wasn’t wrong. I was NOT prepared for a Senior National meet, and things finally came to head about a week before I left. I sat down with my coach and we talked it through- every cold hard fact and every bit of pressure I had been beating myself up about. We ended up clarifying three goals to focus on in order to end my season on a positive note:

  1. Celebrate the fact that I am healthy- that I am no longer injured, that I can dive on two feet, and that I’m not in pain anymore.
  2. Celebrate my family being there, and the city of Victoria. Victoria is so pretty, and my mother and sister being able to come out for the weekend was so great for Mother’s Day.
  3. Enjoy the atmosphere. Take it all in. Say hi to your friends and enjoy the facility and have FUN during the competition.

My final practices in Iowa were MUCH more enjoyable and I jumped on over to Victoria (where I was 13 HOURS late- rants about my horrible flight karma in the works). After the disastrous travel day however, two days of competitions came and went and I ended up having a great time. Nerves got to me a little during the 3m event and I ended 18th, missing my marks a little more than I had hoped. Despite being somewhat “off” during the event I actually ENJOYED the competitive experience, which is always a bonus! The 1m event the next day was just as fun, where I finished 14th with only one miss compared to the day before.

This meet itself was a testament not to my preparedness or my ability as an athlete, but showed a shift in my outcome expectations. I’m a competitive person- I always want to do well regardless of the circumstances! What I’ve learned over the past year though, is sometimes the circumstances win. Sometimes all you can do is make the best of it, and I surprised even myself getting through the whole week with a smile on my face.

Now my summer plans include taking some much needed time off, getting into work and my internship, and getting to build up my fitness levels again! I can’t wait to be lifting weights and going for runs and finally getting to be SORE!

Once A Hawkeye…

Well this is it, the “was” post. I “was” a college athlete. I “used to” compete in the NCAA.

We all knew it was coming, I wasn’t under any false pretenses that by some miracle they would let me stay another year or three. As of March 11, 2015, the journey that started when I took my recruiting trip in November of 2009 officially closed.

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I was assuming this would be a sad post, an emotional one. One that I would cry writing and cry publishing and cry rereading (in case you couldn’t tell, I’ve done a lot of crying this week). But sitting here now 24 hours removed from my “student-athlete” status I don’t feel like my heart is broken. I was prepared for this day and I’m allowed to be emotional, even if it stings more than I thought.

After five years of training and four weeks after breaking my foot, I competed in all three events at the NCAA Zone Diving Championships. I didn’t have to change any of my dives to easier options which was a huge accomplishment for me, and while I was no where near my original goal of qualifying for the NCAA National Championships I’m counting the week as a huge success- we had three Hawkeyes qualify for Nationals and I got to finish my collegiate career with the greatest people I have ever met.

There’s a lot I could focus on in regards to the last five years, and I am choosing to focus on what matters. The positives and the goals achieved and every struggle that brought a life lesson- not the marks I missed due to injury or other reasons.

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From the Senior Recognition at the Big Ten Championships. I was probably trying not to cry then too.

This experience simply would not have been possible without the support of my incredible family, and the trust they put in me to move to another country at 19. It would not have been possible without the coach that brought me to Iowa and the belief he had in me to succeed, and the coach that followed him, who believed in me the same. I would not be the same athlete without them, or anywhere close. And more than I could have possibly imagined, I could not have done this without our athletic trainer. After my injury he was the most optimistic person I could turn to while being realistic about my diving (and walking around) capabilities. He dedicated multiple hours everyday since to make sure I could be on the board for my final college meets, and I can never summarize what that meant to me. He never doubted my determination to finish the season, and was right there every time I was ready to push myself. I can never be thankful enough for the people I have surrounded myself with over the past five seasons.

What made my career, more than the goals and the training and the results, were my team. I have been luckier than I ever dreamed to be able to train with them. From everyone on the team in 2010 to everyone on the team now, having doubled in size, I have felt so fortune to have known each and every one. Now training with 13 people, only three girls have been together for the entirety of my career. I got to witness one achieve the ultimate, qualifying for the NCAA’s, and see one rip her last dive of a 14 year career (Oh shoot I made it this far without crying while writing) (to be fair she was crying during the dive, I’m allowed to cry thinking about it). From every triumph to every failure in and out of the pool- from high school boyfriends to grad schools and training camps and apartments, they have been the biggest blessing I have ever received. While we have been struggling to figure out who we are going to now that we are not student-athletes, we have the been the rocks in each others lives. They have been my biggest cheerleaders when I was injured and I was their biggest fans when I was sidelined. We all cried when we succeeded, and we all cried together when two of us finished our Hawkeye careers (seriously, it was comical. The men’s team knew to give us a few moments each day to cry it out before joining the team meeting).

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Day two of competition- minimal tear day

I have absolutely no idea what my life is going to look like in a year, but I know who is going to be there for me. I don’t know exactly what job I’m going to have and what my life will look like, even though I generally know I’ll be working and training (this isn’t a retirement post thank goodness!). This will be the first time I’m not registering for class, and I don’t have to worry anymore about blowing my amateur status. I’m looking at things like health insurance and work visa paperwork and graduation transcripts and gahhhh. Real life sneaks up on you when you’re trying to enjoy every last second of your college career.

Oh gosh, well this turned into a rant. To summarize, I am excited, and scared, and heart broken and proud and so so thankful this is how I choose to continue to my diving career. I will bleed Black and Gold for the rest of my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. No matter where I am in a year, or ten years, I will always be a Hawkeye.

From the first big meet,

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to the last.

The extent to which I could point my broken foot with that much tape was a bonus in itself!

I promise less emotional train wreck posts in the future while I navigate the ever-looming college graduation, spring break in Denver, and where ever this road may take me! Go Hawks!

The Unanticipated Comeback

This is the blog post I never thought I would write and the story I never thought I would tell. I’ve kept this blog pretty up-to-date in terms of how my season has been going- all the highs and the lows. Never in a million years did I expect to have to write an update like this.

Friday morning at practice, walking around the pool deck (from the hot tub to the 1 meters specifically), I slipped and rolled my foot. Everyone’s done it, rolled a little and flinched and kept walking. I didn’t even fall. But crap did that sting. And it kept stinging. And when I tried to do an hurdle, I couldn’t put weight on it. I tried to walk it off, before admitting defeat and terror walking into to see our athletic trainer. He looked at the marble sized bump that popped up on the side of my foot and told me to get dressed I was getting x-rays.

12 days before the Big Ten Championships, I had broken my foot. Right at the top of the fifth metatarsal.

I spent the rest of the day (after getting back from the sports med clinic) at the pool- icing, with my foot up, limping around cheering on our team at the last dual meet of the season which would have been the last dual meet of my college career. The rest of my weekend has been spent either in the athletic training room or on my couch- icing every two hours and doing research.

My coach and I talked briefly Friday when I came back from the x-rays, and we don’t know what is going to happen. The injury is day-by-day at this point. The number one things I can do right now is stay positive, ridiculously positive, and hope for the best. He told me to let it out- the pain, the frustration, and the anger, but not to despair. Now is not the time to despair. Have your hissy fit, hate the world, cry it out. But come in tomorrow, the athlete and the Lauren I know, and never ever ever give up. 

48 hours after breaking my foot I signed up for Big Tens, my full list, on all three boards. The goal this year was not only to make Big Ten Finals (which I talked about here), but to give it all I got. My coach thought I chance at winning. And now, despite all the positivity in the world, I will not get that chance. While I do plan on diving, I will not be 100% when I step on the board and that sucks. I might have to do a whole list standing. I might not be able to point my foot, or take off, or jump. After coming 9th back to back to back, I spent two years training for this meet. I red shirted for this meet. I was ready, dailed in, and feeling so good.

I will not get the chance to give this meet everything I have. That is a fact. The bone will not heal in less than two weeks. With that being said, that does not mean I am not going to try. My college career is not over. Even after Big Ten’s, NCAA Zones are three weeks later and I will still be giving it my all to qualify for the NCAA National Championships. I didn’t train for five years to be defined by this. This is not how things were supposed to end. And holy shit I am bound and determined that this is not the end of my season. I am not done.

I am disappointed, and furious, and not letting those two emotions take over has been the struggle of a lifetime. Despite the doctors and the X-rays and colors of my foot. I am not done.

In an effort to compile all the research I’ve done, I’ll be posting pretty regularly this week. Happy thoughts and positive vibes are much appreciated, as well as any tips and tricks for healing. Choose positivity today, and appreciate all the walking around you do!

Fall Down Seven Times

Well in comparison to last week, this weekend left much to be desired in terms of my performance. To open our 2015 season at home, I scored 60 points less than the week before on 3m but managed to rally a win and a decent score on the 1m board.

To keep it brief, my warm up went down like this:

Which felt like this (skip right to 12 seconds):

“Yup, I’m flying through the air this is not good”

Which resulted in this:

Smack

Sorry, hope this isn’t too risqué for the interwebs. 

Soooooo, err, yeah. Not my best day. Makes for a humorous story though! While I would love to write meet recaps all the time that sound like this one, life doesn’t work like that. Sport doesn’t work like that.  Sometimes life happens, and you have an off day or a bad day. That doesn’t mean you are a bad athlete, and it doesn’t undermine any of the work you’ve been doing- it just means a bad day. As my coach graciously put it: “Sometimes you just sh*t the bed, for no rhyme or reason”.

Three years ago I would dwelled on this meet- tortured myself over the results and the score and the placings. I would have replayed every moment over in my mind about what I did “wrong” or what I could have done differently. I guess that’s the funny thing about maturing though; eventually you learn to let things go. The first thing my coach said to me this morning was “I hope you’re not stressing over this past weekend,” and I assured him I was not. The beautiful thing is I’m really not stressing. It was a bad day, not a bad season. It wasn’t even a horrible day- I still hit a lot of my dives after that smack and still came out with a first and third.

Sport, and college, and life, is about learning to trust the process. It’s not about torturing yourself for the times you slip and fall, but recognizing that four steps forward, one step back is still progress. This doesn’t mean anything long term, and it doesn’t affect my life at all from here on out. Is this what being a senior student-athlete means? Have I actually learned to let the little things go and focus on the positive?

Today, I went to the pool like I normally do, trained for a couple hours with back-to-back practices and tomorrow I will do the same thing. The good and the bad results just come with the territory, and today every day, I am choosing to focus on the positive.

What do you do to bounce back from a poor performance?