Seeing the Lion

catlion Flash back to the seventh grade at recess. You’re standing in a circle with your closest friends and one of them turns to you and says, “I was in the bathroom, and I overheard Cindy tell Mindy that you were the reason your team lost the volleyball game in gym class/the purple pants you wore last Tuesday were ugly/you are a real teachers pet in math class/the only reason Steve is dating you is because he’s trying to make Lindy jealous”. You’re shocked – why would Cindy say something so hurtful? Your peers console you in the same way any friend consoles a friend who’s just been dissed, “Well who cares what they think! We think you’re awesome!”.

That was always nice to hear – at least your friends didn’t think your purple pants last Tuesday were ugly, so life’s not all that bad. What I’ve learned over the years is that not even the opinions of your closest friends can help you feel good about yourself if that feeling isn’t coming from within.

Over the years, I’ve had some comments make their way back to me regarding my athletic progress – coaches and athletes who make remarks about my relative lack of improvement distance-wise in the pit. Stuff like that used to destroy me. I was already very self-conscious and hyper-sensitive when it came to my plateaued state, and it embarrassed and ashamed the hell out of me to know it was something other people noticed. “She peaked in high school. She’ll never jump further”. People around me would console me by saying, “Well who cares what they think! We know you’re going to jump further!”. That always helped – at least my teammates and coaches believed in me – but it was only a band-aid solution until the next comment ripped me a part.

I’ve matured a lot in the past year, and I’ve realized that the only reason those comments hurt as much as they did was because I believed them to be true. My years of slowed progress had me convinced I’d never jump any further. Hearing the negative comments from others only provided supporting evidence to the thoughts that already existed in my head. I’m happy to now be at a point where I have enough confidence in my abilities to not let the opinions of others matter to me when it comes to my athletics. Finally, I can clearly see what I’m capable of, and the vision is unshakeable.

It’s easy to get caught up in the way other people see you. Never stop re-evaluating the way that you see yourself – it is through this lens in which the view matters most. People can call you a cat all they want, but if you see yourself as a lion, and you feel yourself to be a lion, then damnit, you’re a lion!

Thanks for reading, my fellow big cats!
-Caro

Baling Your Hay

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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!

See you on the field, my farmer friends.

-Caro

5 Struggles Trackletes Have During Base Season Training

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Well, I’m back into the full swing of things in terms of training and although I’m loving every second, there’s definitely been some associated hardships! The more I talk with friends and teammates, the more I realize that there are a few universal struggles that us trackletes experience during the base season. Luckily, it doesn’t take long before we relearn the tracklete lifestyle and the struggles don’t seem quite so real!

1. Intense fatigue….. during the warm-up. This is the struggle that I always dread the most. I don’t think there’s anything that can make me feel more unathletic than being full on, hunched over, oh-wow-I-feel-like-I-just-ran-a-marathon breathing after an 800m jog warm up. Drills that felt like second nature a few weeks ago suddenly feel awkward and difficult, and there’s a certain feeling of shame that accompanies the fatigue. I feel self conscious of the fact that I’m breathing like a maniac and sweating profusely and yet, this is only the prelude. Luckily, the lungs don’t take long to get back, and pretty soon we can all proceed into our actual workouts without already feeling like we just did one.

2. Learning to eat like an athlete again. It’s a tough transition from pancakes for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and… pizza for dinner, back to a nutritious, wholesome diet that will properly fuel our bodies. Bananas and peanut butter have replaced my salt and vinegar chips, cauliflower rice has replaced my pizza pockets, water has replaced my wine. It’s rough – but obviously worth it. It never fails to amaze me how much better I feel in every aspect once I start eating well again. Overall, of course we all know we shouldn’t eat half the things we do during the off-season. But seriously, has anyone ever tried a President’s Choice molten lava cake? Irresistible.

3. Getting reaccustomed to that heaping laundry basket. Is this just me? Ever notice how much more laundry you need to do when you’re in training? Each day requires multiple shirts, multiple pairs of shorts, a seemingly endless amount of socks. Laundry seems like a rare occurrence during the off-season (I guess that comes with rarely breaking a sweat). These days, if I have enough pairs of socks in my drawer to get me through the day then life is good!

4. That chilling fear to get out of bed in the morning. There’s no feeling quite like the morning after your first lift of base season training. You roll over, sit up, prepare to put your feet on the ground and say a silent prayer to the track heavens. Dead lifts – have fun walking. Squats? Oh, you have to the bathroom? Good luck with that. Shoulder press? Hope you’re not planning on shampooing your hair for the next week because holding those arms above your head for an extended period of time is not happening. Admittedly, I do like this soreness because it’s the nice reminder of a workout well done. But, the performance of every day activities the first few weeks of base season is certainly a struggle that trackletes are all too familiar with.

5. Relearning time management. For student-athletes especially, the transition back into training can be pretty overwhelming at first. Spending my day watching seven straight hours of quality shows online such as the Bachelor is no longer a viable option. We go from not having much to fill our days during the off-season, to suddenly having not only practices, but classes as well. I felt pretty bored for most of August – at times I was totally unsure what to do with myself, but now I’m scrambling through my day trying not to forget anything! It’s a routine I’m always happy to get back into – but it definitely takes a few weeks to get used to!

Of course, these struggles are rather trivial in the grand scheme of things – but they are always an alarming “welcome back to the track world” dose of reality/slap in the face. Best of luck to everyone with their base season training!

Have a great week,
-Recovering Pizzaholic CARO

WeAreAC: A Look into the Canadian Triple Jump Standard

A couple of weeks ago I posted the following on Facebook:

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After posting it, I was encouraged to forward my concerns to the Athletics Canada athlete representatives so that the right people can answer my questions and address my concerns. Over the past few weeks, I’ve done a lot of research regarding event standards vs. competition results. As I continue to do research, I grow increasingly frustrated as it doesn’t make sense to me where these standards are coming from. I do not feel as though the triple jump standard for various teams is comparable to the standards for some other events. In the same way that actions speak louder than words, I think facts speak louder than opinions. Am I frustrated? Yes – but that of course isn’t a reason to warrant change. Statistics, on the other hand, should be. I’m no expert on the way things should be run but after doing some research, it’s clear by looking at the numbers that something is not right, and this of course should be something that is of importance to the national governing body for our sport. That is why I took the time to collect this information and send it their way.

I want to start off by saying that I know Athletics Canada is on our – the athletes – side. I know that Athletics Canada is not the enemy, but the solution. They have a difficult job – I know standards are meant to be tough. I also want to say that I understand that there may be a few other events where if the same comparisons were done that standard would seem unfair. I’m just looking at the women’s triple jump standard as this alone was a ton of work.I hope this doesn’t come off as some woe-is-me-my-life-is-so-hard-as-a-triple-jumper pity seeking type thing. My objective is really just to get some facts out there so I can bring some obvious issues regarding women’s triple jump standards for various teams to light. My ultimate goal is that these matters will be discussed, changes will be made and eventually, the state of the event will be improved.

My focus this year was making the NACAC U23 team. The Canadian women’s triple jump standard for the NACAC U23 Championships was 13.20m. This is surprising given the fact that at the 2012 NACAC U23 Championships, a jump of 13.14m won the competition. Meaning, the standard to make the team was higher than that which actually won the competition at the last championships. As my coach Vickie Croley worded it in an email to Athletics Canada after making an appeal, “It’s tough for us to accept how a National Champion with a performance (13.06m) that would have won a medal in 2012 (gold was 13.14m, silver was 13.12m and 12.62m was bronze) was not selected. All of these performances and the bronze medal performance from 2010 (13.14m) is still less than our standard of 13.20m. If we want to win medals I don’t understand where this standard came from”.

I wanted to see if this was the case in any other events or if this situation is unique to women’s triple jump. I compared the qualifying standard to get onto the team to what performance actually medalled at the 2012 NACAC championships. I looked at multiple events, but I excluded distance events for the fact that these races are sometimes tactical at the championships and thus slower.

2012 NACAC U23 Championships

Event 2014 Qualifying Standard Performance of 2012 Bronze Medallist
Men’s 110mH 14.35 13.54
Women’s Heptathlon 5150pts 5522
Men’s Javelin 69m 70.17m
Women’s 400mH 59.00 58.23
Men’s High Jump 2.15m 2.19m
Women’s Shot Put 15.20m 16.22m
Men’s 200m 21.40 20.50
Women’s 100m 11.80 11.43
Men’s Discus 55m 57.98m
Women’s Triple Jump 13.20m  12.62m

Evidently, there is a simple pattern. In the events that I looked at, the standard to get onto the team is less than what was required to earn a medal at the 2012 championships. This however, is not the case for triple jump. The argument can of course be made that 2012 happened to be a weak year in women’s triple jump at NACAC. In order to determine this, I looked at the results over a longer duration of time:

What it took to win a bronze medal at NACAC 2006 – 2012 vs. event standards in various events

EVENT
YEAR Women’s Triple Jump Men’s High Jump Women’s Long Jump Women’s Heptathlon Men’s Shot Put
2006 13.62m 2.19m 6.43m 5570 pts 18.41m
2008 13.11m 2.23m 6.37m 5509 pts 16.95m
2010 13.14m 2.13m 6.33m 5172 pts 18.03m
2012 12.62m 2.19m 6.04m 5522 pts 19.21m
Average Bronze Medal Performance: 13.12m 2.19m  6.29m 5443 pts 18.15m
Canadian Standard 2014 13.20m  2.15m  6.10m 5150 pts 16.80m
PERCENT OF AVERAGE BRONZE MEDAL PEFORMANCE REQUIRED TO = QUALIFYING STANDARD 100.6% 98.1%   96.9%  94.6%  92.6%

Again, it becomes evident that there is a pattern. The standard of these events is never more than 100% of the performance that is required in order to obtain a bronze medal. Once again, this is not true for triple jump, as the standard of 13.20m is further than the average bronze medal performance of 13.12m.

I also decided to calculate how many points the NACAC standards from various events obtain using a Mercier table – a method of comparing track and field events at an equal level. I wasn’t sure which one was most suitable so I used both. I also used the IAAF Scoring Table (2014).

Event 2014 NACAC Qualifying Standard Mercier Table 2009 Mercier Table 1999 IAAF Scoring Table 2014
Women’s Triple Jump 13.20m 839 850 1021
Women’s 400mH 59.00 822 827 1052
Women’s Javelin 51.20m 816 800 898
Men’s Discus 55m 809 816 969
Women’s Shot Put 15.20m 803 799 884
Men’s 110mH 14.35 800 804 1004
Women’s 100m 11.80 795 798 1032
Men’s 200m 21.40 794 799 1009
Women’s Heptathlon 5150pts 748 801 909
Men’s Javelin 69m 696 795 938
Men’s High Jump 2.15m n/a 819 1046

Regardless of what Mercier table is used, the NACAC women’s triple jump standard obtains more points than the standards of other events. Using the IAAF Scoring Table, it ranks fourth compared to the other event standards.

The fact that NACAC does not set guidelines for standards and each country is free to determine their own selection criteria only makes this all the more frustrating, because I’m not sure what this 13.20m mark is based off of. For example, The United States was fully represented with 2 athletes in all 40 events, as they did not have qualification standards to get onto the team. They simply selected the top 2 ranked athletes in each event who were the required age (born in 1992, 1993, or 1994). I believe that it would have added to the competitive experience if the host country (us) did the same thing. This also would have helped with the fact that in some events at this years championships, there were as few as two athletes competing.

Note: I wrote this before the 2014 NACAC Championships which were held this past weekend in Kamloops. I wanted to add that at this competition, only the winner surpassed that 13.20m mark. A jump of 13.19m was silver, and 12.80m was bronze. There were only four females in the competition.

My frustration continues with the conclusion of women’s triple jump at the Commonwealth Games. As stated in my initial Facebook post above, the B standard to get onto the team was 14.20m while the A standard was 14.40m. A jump of 13.07m was required to make the finals and a jump of 14.21m ended up winning. Once again, someone’s initial thought may be that perhaps it was just a weak year of competition. However, at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, a jump of 14.19m won the competition. Meaning once again, the B standard to even get onto the team was further than what it took to win gold (let alone a medal at all). Even going back to the 2006 Commonwealth Games, although a jump of 14.39m won the competition, 13.53m came second and 13.42m was third.

Out of all eighteen female triple jumpers competing at the Commonwealth Games in 2014, leading into the games none had even surpassed the mark of 14.20m in 2014. Even when looking at lifetime bests, only one of the athletes competing at the Games has jumped further than 14.20m before. So again I ask, why is this the decided upon standard? Why are female triple jumpers required to be better than literally everyone else in the competition in order to even have the chance to compete?

Evidently, the standards for these two highlighted competitions alone need to be reconsidered, but how do the standards line up in a more general sense? Here is how the B standards from the 2013 World Championships compare to where that mark would actually rank an athlete achieving that mark in the world these past few years. I stuck with field and hurdle events as I realize that there are more athletes participating in the sprinting and distance events to begin with, and I left out the multi-events as I also realize there are fewer people competing in these events. Finally, I also excluded pole vault and high jump as there are often 20+ different athletes jumping the same distance so the rankings can become a little messy. I know it is difficult to compare across different events, but the results are rather interesting.

Event B Standard for 2013 World Championships World Ranking 2012 World Ranking 2013 World Ranking 2014
Womens Triple Jump 14.20m 40th 28th 15th
Mens Javelin 81.00m 51st 43rd 31st
Womens 400mH 56.55 73rd 60th 48th
Mens 110mH 13.50 61st 52nd 45th
Womens Shot Put 17.20m 68th 59th 53rd
Mens Hammer Throw 76.00m 49th 39th 20th
Womens 100mH 13.10 98th 81st 75th
Men’s Shot Put 20.10m 52nd 47th 49th
Womens Long Jump 6.65m 48th 39th 27th
Women’s Hammer Throw 69.50m 52nd 40th 39th

Here is the same information on a graph.

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Regardless of whether or not these differences are anything of significance, it becomes clear that the women’s B standard in triple jump consistently ranks higher in the world than the B standard of the other events that were looked at.

The Canadian record in triple jump is 13.99m, held by Tabia Charles. Women’s triple jump, along with men’s long jump, are the only two events in which the standard to compete at a major international event (14.20m) surpasses the Canadian Record (13.99m). What this screams to athletes is, “If you want to ever represent Canada at a Commonwealth, World Championships or Olympics, you need to be better than anyone has ever been in the history of that event in this country”. I understand that these standards should be difficult in order to form a competitive team, but when it’s something that has never been done before, it really just makes the standard seem all the more impossible. When the women’s triple jump standard is compared to standards in other events that 14.20m standard already seems unreasonable.

I really hope that with the Pan Am Games being held in Toronto next year, the points that I bring up in this piece are considered. At the last Pan Am Games in 2011, a jump of 13.06m made the finals in women’s triple jump. There are currently two women in Canada jumping that distance. Yet, the B standard to be on the team was 14.00m in 2011. For the 2014 Commonwealth team, exceptions were made in order to have two different athletes on the team. They did not have standard but because of their high rankings within the Commonwealth, they were named to the team. This proved to be a good decision as both went on to win medals for Canada. Two medallists who otherwise, without exceptions being made, would’ve been left at home. What does this really say about the standards in the first place? I hope that leading into the Pan Am Games, rankings will be closely monitored in all events in a similar manner in order to ensure that we aren’t leaving possible finalists and medallists behind – especially with the event being held in Canada.

In 2001, Michelle Hastick was selected to represent Canada in triple jump at the World Championships as the event was being held in Edmonton. That was the first and last time that Canada was represented at a World Championship or Olympic Games in women’s triple jump. I imagine this drought will continue if this standard is not more closely monitored and seriously re-evaluated. Women’s triple jump is probably one of the weakest events in Canada right now – but in no way should this mean that it is completely overlooked. Just like in every other event, the athletes are working tirelessly to try to make it to the international level to represent Canada. If we continue to be held to a standard that is higher than other events and higher than what is even required to win the entire competition at hand, I’m not sure that we will see improvements in this event anytime soon. With every competition that goes by with a standard that isn’t realistic or fair, athletes are losing more and more vital experience on the world stage. It should also be noted that Canada’s non-existent presence in triple jump at the international level does not help promote the event to youth and junior aged athletes, certainly not helping the case and thus creating a catch 22 scenario.

I realize that it isn’t always feasible to have a team in with representation in every event. I am aware there are often team-size and funding limitations. I’m not saying that Canada should have a triple jumper at every major international competition or that we should lower the standard just for the sake of a triple jumper making a team and gaining some experience. What I am saying is that these standards should be fair. Right now, after learning everything that I have through intensive research, I can say with confidence that this not is the case. Standards should be the same across the board for all events, whether that means they are a percentage of world ranking from the previous year, what it takes to medal based on history over a certain period of time, or a combination of both. Regardless of how these standards are determined, I just think they need to be fair and completely transparent through all events. In the future, it might be helpful to state in the selection criteria where the standards come from so that athletes and coaches can see that those selected to the team are determined in a fair manor across all events.

I didn’t do this research and take the time to write this because I want to make a team and I think that a lower standard is the only way for me to achieve that. This isn’t about me. I am doing this for the sake of the event as a whole in this country. I am a very passionate person who loves this sport an awful lot. I also hope that this piece will open up the lines of communication and that athletes in other events who have questions or concerns about their own standards can feel comfortable bringing those issues to light. I said I was going to try to leave my feelings and opinions out of it, but I want to conclude by saying this: as someone in the event, I can’t quite put into words how dejecting it is to be jumping a full meter less than what is required to ever be on a team. As I struggle to improve centimeter by centimeter, I can’t help but wonder some days what on earth I’m doing to myself. There is of course onus on me – I can work harder, I can be better, I can jump further. I certainly don’t expect anything to be handed to me. But, I would really like for this number – this seemingly unreachable number that I am committing my entire life to attaining – to make sense to me.

Thank you for reading some of my findings. I trust that Athletics Canada will provide an answer to how these standards are established, consider my research and make appropriate changes for fair qualifying procedures for all events for future National teams.

-Caroline Ehrhardt

PS. Special thanks to my coach Vickie Croley who helped me with this piece.

Better Late Than Never

Better late than never. Even if you do something much later than planned, that is better than not doing it at all. This phrase applies my belated timing of this post-nationals blog post. As excited as I was to write about my positive experience in Moncton, I just haven’t gotten around to it! I enjoyed a week away from training after returning home from nationals which included a much-needed relaxing weekend at a cottage. Now that I’m reimmersed into the swing of things and back into training, I decided enough is enough and it is time to write a blogpost.

Better late than never also applies to my experience in Moncton. Finally, I achieved the breakthrough I have been patiently, yet desperately, waiting for. Last May, I broke 13 meters in triple jump for the first time. At the time, I thought that was my breakthrough. Well, it was more of a short glimpse of “the other side” than a full-fledged breakthrough because up until nationals, I had not surpassed that 13 meter mark since.

This year I had my best indoor season yet, consistently jumping in the 12.70s and 12.80s. Despite my confidence and successful training sessions, things took a weird turn once I moved outdoors when I opened up my season with 12.45m and then was idle in the 12.60s. For as good as I felt, I knew it was really strange that I was only jumping as far as I was. But a funny thing happened- I didn’t panic and I didn’t let myself feel dejected. My old self would have went to town with thoughts like “Oh my gosh, I was jumping this far when I was 17!”. But to be honest, not once did I have a thought like that. Heck, one week before nationals I sextuple faulted (meaning yes, I faulted 6 jumps in a row), and even then, I was relatively calm and still more confident than ever. My mind was fixated on Moncton and I knew that being the competiter that I am, everything would be okay when it really mattered.

My confidence through the lackluster performances and “keep calm and jump on” attitude turned out to work out pretty well for me, as I walked away from Moncton one very happy camper (er, fishermen rather, in reference to my last blog post). I would say in the past few years, this sport has been 95% disappointment, 5% satisfaction. This sport is tough because a win is never enough – you always want a faster time or further distance. Like Einstien once said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Although I work hard and know that the 5% satisfaction isn’t a matter of luck, anytime a competition goes well, I can’t help be feel grateful and blessed because I know these moments are fleetingly rare. That 5% makes the other 95% worth it. Without a doubt, I would endure all my athletic heartbreaks over again just to experience the joy I did at nationals once again. That’s the beauty of sport.

Two jumps over thirteen meters, both coming in the final two rounds when I was in the silver-medal position, walking away with my fourth consecutive national championship, a new personal best jump, but you know what the best thing that I walked away from nationals with is?

Hope. It may not always happen for me when I want it to or how I want it to, but provided I keep working away at it, persevering, and believing in myself, I know the distances I am working towards on the measuring tape will always appear eventually. Better late than never.

For the full story of how things played out in Moncton, check out these articles below.
-Ehrhardt Reputation Grows as a Fierce Competitor – Sudbury Sports
-Ehrhardt Golden Again – Sudbury Star

Thanks everyone positive vibes heading into nationals and the kind words now that it is over! I truly couldn’t have done it without the amazing support that I am oh so lucky to receive! As always, thanks for reading.

-CARO

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Off to Nationals

Well, it’s that wonderful time of year again! It feels like Deja vu as I pack my bags and prepare to fly to Moncton tomorrow afternoon for the 2014 Canadian Track and Field Championships. It really doesn’t feel like it has been a whole year since the last time I did this, but at the same time, I know I’m a much different person this year as I board my flight.

Last year I didn’t go to Moncton to win, I went to Moncton to not lose. The fear of receiving a medal that was anything but gold crippled me. I was feeling a lot of pressure being the defending champion, and this pressure came from no one but myself. “Three-peat”, I kept telling myself, “I have to get the three-peat”. Have to. Talk about a negative head space. In the end I got what I wanted, but I knew that my performance was subpar and tremendously affected by the pressure that I put on myself. Lesson learnt: it’s hard to fly with a bag full of cinderblocks on your back.

This year, I know I am in the perfect headspace heading into Moncton. All I want to do is get on the runway on Saturday afternoon and have some fun. I know what happens when I simply enjoy myself in competitions. I trust that if I do everything out of love and enjoyment this weekend, and not out of fear or pressure or urgency, good things are going to happen – big things are going to happen. I have that competitive killer-instinct, but I have learnt that I am more effective when I let that side of me be unleashed naturally, rather than trying to force myself into that role from the get-go.

I was going to post some cliché picture of a fierce lion roaring or angry shark showing his teeth, but then I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of my computer and thought people may appreciate a picture of my current head piece (that I’m wearing indoors at 9pm..) instead.

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Gone fishin’ for a wonderful 2014 national championships! Have a great week everyone and thanks for reading!
-CARO

 

Some OFSAAme Memories

The first weekend in June always has me feeling very nostalgic – OFSAA weekend! A time when the best of the best high school track and field athletes from every corner of Ontario come together and battle it out. I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences in sport; representing Canada, representing my university, but my OFSAA memories are the ones I cherish most, and this time of year always has me remembering those times fondly.

My first OFSAA in grade 9 was held in Ottawa. I can still remember our first drive from the hotel to the track like it was yesterday. The song “Time of Your Life” by Green Day came on the radio, and my coach turned around to face me in the van with a very serious but excited look in his eyes. “Here we go. Let’s have the time of our life,” he said. I was ridiculously nervous, but I was very intent on winning. I was determined to start my OFSAA career off with a bang and let everyone know who Caroline Ehrhardt from Espanola was. Despite setting a personal best of over 50cm in triple jump, I was disappointed to come away from the meet without finishing on the podium in any of my events. I felt dejected, yet I knew in my heart that next year would be a much different story.

OFSAA in my grade 10 year was held in Hamilton. I won gold in both long and triple jump and set a new OFSAA record in triple jump. I still remember a reporter asking me if I was shocked. I surprised even myself, as a timid 16 year old kid when I said, “Nope. I’ve played this moment over in my mind every day for a year now.” I finally had a taste of success at the elite level, and the taste only made me that much hungrier.

I was in Toronto at Varsity Stadium for OFSAA in grade 11. I had my eye on the Canadian Interscholastic triple jump record which I had actually surpassed at meets in the past. By simply doing it at OFSAA, I would put my name in the record books once again. My competition got off to a shaky start, and not only had I not broken the record by round 4 of the competition, but I wasn’t even winning. Sitting in second place, I remember saying to myself “Stop it! You’re overthinking this. Just do what you know how to do”. On my next jump, my butt flew out of the sand as quickly as it landed in it – I leaped up in celebration with my fists in the air because I knew what I had just done. I broke the national record and just established myself as the best triple jumper in Canadian high school history.

And finally, the culminating event. OFSAA was held in London in my grade 12 year, at TD Waterhouse Stadium, the facility that would later (unknowingly at the time) become my home. On my sixth and final jump, the announcer brought the entire stadium’s attention to me. The crowd clapped in unison as I sprinted down the runway for my final jump of my highschool career, and on this jump I broke my own Canadian interscholastic record. I saluted the crowd, smiled, and took off my Espanola singlet for the last time.

Just like that, four OFSAAs had come and gone. Green Day was right from the very start, I truly did have the time of my life. Six OFSAA gold medals, 3 broken records, countless personal bests, but you know what my favourite OFSAA memory is? The fact that the smile on my dad’s face when he watched my receive my 5th place ribbon in grade 9 was just as big as it was when he watched me win golds and break records in the years that followed. “We’ll have to frame this or something!” he said excitedly as he looked proudly at my ribbon. My coach’s high five was just as hard when I missed the podium than it was when I stood on top of it – his hugs were just as tight. It is because of those actions by them that I learned this: OFSAA wasn’t about winning or losing. OFSAA was about giving it all I had. It was about putting on a performance that I could walk away proud of. OFSAA was about setting goals and maintaining a never-say-die attitude until the very last jump. OFSAA was about having fun and doing my absolute best, because at the end of the day, my loved ones were proud no matter what.

Now that I think about it, it’s not just OFSAA that’s like that, is it? Ah, I continue to learn!

Wishing the very best of luck to all OFSAA competitors this year! Have a blast because I promise you that these will be the days you wish you could get back!

Have an OFSAAme time (I can’t stop),
-CARO