The end of the week has unfolded with unexpected moments, shifting the focus of, and time for, writing. The rest-day-challenge was a much smoother undertaking this week with an unset alarm allowing for freedom of choice on Thursday morning leading to a 36-hour interval of rest. Warming up with gentle biking, transporting littlest to and from soccer, and then a workout with middlest and littlest in the gym to close out the day, the restoration was upheld. With Friday dedicated to The Olympiad for biggest, I managed to sneak in the daily workout in between coaching the 5 and 6am classes with the help of my ever-faithful co-coach and was able to comply with the departure time set by my husband to ensure timely arrival at the day’s big event.
Fifth grade was one of my most challenging years in school and has brought some tumultuous moments for biggest and his classmates as well, navigating relationships, new feelings, the uncertain transition zone from the freedom and boundaries of the primary years to middle school responsibility and privilege. It was advised by the seasoned Waldorf teachers, parents and students that this experience – of staying overnight with classmates as well as students from area schools, distribution into City-States and representation of a collective, opportunity to demonstrate for many the skills they had practiced all year and honoring the spirit of the Greek gods by bringing their personal best in attitude and effort to the day – is often transformational for the students.
Navigating the hour drive into the mountains, past one of our favorite mountain lakes and arriving to the cabins that had housed our Olympians for the night, the spirit in the air was simply joyful. Seeing the students with new friends and proudly representing their City-State, there was an air of confidence but also a lightness about them. There were many special moments through the day with speed, strength, precision and power on display through the six events, but most remarkable to me was the pace at which these were carried out and the patience and respect demonstrated by the students and adult mentors throughout the process. We live in a world with short attention spans, fast moving schedules and shows, short snippets of entertainment and demand for instant gratification from experiences. The Olympiad offered a most powerful antidote to this rapid-fire existence naturally, with intentional and thoughtful implementation of each moment and movement throughout the day.
The Opening Ceremonies set the tone with beautiful movements from the Priests of each City-State, transitioning them from their individual points on the periphery toward the center collective of the ring, relinquishing division for cooperation in the spirit of competition and honor of participation. Fleet feet carried the Olympians across the field in the sprints, first as representative of their collective and then of themselves. Hearts lifted to the sky launched the athletes into the air for the standing long jump. Discipline of the discus and javelin were so remarkable – waiting for each of the sixty athletes to take a throw in turn, unrushed and wholly witnessed by competitors and spectators alike. Meeting others in a place of welcome and strength while upholding beautiful form above all brought a whole new spirit to wrestling. Energy and enthusiasm made the relays an exciting finale, working to raise the City-State flag together. Closing ceremonies brought opportunity to witness observations for each athlete from their Priest, King and Queen, acknowledging their gifts and growth through the Olympiad days.
It was truly an amazing time, in a beautiful setting, steeped in reverence for tradition, rewarding best effort, team work, leadership, perseverance and encouraging honor for self and the collective. I felt refreshed and inspired reflecting on my own Field Day Experience some 25 years prior and heading into a morning race, representing CrossFit Inconceivable out on the trails.
A few hiccups in the waking hours with middlest surrounding breakfast confusion led to a scattered sentiment to the start of Saturday, which followed me into a foiled initial attempt at finding the start line of the race. Already moderately unsure about attempting the 10 Miler instead of the 5K for both timing and capability reasons, this seemed to be a sign that the latter would be the choice, if only be default. Rallying as usual, my weekend warrior race support managed to find the trail head in time and I headed to the registration table, going all in for the longer course. Given bib #7777 (which can only be viewed as 1111 multiplied by the luckiest number!) and the gratuitous start delay for technical difficulties, it seemed I would be ready to roll with the 10 Mile crew. Seeing faces familiar from the podium of other local events and knowing my capacity for technical trails, I embraced the moment for beautiful scenery and thought to myself “perhaps I can just participate without the need to race…”
While the delay was helpful for the purposes of starting, it gave me concern for the narrow window I had at the finish to cross the line and make it back to town to coach littlest in her penultimate soccer game of the season. I took the opportunity in the opening miles to text a serendipitously visiting friend to coordinate childcare and transport – multi-tasking not thwarted by racing – thankfully she could read through the mid-run-typos and was able to help ease the pending transition. As the race looped back near the start line, I found myself in third place among the women and had a fleeting thought that it would have been nice to have been visibly leading for that moment, likely the only opportunity given that the early miles took place on a wide gravel road compared to the pending single-track terrain that forced a notable slowing in pace for my hesitant road-runner footfalls.
It came as quite the surprise to me as we dropped down a hill to a narrow, rocky footpath, that the two women in front of me kept getting closer. My breath quickened as I was right on the heels of the second-place runner, making my already anxious steps even more apprehensive as they came closer to hers. As we both approached the leader who graciously made way, I passed them both and carried on, grateful for clear space ahead and a return to the mantra of breath, feet, beauty, keeping me focused on my own effort and grateful for the gorgeous surroundings.
Falling victim to naïveté as we once again passed near the start line, I thought “I don’t know why they are calling this Tough as Nails, that wasn’t so bad!” Shortly thereafter, I made the final major turn, where the volunteer noted “keep it up, first woman, just gotta climb to the top!” And at that moment, the cautionary tale from the race director at the start line echoed in my mind “the race truly beings in the latter half he said…all the climbing after mile six he said…” and I realized my naivety. I figured the other women were seasoned veterans of the off-road and were probably better at pacing than I, but as I began to ascend, also reminded myself that their legs had to traverse the very same rocks and elevation as mine, so I should just work within myself and what was to be would be.
The up is often in my favor, as the rocks provide traction and opportunity to utilize different muscles – shifting my mantra to “glutes and hamstrings” with gratitude for all the posterior chain work in the gym. As I reached the peak, with brief pause for a quick picture of the epic surround, I hoped I had done enough on the climb as I would have to descend for the remainder of the race to the finish line and the down is NOT my forte. One runner approached, familiar to me from the end of The Hill Climb and I made the mistake of trying to go with him, nearly sacrificing an ankle in the process. That was reminder enough that I had to stay within my own skill set and simply do the best I could descending the trails. Final miles mantra “run like it will last forever…race like the finish line is just around the corner.”
On the final return to gravel, a fellow CF!NC athlete was in the clearing, already finished for some dozen minutes with his race, called out “Go Amelia!” which was uplifting, until his second declaration of “Go Kelly!” rang out only a handful of seconds later. My heart sunk as we turned onto the gravel and she jetted past me but in a split second, my racing spirit took over and I thought “you didn’t lead for that long to just let it go now!” and so, I went…and harnessed the Prefontaine spirit that has carried me in so many races, knowing that I was either going to get there first or leave it all out there trying. As fate would have it, the finish line wasn’t too far around the corner and, for the first time in recent memory, I had opportunity to truly race for first place. Just like that, I went from participant to competitor to victor, thanks in large part to the efforts of the community around me and the other female runners pushing me to the margins of my ability.
May we honor ourselves, our teammates and our fellow competitors with best attitude and effort in the events of our choosing, embracing opportunity to find hidden greatness where we might least expect it.