Checkered by Failure
“Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end” – Patel, Hotel Manager, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
802 days ago I ran what would have been an Olympic qualifying time of 9:43 in the steeple.
744 days ago I came in 4th in one of the deepest NCAA DI women’s steeple finals ever run.
726 days ago I sprained my left ankle in the water pit and dropped out of a race for the first time in my life. I walked with a limp for 3 weeks. I didn’t run for 6.
394 days ago I fell in the pit for the first time in my life and again dropped out of the race. My left ankle was not fully healed, and my attempt to force my steps in order to take off on my left and land on my right resulted in me stuttering horribly, catching my foot on the barrier, and completely submerging myself in the water. It was one of the most traumatic incidents of my life.
42 days ago I stood in front of a water pit for the first time since my fall. I was absolutely paralyzed by fear. I was unable to wrap my head around what I was supposed to do and how I was supposed to do it. Every time I tried to picture the approach or the jump or the landing, my mind went blank. I stood there for 10 minutes, crying in frustration, and then went home.
34 days ago I finally got up the courage to actually run at the water barrier, but at the last second, I stopped and put out my hands. There were no tears that time, just bewilderment. How could I not be able to bring myself to do something I had done hundreds of times before?
31 days ago I stood on top of the water barrier and jumped off into the pit. I landed on my left ankle, my ‘bad ankle’. It felt perfectly fine.
25 days ago I finally broke through my mental block and did my first successful water jump in almost two years. It was one of my proudest accomplishments ever.
19 days ago I ran my first full steeple in two years and managed a 10:17.57.
10 days ago I held my own in a competitive field and ran 10:02.47.
9 days ago I booked tickets to Portland to get in another competitive field and really test myself.
5 days ago I was confident that I was ready to compete with the best of the best and run a fast time.
4 days ago the pouring rain ripped out my left contact 200m into the race out in Portland. Half-blind and fully-terrified of re-injuring myself on the barriers I couldn’t clearly see, I dropped out of the race just after 2000m.
3 days ago a loud-mouthed child in front of me ensured I stayed up all night on my red eye. I returned home exhausted.
2 days ago my last realistic opportunity to post a qualifying time came and went.
Yesterday the qualifying window closed.
Today this is what the USATF Olympic Track and Field Trials Status of Entries page has listed.
What happened out in Portland at the Stumptown Twilight meet feels like a dream. After how much time and effort and money I put into getting myself out there, and how much I had gotten my hopes up thinking that I was finally ready to really compete and post a fast time, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I didn’t even finish the race. I know there was no way of knowing it was going to monsoon during my race and that my contact would fall out and I would be unable to probably see the barriers. And I know that nothing that happened was my fault, that I couldn’t have done anything differently to prevent what happened. But it still stings. Having things go horribly wrong, regardless of who or what caused it, stinks no matter what.
However, I also know that the disappointment I am feeling now does not compare to the disappointment I know I would be feeling had I not taken the shot and gone out there. I have enough regrets for things I did or didn’t do during my time running for Cornell, so when the opportunity to compete in a high performance race arose, despite how much it was going to cost or how tricky the scheduling and travel was going to be, I took advantage of it. I owed it to myself to go there and run that race, to give myself a chance to do something really great.
Rachel from 25 days ago did not believe she could physically or mentally do one single water jump. Rachel from 19 days ago was still not convinced that she could run a whole steeple and do seven consecutive water jumps. Rachel from 10 days ago did not truly believe that she could run close to 10 minutes or that she belonged in competitive races.
But Rachel of 9 days ago. She believed. She dared mighty things.
When I consider everything that’s happened in the last two years, and how hard its been to claw my way back, the fact that I didn’t finish the race in Portland and qualify for the Olympic Trials is pretty much irrelevant. They are but two small checkers of failure along the path to glorious triumph.
I am making progress. I am getting there.
I have many races yet to run this season, and many goals to achieve.
Today I may not be qualified.
But who knows what tomorrow will bring.