When I was 9, I was in AAU swimming. It was the dead of winter and we had a meet in SW Minnesota about 30 miles away from where my grandparent’s lived. The plan was that I swim Saturday, run over to G’ma’s to sleep and have Grandpa’s famous Oatmeal breakfast (Grandpa grew up in the depression, Oatmeal saves lives and sets the tone for a good day. Fact.) Run back to the meet on Sunday and then head home. No worries.
Except SW Minnesota in the dead of winter is never a ‘no worry’ environment. A storm started brewing when we were still in the water on Saturday and that’s never a good sign. By the time we chowed down some dinner at the hotel where other swimmers and families were staying, it was looking pretty ugly. Many folks tried to talk my mom into staying the night but she was used to Up North snow storms which could beat the snowfall of the south, but the wind swept plains were out of her league. We promised to be back the next day since I had a few bigger events and relays to swim that had an impact on upcoming Regional competitions.
We weren’t even out of town and were struggling. I remember begging her to turn around and stay the night or at least let me stay so I wouldn’t miss the next day. Nope, we’ll be fine. When we finally hit Windom and G’ma’s house, my mom was a total wreck. The roads were the worst she’d ever driven in and went in and out of the ditch multiple times. The verdict? No return tomorrow.
We had Grandpa’s oatmeal breakfast the next morning, it didn’t help the awful pit in my stomach of not being at the meet. We went to church a little later and I silently cried throughout the whole service. See, here’s how I’m wired. When I’m geared up to compete, I’m ready to compete. I don’t DNF. It’s not in my DNA. I dunno why, I was born to compete. I’m happier on the field, or the pool, or the platform or wherever I’m able to. I’ve competed in Weightlifting meets with a tweaked back where I had to humble myself and go much lighter than I was able to had I been healthy, but damn it, I said I’d compete and so I will.
Until now. It was very important to me to compete one more time before the big event out in Enumclaw in a couple of weeks. I found an event put on by Merl Lawless and the Ancient Athletics crew out of Springfield who ALWAYS put on an excellent show. It was a bit of a drive, but well worth it and a perfect opportunity to get a little more coaching before the Claw. But life has gotten in the way and for the first time since I was 9 years old, I’ve pulled out of a competition.
It hurts my heart, I realize that’s a bit dramatic but that’s the only way to describe it. There are bigger issues in the world and even bigger issues at home but it hurts my heart. It’s not how I’m wired. I realize many can shrug off missing competitions, I realize many have a far more laid back attitude about competing in general. That’s ok, it’s just not me.
I’ll take the extra rest day; do some lifting and throwing this weekend as I’m able; try to get right in the head; and look forward to some throwing next week with World Class games competitor Sara Hilgers. But unless I’m dead or severely broken, this will be the last time I DNF.
Excitement is impossible where there is no contest.
Henry Cabot Lodge