I still have to pinch myself. Every morning this week I have woken up and had to remind myself of what exactly transpired this past weekend at the CIS Track and Field Championships in Windsor - my final collegiate competition representing the Western Mustangs. Since September, every night before bed I have pictured myself standing on the runway in Windsor ready to take one last jump in the purple and white. I have heard the rhythmic clapping of the crowd. I have felt myself go through the phases of a monstrous jump. I have visualized the big number on the measuring tape, but more importantly, the even bigger smile on my face. I have imagined the excited embrace from my coaches, teammates, and father. I have played that desired scenerio back in my head literally hundreds and hundreds of times. There were nights when Taylor would look at me and ask, "what are you thinking about?". "Windsor", I would say pithily. He knew what that meant.
My evenings have been strange this week, as I find myself playing back cherished moments that have actually happened. No more daydreaming - these visions are real. To watch on video something that I have been creating and viewing in my head already for the past 7 months is incredibly surreal and difficult to put into words.
I had an interesting week leading up to CIS. The anticipation of the upcoming event some how turned me into a hypochondriac. I was hit with a pretty bad cold about 6 days out from the big show. I went from thinking I had strep throat to thinking I had tonsilitis to thinking that I had the flu. In the end, it was just your every day, common cold - nothing a lot of orange juice, oregano oil, and rest couldn't fix. I hit my low point in the obsessiveness with the illness when I asked my coach to examine my kleenex and tell me if she was as concerned with the colour of my snot as I was (for the record, she didn't do it). Next, some back pain the day before the competition had me thinking I had sciatica. I even at one point Googled, "sciatica symptoms" because I was convinced something was not right. Finally, the day of the competition I thought maybe I had food poisoning because of an upset stomach after eating some chicken from Applebees. Long story short - I was in such a hyper-aware, game-ready state that I was making an issue of things that I probably would've never noticed any other week of the year. As annoying as I was, I think it's a good indication of the mind-body connection I had and just how ready to go I was.
My first day of competition I competed in long jump. Going into the competition I was ranked 4th, but with many of the competitors being ranked within 15cm of eachother I knew that anything could happen. I don't exactly have a good history of strong long jumps at the CIS Championships. In fact, going into this year I had only ever earned one CIS medal in long jump - silver in 2012. I have grown very accustomed to walking away from the long jump disappointed and frustrated, and having to pick myself back up for triple jump the following day. I was determined to have a positive outcome this year. I had an awesome warm-up and was left feeling very confident. I stood on the runway for my first jump and thought to myself, "well, here we go! Operation go-out-with-a-bang starts now!". Bang - 5.98m (the furthest I had ever long jumped indoors) on my first attempt. This shocked me - usually it takes at least one jump to really get into the competition. After that jump, I knew something big was brewing. I stayed extremely consistent for the next three jumps - 5.96m, 5.95m, 5.96m. Heading into the fifth round of the competition, I was in first place by 2 centimeters. In that round, one of my competitors jumped 6.03m. I remember thinking, "Alright, you called, now I'm gonna answer!". I launched myself 6.10m - a new personal best and Western University record. Most importantly - I was back in first place. I was absolutely ecstatic to jump that distance, but I knew there was still another round to go. With one last jump left, I suddently found myself back in second place as another competitior had jumped an amazing 6.20m - four centimeters short of the national university record. My internal reaction shocked me. It wasn't, "okay, well at least I'll get silver" it was, "alright. I'm not going to give up this gold. I got this". I would have to jump further than I ever had before in order to win, but not for a single second did I doubt myself. My final jump was 6.14m - six centimeters short of the gold medal, but I was completely over the moon. It felt amazing to be proud of the way I competed. I laid in bed that night smiling. I had to force myself to stop thinking about what happened that day and to focus on the beast that awaited me the following day.
I woke up feeling like a million bucks. I mean that. It's not easy on the body jumping two consecutive days, but when I woke up on the Saturday morning of triple jump I felt like I had just gotten back from a relaxing day at the spa - a far cry from launching myself into the air six times a mere 16 hours prior. I was nervous of course. I had to force feed myself breakfast and try to stop my hand from shaking as I applied mascara, but overall I knew I was ready to go. Then.. my warm-up happened. I've had bad warm-ups before - those days when the timing of the jump doesn't feel right - but my warmup that day of CIS was really something else. My run felt awkward and forced, like I was a kid on the play ground trying to force my limbs to move faster than possible. The timing of my jumps was so incredibly off that I couldn't even finish a jump, I kept having to run out of them. Panic ensued - why was this happening? Of all days - why today? I calmed myself down by telling myself that I would just get a safe jump in on my first attempt, and then build on the jumps from there. With that being said, you can imagine my pure shock and astonishment when I jumped a personal best of 13.06m on my first jump, breaking the 22 year old CIS triple jump record and setting another new Western University record. For five whole years I had been trying to break that CIS record, and just like that - after the worst warm up of my life - it happened for me. Isnt life weird?
Just as in long jump, I knew that after the big first jump that something bigger was on its way. On my second attempt, I got a little too excited, over rotated, and ended up running out of the jump. I knew my third jump was big while I was still in the air. When I saw a number well over 13 meters on the measuring tape, I felt ecstatic. I didn't want to have the explosion of emotions that I experienced two weeks prior at the OUA championships, so I just tried to keep my cool in order to preserve my energy for my three remaining jumps. When the jump of 13.16m was announced and my coaches embraced me, I tried my hardest not to cry. I had done it! I had broken the CIS record not once, but twice.. and it felt easy! To be honest, the rest of the competition was a complete blur because I was trying my hardest to keep it together. In the back of mind I knew these were my final jumps as a mustang. I faulted my next two jumps, and as I stood on the runway for my final jump I could already feel the tears welling up. "Go now" I told myself, "because in a few more seconds you will be out of commission". I performed my final jump - 12.99m - and burst into tears. That was the last page of the most amazing chapter of my life thus far, and the ending was far better than anything I could have ever imagined.
I cried and I cried and I cried some more, but I also smiled. I hugged. I shook hands. I laughed. I was a wreck, but I was a happy wreck. I felt so much relief and peace knowing that I accomplished everything I wanted to, knowing that there were no regrets. Knowing that, despite all the dark days I had experienced these past five years, that I will always remember my time as a mustang with a smile on my face, all because of that moment right there.
I'm crying as I write this. I cried this morning, too. And the day before that. I am so happy to be happy. I know how incredibly painful it would have been to have ended this journey on a sour note, so I feel incredibly blessed, grateful, and lucky to be this hysterical, overjoyed mess that I am right now. There were numerous times throughout these past five years where I seriously doubted if this day would ever come - if I would ever feel satisfied with a performance. There was one particulary dark point in February of 2013 when I considered walking away from the sport completely - I was tired of constantly feeling like a failure. With the support of my coaches, family and teammates, I stuck it out, and it's times like that that make this moment even sweeter.
What I take pride in is not the actual athletic feat of jumping a new CIS record. What I take pride in is the person that I had to have developed into in order to of even been capable of jumping that distance and breaking that record. I think of 19 year old me, softly sobbing to myself on the bus ride home from my first CIS Championships in Sherbrooke. I wanted to go in there as a rookie, win the competition, and break the record. I jumped 12.36m and finished fourth. It all felt so far from reach. Five years and 80 centimeters later, it is pretty crazy to reflect back on those times. It's true what they say about the journey being the reward, because the best part of all of this is simply realizing how far I've come.
Of course, I didn't make it here alone. My coaches, Frank Erle and Vickie Croley, have been my saving grace. I know that without a doubt, they are the reason the Universe led me to Western. I can't imagine two kinder, more patient, dedicated, and encouraging individuals. They have been with me through thick and thin. Track and field is individual sport yet, never did I feel like I was in this alone. When I felt pain and disappointment, I knew they did too. When I felt pure joy, I knew they did too. We've in this together from the beginning, and I know that they will be with me until the very end.
There's so much more I want to say but, for now, I think I will leave it at 2000 words (no, seriously.. I have a word counter on the side of my document and I'm approaching 2000 words. If only writing papers for school was this easy).
Huge thank you to everyone for your kind words of congratulations and support this past week! It has certainly been a whirlwind. Here is a video I made from my experience at CIS. Definitely moments that I will cherish forever.