Indoors 2018: Where the lion gets a heart
It has been a while since I last wrote because the last few months have gone all but smoothly for me. With wisdom teeth surgery, then a case of shingles (WHAT 22 yr old gets shingles?!), all on top of the added stress and anxiety of graduation swiftly approaching, I was not in a good mental or physical state. While it was not my plan to only race two times for the indoor 2018 season (one 5k in December and one in March at the NCAA Championships) that is the way it all panned out. But after all, I am Grayson and doing things in the conventional and traditional manner is not my style. Now that I have made it through the epic flood/hurricane/fire/earthquake/tornado/blizzard storm that was my life of the last 3 months, I want to share the lessons that I made it out alive with.
Mostly, I want to talk about this funny thing called courage. I think a lot of people think that courage means being brave and standing up for yourself. Doing things that you don’t want to do, things that scare you, that make you uncomfortable. At least this was what I thought courage was, until I realized it wasn’t. Not in every situation at least. After a long and albeit successful cross country season in the fall, I was feeling pretty mentally fatigued. After experiencing the gauntlet of Cross Country Nationals alone, without my teammates, my psyche took a huge hit. Then just two weeks after XC Nationals I ran an indoor 5k. With a huge PR and a probable qualifying time for the Indoor National Championships I was quite ready to put my feet up, relax, and take my two week break.
Following my break is when it seemed I had seemingly slipped into my own personal nightmare. With the surgery, bad reaction to pain medication, shingles, and who knows what else my training had been less than ideal. There was a three week stretch in January where I wasn’t able to string together more than 4 days in a row of running before having to take multiple days off again. While I knew that the physical ailments required only time and patience and that they would clear themselves up, it was my mental frame of mind that ended up being the biggest obstacle I had to overcome. My overly anxious self was worried about getting back to training, worried about fitness, and mostly worried about being worried (classic Grayson move).
With only easing back into workouts the week of the Husky invite (a month out from Indoor Nationals), I opted to not race. I wanted to stay back and train, and get back into a good routine. After all, I hadn’t even worn spikes yet in the 2018 calendar year. Two weeks later was our conference championship meet. By his time I had been able to get back into a routine, have more workouts and fitness under my belt, and even finally put on spikes, but I was still severely lacking in the mental department. And here is where my big lesson on courage comes in…
I am not one of those people that needs tons of races to feel confident, nor do I place my self worth in the outcome of races. While I do crave getting those PRs and wins more than almost anything else, it is not all that I have to live for. In working on and dealing with my anxiety and getting my mental clutter under control, I realized that in the end my happiness was more important to me than going to our conference meet. A race that was supposed to be my rust buster for the indoor season, and give me confidence going into Indoor Nationals, was instead just causing me more stress and anxiety. So what I did next was what I thought initially was cowardly, but have since learned was maybe one of the more courageous things I’ve ever done:
I decided not to race at our conference meet, and to open my indoor season at nationals.
Doing this was what I wanted to do all along, what my mind and gut were all telling me. I realized that having courage doesn’t have to mean doing things that scare you or that you don’t want to do. It can also mean standing up for the things that you do want to do, even if they go against convention (like WHO TF opens at Indoor Nationals?!). My mental and physical health really matter to me and I had to have the courage to trust my gut and to not race. Choosing to not race meant that I had to have the confidence and trust in myself to know that even having not raced in over 100 days I could show up at the National Championships and be ready to run and put myself in the mix. I gratefully accepted these terms and conditions.
I finished in 10th place at the 2018 NCAA Indoor National Championships, making it two races for the whole season and giving me my fourth All-America Honor. But what I am more proud of are the steps that I took to get there, the lead up to the race. The empowerment that I felt in standing up for what matters to me, speaking truthfully and honestly about it, knowing when to ask for help, and having confidence in my abilities are all the positives that this indoor season brought me. Although I may have only raced 2 times my last collegiate indoor season, I feel as though I have had 10 times as many wins (metaphorically of course).
So about this courage thing… I enCOURAGE all of you to stay true to yourselves. Don’t do something just because you feel like you have to, or are expected to. Nobody writes your story but you, so be brave and write it the way you want it to be written no matter how unconventional, unorthodox, nontraditional, or weird it might be. With confidence and integrity accept and take responsibility for your decisions. And of course appreciate and acknowledge ALL the wins no matter how big or small or metaphorical they might be. 🙂
Now onto outdoor track where I hope to encounter a few more water pits than I did in indoor, run a few more races, and learn a whole lot more lessons.
**NOTE: I did not, and would not have been able to do what I did without the unwavering support of all of my friends, family, boyfriend, teammates, and coaches and support staff at Utah. I am very grateful for all of the help that I received and continue to receive and hope to make them proud and represent Utah well for my last season as a Ute this Spring. Photos by Joshua Mills Photography.