Did you know…

…it’s the anniversary of last year’s epic Winter Olympic Games!!!

Our Olympians put on a spectacular showing last year, igniting an intense flame of national pride that has continued to burn in households across the country.  Our athletes did us proud.  And did you know a large majority of those athletes were supported in part by Canadian Athletes Now funding?  Have you heard of it?

The CAN Fund is “a not for profit organization devoted solely to raising funds and awareness for Canadian athletes”.  It is a direct link between Canadians and the role-model athletes that represent our country so well internationally.  If Canadians have a flame of pride burning in their hearts, CAN Fund is the pot that supports the water (our athletes!) over this flame to help it boil!  The Fund was established in 1997 by heptathlete/artist Jane Roos (cool!) and has since raised over $11 million for athletes.  $11 million!!!  Besides direct monetary funding, I also see the organization as a valuable resource, both in terms of knowledge of how to market the athlete lifestyle, and in connecting athletes from across the country in every sport; just the other day I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with several Olympians!  With CAN Fund, it is one for all Canadian athletes, and all Canadian athletes for one: quite the revolutionary concept in the difficult financial world of Canadian amateur athletics.

So if you want to support our aspiring elite athletes, who elicit so much pride and unity in our country, please check out the CAN Fund website and make a donation!

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Long Jump, Standing.

Standing long jump (also refered to as the standing broad jump) is a two footed jump preferably into a sand pit.  Begin with your toes behind the line designated by the (elementary school) teacher, feet hip width apart, and shoulders square to the direction you intend to jump (into the pit?).

  1. Stand tall, legs nearly straight, and hold your arms out in front of you at about shoulder height, a gentle bend in the elbows, hands relaxed naturally.
  2. Swing both arms back as far as they go, rotating through the shoulder.  Allow your upper body to lean forward a little, bending slightly at the waist.
  3. Bend your knees quickly and begin swinging your arms back through their natural course, still only slightly bent at the elbow.
  4. When your arms reach the plane of your upper body, ie when your hands pass by your hips, quickly straighten your legs as your arms continue up and forwards.
  5. Extend your legs completely: hip, knee, and ankle, finishing up on your toes with arms extended almost alongside your face.
  6. Repeat several times, smiling and looking about.

With each pump the excited, anxious smile evolves into a focused grimace.  One pump visibly different from the rest, gets more speed, more forward lean, and a significant push off the track.  Arms extended overhead, feet hanging at the end of legs left behind in the epic push.  A moment of absurd weightlessness is experienced at the apex, when upwards velocity reaches zero, before gravity has a chance to effect acceleration back to the centre of the earth.  For a moment time doesn’t exist…it’s hard to imagine while not in that moment, but it’s as if breathing is not permitted, nor is it necessary.  It’s where your heart and stomach and liver and pancreas feel like they’re in your throat, and thanks to inertia, they very well may be oh so slightly shifted in that direction.

You see, an object in motion remains in motion unless an external unbalanced force acts upon it…in this case, once force is applied to the ground by the body (explained by another of Newton’s laws) the body wants to remain in its upward trajectory.  Yet gravity, an external unbalanced force, acts on the body and the force it generates overcomes the initial force upward.  Yet there is a moment when the forces are perfectly balanced.  Only, I think this moment – experienced by one’s internal motion detectors whatever they are, whether it’s the inner ear or through vision (seeing that you’re not moving up or down) …generally somewhere in the head – is slightly separate from the rest of the body and it’s organs.  So while you experience that you are weightless, maybe it is that your inner ear or eyes are, while the other parts of your body (for instance your heart, stomach, liver and pancreas) may still be in motion upwards and may catch up a little to your head or whatever it is that detects no vertical movement.  Put another way, a car (the body) slows when the brakes are applied but the people and things in it that aren’t rigidly attached (organs) do not slow down immediately.  Anyway, MAJOR tangent…

Your heart, stomach, liver, and pancreas are slightly in your throat, you can’t breathe, and you’re hanging suspended in time and space.  After coming to some great epiphany (unfortunately nearly always forgotten immediately), or seeing your life flash before your eyes, the second-hand slips into the next slot with a classically loud TICK as time resumes, and the sand begins approaching at an alarming rate.  Feet that were still hanging back come kicking through, as the hands come down to meet them, your body folding in half at the hips, two parallel lines that are parallel to the sand pit.  Just before your heels hit the sand, you extend your legs even further, leveraging another 10cms of distance before contact.  Once heels touch down, in an aggressive attempt to fling your centre of gravity beyond that initial depression in the sand, hamstrings fire causing knees to bend and your hips to shoot forward.  Feet fly out of the sand, flinging several grains as they go, and almost simultaneously your bum moves in where your feet were.  Forward momentum continues your movement through the sand and you exit the pit, leaving a massive crater amid a beautifully smooth sandy expanse of desert.

Note: the very first attempt may result in disorientation in this reality.  In most cases this disorientation is temporary, but in extreme cases jumpers have been known to be a little wonky.  In fact, as familiarity with this blog will edify, most track and field events are accompanied by some degree of disorientation.  Interestingly, the heptathlon offers a unique blend of disorientation from each event, usually resulting in a perfectly adjusted and oriented athlete…not peculiar or awkward in any way.

Also: I don’t want to, but I feel the need to mention that a couple of years ago my coach, Vickie, in jeans and dressier shoes, standing long jumped further than I.  A rematch will be held soon and I shall report the results (if I win this time).

One more thing: standing long jump was supposed to be an intro to running long jump, but it is quite a bit more involved than even I imagined!  Crazy, I know.  I think I’ll leave it at that for today!

Thanks for your rapt attention and an exceptional Saturday to you!!

The Odyssey

Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship

Not Homer’s Odyssey, just to clarify.  Though upon a perusal of the sparknotes plot, I think I’m going to have to investigate this literary masterpiece in greater detail!!

Now I feel like Frodo and Homer!  And Shadow from Homeward Bound

My point is, I am on a journey to the Olympic Games and although the path ahead is surely fraught with what some may refer to as “obstacles”, I am confident that with the aid of my Aragorns and Athenas, and my paramount determination to crawl, dirty and broken out of any dark holes that I may find myself in, this chapter of my story will have a happy ending too!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, for lessons have been imparted upon this eager student at every turn and I am precisely where I am because of it all.  From my family and friends, to my coaches and teammates, to my formal teachers, to the parking lot attendant I chatted with today, to the girl on the train a few years back who was smiling contentedly to herself as she looked out the window, to the tree I climb to reach the other tree that I like to sit in, to the spider on the tree that I like to sit in…  Thank You.

The only reason I have the confidence to entertain a vision of achieving my goals is because of you.  I only vainly hope that in some way I have reciprocated a fraction of this inspiration back!

As I mentioned, my ultimate goal is to represent Canada in the heptathlon at the Olympic Games next year.  For those reading who are unfamiliar with athletics administration procedures, I must be selected to the Olympic team after achieving a standard set by our national sport organization, Athletics Canada, next spring – a standard that I have achieved several times already (in my head).  For the mp3 (the newer version of the record), I’ve already been on the Olympic podium a few times too (need I say it, also in my head)…feels better than I can imagine!

This summer I aim to gain more international experience, while achieving the standard to qualify to be nationally carded.  This entails continuing to improve in each event in the heptathlon, with special emphasis placed on the throwing events.  I AM A THROWER (just so you know).

If you’re interested in learning more about my track pursuits (like boring point totals and pbs and heptathlon jibber jabber) feel free to visit my facebook page.

Thanks so very much for reading and tune in next time for…

LONG JUMP.

Sprinting.

It’s a good feeling to run from a stand or a walk; I am reminded of my childhood, both starting races and charging around the recess school yard.  It’s basically succumbing to the sudden urge to move as fast as possible, arms and legs working in unison (a rare and celebrated feat for most of us at some point in our lives!).  Cutting through the air, flying between every foot fall…and really, who doesn’t dream of flying?  This is a good thing.

Yet, tack on an explosive acceleration before this flight, and you’re dealing with magic.  The straight raw acceleration that can change every time you do it, from the angle your body makes with the ground, to the precise movements of your arms and legs, right down to the fingers and toes.  No matter of the exact technique or clocking of the distance, it’s an ALL OUT effort.  I love placing my feet behind the line, relaxing everything I can think to relax (without looking like a floppy invertebrate), shoulders dropped away from my ears, arms loose by my sides, tension in my face released, breathing in deeply through my nose, head angled slightly down and looking up, focusing like a predator about to initiate the chase on some imaginary prey I’ve been stalking.  I crouch my legs a little and bend at the waist, letting the back of my fingers brush the ground, hips held high, eyes focused unseeing behind my feet while complete consciousness is projected down the track a short ways.  I slowly feel my weight begin to shift to my toes as my folded body leans forward, remaining frozen in the same relative position.

Just as I reach the tipping point, as if waiting any longer will result in me landing flat on my face, I explode into a knee and arm drive, fighting to keep my upper body low, in line with my pushing leg.  It’s all about angles.  Quickly my driving knee shoots back, toes raised and the spikes in my shoes poised like a carnivore’s fangs ready to tear into the track as soon as it’s within striking distance.  My other knee comes driving through, my core stabilizing as I propel myself forward between the push off the track with one leg and the quick sling-shoting of the knee of my other leg forward.  I drive with every step, seeing the textured mondo fly by in front of my eyes as I pick up speed as rapidly as possible.

My acceleration decreases (though still positive…is my scientist showing through?) as I approach top speed and by now I am running taller, covering much ground with every stride, my footfalls are perfectly timed firing of pistons revolving around my ankle.  I am touching the ground and then instantaneously off it again as my legs and arms rhythmically switch positions.

Then there’s the slowing down.  If you’re indoors and significantly close to a matted wall (please make sure it’s matted), quickly figure out your projected steps lining up a safe sideways shoulder check into the mat, bounce off and land lightly on your feet travelling at a significantly decreased rate in the opposite direction.  Probably more preferred is the gradual deceleration, knees still coming up, but leaning slightly back, offering a little resistance with each contact.  This takes some time and space.  Finally there is the kid stop, feet flapping loudly as the same effort that went into accelerating as quickly as possible goes into stopping as quickly as possible.  Not the best for your body.

Note: warm up first, or else hold the very strong belief that there’s no reason you cannot sprint safely at the drop of a hat (I’ll likely get to the topic of beliefs at a future date).

When trying to decide what to write about (rule number one of blogging is to have SOMETHING to write about), I floundered at first: “write what I know…well, what do I know?  Track and field.  Track’s not very interesting, I do it every day.”  It’s easy to overlook the things that you’re used to seeing.  I soon realized that although I full out sprint over and over again at least six days a week, most people don’t…unless they’re being chased?  Or coming in for a skydiving landing?

Thus I decided to begin this blog with sprinting as I know it, as a predator…chasing as opposed to being chased.  I hope you relish in it as much as I do!