When I still lived in Espanola, I had to do quite a bit of travelling in order to compete at the more competitive meets down south. When I travelled with my team during the high school season, we had the luxury of being able to watch movies (real, old-fashioned VHS cassettes!) in my coach David Gallant’s van. We always had two movies to choose from: Without Limits, and Anchorman. I haven’t watched either movie since, but I can say with absolute confidence that I can probably recite either one of these movies verbatim just from watching them so many times. Anyways, Without Limits depicts the life and athletic career of American distance runner Steve Prefontaine. A gutsy, stubborn and absolute work horse of an individual, Pre struggled to accept the idea of periodically tapering his workload. At one point in the movie his coach says to him, “They hay’s in the barn, Pre”.
Throughout the course of my athletics in high school, this is something that my coach would often say to me before major competitions. I’d spiral into nerve-induced rants, questioning my ability and saying things like, “Am I ready for this competition? Am I really capable of doing what we’re aiming to do? Have I done enough?”. Without skipping a beat, my coach would remind that the hay is in the barn – the work has been done, and now it’s time to get on the runway and reap the rewards.
Like Pre, I struggle when it comes to tapering. Hard work puts my mind at ease and assures me not only that I am fully prepared to reach my goals, but that I am worthy of attaining them. In a strange way, I find inner peace by working myself to my limits because in my mind, that means I’m doing all that I possibly can to get what I desire. Hard work gives me a sense of control. When I have to lighten the work load to rest my body for major competitions and I start to mentally struggle, I remind myself of the hay quote. I tell myself that all my hard work up until this point has prepared me for what’s to come.
So why am I talking about this? It’s September, which means I have six months until my next major competition. I certainly don’t need to worry about tapering anytime soon. Last week during a practice, I was doing a particularly tough set of runs. As my legs ached and my lungs burned, I forced myself to just keep moving forward, repetition after repetition. Through the pain, I suddenly had the mental image of me on a tractor, ripping around a golden field, rounding up bale after bale of hay. “The faster I go, the more hay I’ll get!”. The fatigue was making me delusional, but I didn’t care. That mental image was helping me get through what seemed like the impossible feat of completing the workout. I was hay-craz-ay.
If you expect some hay in the barn, you have to do the work to put it there first. In a nutshell, that’s what this time of year (base-season) is all about for track and field athletes. This way, one day down the road if you are nervously questioning your preparation efforts before a competition, you can open your barn door and look proudly and confidently at all those beautiful golden bales!