Timon

Waiting for Timon

When I was younger my parents used to ask me what I thought about when I stood behind my blocks before a race. I never knew how to describe the quiet in my mind, my presence in the moment, the waiting…waiting to be released from thinking altogether, when I follow the starter’s commands and undergo the final preparations for launch.

I only recently became consciously aware that while my mind is quiet and I am anxiously waiting, I hear Timon’s voice. Yes, Timon the meerkat.

My sisters and I had a Lion King game for our Super Nintendo when we were kids. At the start of the very first level Timon would make a brief appearance, and we would enter the Pridelands as a young Simba. We would explore, pouncing on lizards and beetles, and get tossed about by monkeys. We would sneak through the forbidden elephants’ graveyard with our friend Nala, and get caught amidst a stampeding herd of wildebeests before fleeing to the jungle. We would eventually make our way back to the Pridelands to fight with Simba’s uncle Scar, to take our rightful place as king.

“It starts,” Timon would say solemnly, as if he and he alone knew the fate of the entire universe, and yet he was powerless to change it. The gears were set in motion and there was no stopping the sequence of events that were to follow.

This is how it feels when I’m standing behind my blocks – when race time finally arrives and everyone is satisfied with the position of their blocks. I can barely hear the official’s voice announcing the closure of the track, for Timon’s line fills my head, “it starts.” The gun hasn’t yet fired, but thinking is over, decision making is done. All the hard work is behind me and it is time to get lost in the moment and race.

Only, while Timon appears exasperated, I’ve never felt more powerful than I do in this moment. Yes, the gears are in motion but these moving gears were carefully constructed by none other than my team and I, and we are the ones setting the spring. We have run tests and made adjustments, and we are confident that the resulting well-oiled machine will execute the plan. I need only step out of my own way, and appreciate the magic!

If you’re in Ottawa this coming weekend, come on down to the Terry Fox Athletic Facility to take in some magical Provincial Championship action! Who knows, you might even hear a certain little meerkat…

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My, what a difference a year makes!

At this time last year I was devastated. My efforts in the heptathlon frustratingly yielded nothing but disappointment. At the 2013 Canadian Championships my emotions finally boiled over as I sat on the pole vault mats after a particularly upsetting jav competition. At the end of the season I looked at myself long and hard, and made a change.

Taking on the 400m hurdles has been an adventure. It is so exciting and rewarding to see my hard work and dedication paying off and things coming together. I still have a lot to work on, but I’m definitely moving in the right direction.

I went into the 2014 Canadian Championships with a PB of 57.98s in the 400mH, and I emerged with a silver medal and a new PB of 56.86s, dropping over a full second. The conditions were great and I was ready to go, physically and mentally. Interestingly the stride patten I seem to have settled on (for the time being, anyway) is the same as the pattern I happened to adopt during my very first outdoor 400mH training session of the year, back in April!

Between being randomly selected to pee in a cup for CCES, Canada’s anti-doping agency – the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, and running over to the podium for the 400mH medal ceremony, I also managed to secure a bronze medal in the long jump that same afternoon, jumping 5.95m. Talk about a whirlwind of a day!

Time to hit the track to get ready for the Athletics Ontario provincial championships in Ottawa in a couple of weeks. I have faster to run yet!

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Gandalf

What I’m listening to: Gandalf – Into the Rising Sun

Last fall after a long season struggling with the heptathlon I was flying home from a lovely vacation and browsing through my options on the in-flight entertainment system. The movies and shows didn’t much appeal to me so I moved on to the music, where the long list of genres tied me up for a moment.

I am very intrigued by displays of organization, perhaps since I am most certainly not a naturally orderly person (I am working on it!). Some objects very clearly have a home in a certain box or on a shelf, but my problem lies in the many other objects – those that cross boundaries and have multiple purposes and characteristics. Too many things simply demand new categories altogether – and I only have so many boxes and shelves! Leave it to the jock/band nerd/science geek/art lover to have this conundrum. Seeing the list of musical genres on the plane got me thinking about the person who decides which songs belong in which category, and how in the heck they do the deciding. Some songs follow guidelines nearly perfectly, but what about the others??!

In any case, I selected the New Age genre, curious to see what kind of music would be categorized here. Among the long list of artists, Gandalf caught my eye. Half expecting to hear the Lord of the Rings’ wizard singing, I pushed play, leaned back, closed my eyes, and settled down for a listen.

The beautifully calm tones and gentle percussion set my mind along a gentle hike on some faraway mountain. I thought about track, and it’s role in my identity. I thought about what I wanted to accomplish and who I wanted to be. I thought about some of the great memories I just formed alongside lovely people in beautiful Barbados.

Out of nowhere I felt such intense emotion – hope, joy, love – and my eyes began to leak. I was weeping liquid happiness!! Finding my cheeks wet with tears made me even more emotional, and I just gave in and wallowed contentedly in my joy, like a hippo in mud. After some time I sat up a little and opened my eyes, my lashes soaked and a foolish grin on my lips. I scrolled back a little in the playlist, hoping to pinpoint where exactly this musical journey went so right. But alas we were landing and I was asked to remove my non-earbud style headphones.

The next day I listened to an online playlist of Gandalf’s songs while I worked and it wasn’t long before the weeping resumed. The moment when the instruments finally come together and align with the song’s theme just strikes a chord with me!

I’ve included the Gandalf Dreamweaver playlist below. My weep-song, Into the Rising Sun, is the first in the playlist with a short Part One followed by the more dramatic Part Two.

Have a listen (and maybe a weep?)!

physics

The physics of resonance

You’re on top of the world. A job well done, certainly with some room for improvement, but you have no doubt that you will do even better next time. You’ve discovered something that you feel right doing, something that lights the fire within, something that resonates with you.You’ve spent time preparing, you’ve executed your plan, and you can’t wait to go back to the drawing board, make a couple of changes, and step up to bat once again. You’re tireless, motivated, driven, inspired. You’re humming with energy.

As a science lover I can’t help but see the similarities between this galvanized person, and a ringing bell. Both have been struck by some stimulus, and both are emitting a rather predictable response. Both are vibrating at their natural, or resonant frequencies.

Resonance is a common concept in physics, responsible for shattering crystal glasses, causing bridges to sway violently, making music flow from instruments, and other phenomena observed in electric circuits, orbiting celestial objects, and magnetic fields. Any vibrating or oscillating system has the tendency to vibrate at a very specific rate, it’s resonant frequency, that is dependent on a number of physical parameters. This frequency is incredibly easy to trigger, as the driving force is stored as vibrational energy within the system. With prolonged exposure to an appropriate stimulus, the energy reinforces the existing vibration, and the amplitude of the vibration grows. This might mean more energy and joy for an inspired person and a louder ringing of a bell, though in some systems this ever growing amplitude can have catastrophic results, as in the case of the shattered crystal or a collapsed bridge. As in most endeavors, a bit of moderation is probably a good idea!

What resonates with you??

Worry about YOUR self

Race advice from an astronaut and a toddler

While great advice for any track athlete, “worry about YOUR self” (perhaps interpreted as “run your own race”) is an especially potent strategy for a 400m hurdler. Until the final barrier is cleared, letting my thoughts drift anywhere besides what I am doing in the present moment – the sound of an opponent’s foot falls, the end result, the weight of my watch on my wrist – could spell disaster in the execution of a race.

Similarly, though in a slightly different sphere, Canadian astronaut Commander Hadfield outlines the focus required for flying a fighter jet:

“When you’re 150 feet off the ground and moving at 400 knots, which is common for fighter and test pilots, you have to concentrate on what’s directly in front of you. If you don’t, you’ll die. That kind of focus is less about what you include than what you ignore. And by ignore, I mean completely block out; the argument with your boss, your financial worries – gone. If it doesn’t matter for the next 30 seconds, then it doesn’t exist.”
- Commander Chris Hadfield

I’m not skimming along the earth’s surface in a fighter jet, but I do want to achieve the same level of excellence.

Learn more about flying fighter jets and the perspective of an astronaut in Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. This read comes highly recommended!

happy organs!

Feeling good about what you eat

There are many guidelines out there on how to eat well, and a great number of them outline in fine detail what to fearfully avoid. It seems everything has it’s killer compounds, either intrinsic within the food itself or something we’ve tacked on somewhere throughout the growing process. Or, heaven forbid, we used nonstick pans over high heat to cook it.

Meanwhile suggestions on what we should eat are often super vague (eat more fruits and veggies) or way too specific (eat more folate). Advice is even more convoluted when influential entities like the Surgeon General don’t say what they mean to say in order to avoid compromising an industry’s image. For example “eat x in moderation” becomes “eat more y!!!” Plus take into consideration the bombardment of consumption orders barked at us from the media, and we find our senses overloaded and decision making faculties jeopardized.

It is hard to find a balance.

From my many years of hearty eating experience, I conclude that it is most important to feel good about what you are eating, whatever that may be.

If that means avoiding gluten, then avoid gluten. If that means eating a cookie every day, then eat a delicious cookie every day! If that means buying well sourced, sustainable, organic food, then go mingle with some farmers!

Everyone has different needs, desires, and budgets. So perhaps do some research, have some fun experimenting, and find what works for you – find what you feel good about.

Personally, I’ve been doing some research into local organic options…if you’re in London, ON check out Globally Local. It’s a volunteer based group that buys local first organic produce in bulk, straight from farmers – my wallet and my heart approve! I’m looking to order my first bin in the next couple of weeks…

Turns out I really love anatomical drawing – as long as there’s no actual blood involved!