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

What I Learned From Cirque Du Soleil

Average. This is the word I would use to describe how my competitions have been going. They haven’t been going terrible, but they haven’t been going amazing either. It could be worse, but it most definitely could be much better, too. Average – I cringe as I type that word.

It gets a little discouraging. Athletes and people in any pursuit know how difficult it can be to be stagnant. When all you desire to see is improvement and change, the same result over and over again can be very disheartening and exhausting. I just finished up two back to back competitions this weekend where I had, here we go, average results. Following the completion of my competition yesterday, my boyfriend and his mother surprised me with a ticket to Cirque Du Soleil which was being held here in London that night. I was excited because like most, I’ve heard amazing things about the show. I knew I would find it entertaining, but because I’m not a very artsy person I don’t think I expected to fall in love with it quite as much as I did.

At first I was just awe-struck. I gasped in horror and wiped my clammy hands on my pants as the performers did absolutely unthinkable feats. “How are they doing that? Why are they doing that? Oh God be careful up there, ma’am. WOW SHE IS SUPER HIGH! Okay that was cool. Where did that guy come from? HE’S HANGING ON BY HIS FOOT!” These were the spastic thoughts going through my head – superficial wow-that’s-friggen-awesome types of thoughts. But a little later into the show, I wiped my face to find that I had shed a tear. “Wow, what the heck,” I thought to myself, “Why on earth am I crying”.

I envied the performers with everything in me. They were so beautifully athletic. They looked so passionate. They looked so free. Free – a sharp contrast to how I’ve felt on the runway lately. While the performers flipped, leaped and danced across the stage it appeared as though they didn’t have a care in the world – they were completely entranced in their own performance and executing it as perfectly and elegantly as they could. I thought about my own performances lately. I’m tense and restricted, chasing numbers on a measuring tape. I thought to myself, “I wonder what it must feel like to just be focused on performing the motions how they are supposed to be performed – focusing on being one with what you’re doing and not worrying about things that are seemingly out of your control – rankings or distances.” Then I realized there is nothing stopping me from focusing on those very things, too.

Although I don’t have the flexibility, fluidity or elegance (emphasis on the elegance part) of the Cirque Du Soleil performers, watching them made me realize that I can strive be more like them in the way that I approach my own performances. I can focus on the motions, on performing what I do as beautifully and as close to perfect as I can. I can focus on being free and just 100% connected to the movements. Numbers are secondary. Numbers are secondary. I tell myself that all the time, but it seems like every once in a while I just need a reminder. The numbers I am searching for are the mere result of something more important I need to strive for my performances – absolute freedom.

“Love What You Do & Do What You Love”: The Myth

“Love what you do and do what you love”.

This is advice we have learned to live by. Spend your time doing what makes you happy, because that’s what is most important. I have always abided by this, and I’m sure we’ve all made at least a couple decisions with this mantra in mind. Whatever we choose to pursue in life, we should enjoy doing – we should do the things we love. Simple enough, right? Wrong. There’s more to it than that, and we have been slightly misled.

A couple of weeks ago I had a few training sessions that I hated every second of. I wished I could be anywhere else doing anything else. I felt sore and tired and frustrated and I just simply did not feel like training. It felt like a monotonous chore. As my coach instructed me, I felt agitated. I couldn’t wait to just take off my spikes and go home, curl up into bed and go on a Netflix marathon. Throughout my decade-long participation in this sport, I’ve definitely experienced practices of this nature before, but never this intensely and never this many in a row. In turn, my training was not productive and this only fuelled my bad attitude. On top of everything, I felt an incredible amount of guilt for not enjoying what I was doing. It was a strange internal conflict that sat uncomfortably and heavily on my heart and mind. “I do this because I love it,” I told myself, “So why do I absolutely hate it right now?”.

After that string of I-would-literally-rather-do-anything-other-than-this training sessions, I had a practice (ironically enough, in a torrential downpour) that completely shifted my attitude. The love that has fuelled me thus far was suddenly rushing through me once again. “I FRIGGEN LOVE THIS BEAUTIFUL SPORT! I WANT TO DO THIS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!”. My heart fluttered and danced with joy as I did the motions that just one day prior I loathed. Since then, I have pondered.

Is it okay to sometimes hate what we love?

My conclusion: Yes. Absolutely. When what you’re pursuing – a career, a hobby, academics, an ideal self, an athletic goal – takes up the majority of your time and energy, it only makes sense that sometimes you will get frustrated and have a severe distaste for it. Hard work is.. hard. The road to success is never smooth so it’s absolutely ridiculous to think you should have a smile on your face as you get stuck at detours, rocked by road bumps, and tired of the same, long drive. Passion is defined in the dictionary as, “a strong and barely controllable emotion”. It doesn’t specify that this emotion is necessarily a positive one – it’s just overwhelmingly present. Passion involves both love and hate. Never feel guilty or wrong for periodically experiencing the hate while pursuing what you love. Embrace the hate-days as part of the process.

So, let’s revise that opening quote: “Love what you do and do what you love, but it’s also okay to sometimes hate its guts, too.” Er, something like that.

Happy Friday!
-CARO

The Universe Is Out to Get You

The universe is out to get you – but not in the way you might think. The universe is out to get you to be more grateful, more resilient, more patient, and more understanding. The universe is out to make you a better person. When it seems like the universe is really going out of its way to wreak havoc on you, it’s only because it believes you have a lesson to learn or a realization to come to. We (myself included) often are too stuck holding the cynical thought of, “why me?” to do any learning from unfortunate situations – but after a recent experience I have had, I encourage you to trust in the workings of the universe and always search for the silver lining.

A couple weeks ago my boyfriend and I returned to his car after attending Western’s Athletic Awards Gala to find that all my belongings had been stolen. My backpack containing my laptop, my binder of school notes, some of my Team Canada gear, my glasses, some jewellery. Any other day I wouldn’t of had so much stuff in the car, but I had to rush from class straight to the banquet and therefore had many belongings with me. Of course, I was distraught. I sobbed and cursed and wondered what the hell was wrong with people in this world – how can people have the audacity to break into someone else’s car and take their belongings? With my trip to California one week away and exams around the corner, I wasn’t sure how I was going to replace everything in time to prepare for my trip and my finals. Furthermore, I had a paper on my laptop that was due in three days time which I ultimately had to take the time and rewrite, but that first involved buying a brand new laptop. Overall, I was crippled with bitterness. Although I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, I thought, “of all the cars in the parking lot, in all the parking lots in London, why me? And why right NOW?”.

But then something wonderful happened. As everyone around me selflessly helped me replace all my belongings and school notes, I came to a realization that completely changed my attitude. It’s just stuff. Everything in that bag was replaceable, and for that reason I should be grateful. I realized I was lucky that my loss included only things that I could easily replace. What’s not replaceable are the people who helped me put all the pieces back together – my coach who literally gave me her Team Canada jacket off of her back, my boyfriend who took me everywhere replacing my belongings, my dad who helped me buy a new laptop, my classmates who happily sent me their school notes, my friends who consoled me as I dramatically complained for days straight about how wicked the world is – none of these people were taken from me. Everything that I need to be happy and complete, I still have. It didn’t take them helping me through that chaotic situation for me to realize how important these people are to me, but it was certainly a nice reminder that helped the loss of my belongings suddenly seem very trivial.

I carried this mentality with me into my training these past couple of weeks, and rather than self-destructing when I have a sub-par training session or competition, I tell myself, “well, at least I’m healthy and able to train in the first place”. It often sounds so insensitive when you’re dealing with an unfortunate circumstance and someone says, “It could always be worse”. But it’s true, it could always be worse. Because of that, there is gratitude to be given in every situation life throws at us – no matter how negative you perceive it to be.

If this post sounds familiar its probably because 6 months ago I wrote a post called “4 Things My Week Without a Cellphone Taught Me” after I had my cell-phone stolen. Clearly there is a theme to my lessons and it seems to be the loss of expensive belongings. With great appreciation, universe, I get it! No more thefts please.

Did you thank your universe today?

-[CROOK-PRONE] CARO

 

 

The Good, the Bad, and the [Beautiful]

Well, it sure has been a while and I am embarrassed to admit why. I wish I could say I’ve just been really busy, had writers block, or no motivation to blog. The truth is I was so overjoyed with the way that my season was going that I was hesitant to take the time to really sit down to think and write about it because I was scared to jinx it. Yes. Jinx it. I know, I know. What am I? Eight? But now with the season complete, I am ready to write!

In every meet this season, I attained a personal best or season best in at least one event I competed in. For me, this constant improvement was a huge deal. I am someone who has improved at a painfully slow rate over the past few years so unfortunately, coming home from a competition disappointed became the norm and being genuinely happy about a result became a rarity. To see improvement in every single meet and to be happy with my performance so often was very exciting and refreshing for me. I know improvement like this is hard to experience in this sport (like Einstein once said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and always expecting a better result!), so I really just appreciated every second of my indoor season and tried to take it in as much as possible.

At the OUA championships a couple of weeks ago, I was at an all-time high. I won long jump with a personal best of 5.98m and ran a personal best split of 24.9s on our bronze medal winning 4x200m team. Triple jump was not even half an hour after the relay, so after having a good series of jumps and winning gold, I was very excited for what I was capable of at CIS on a fresh and recovered set of legs! Our team finished second at OUAs in the overall team rankings which is the best we have finished in quite some time, and I was later honored with the award of OUA field event athlete of the year. This all set me up perfectly going into CIS and I truly felt like I was about to do something special.

Unfortunately, CIS did not go as I planned. It is disappointing to finish off such a great season with a sour taste in my mouth but that’s exactly why you can never get too comfortable in this sport. It is exactly why you should cherish every moment of being at the top of your game. Although I am grateful to be able to walk away from CIS with a gold medal in triple jump, I am disappointed in how I jumped and my performance on our 4x200m relay team. I really don’t know exactly where I went wrong this weekend, but all I know is that I am just incredibly grateful to be happy with my season overall, because that is something I have not been able to say for a few years now.

And so my indoor season comes to an end! I am so grateful that there was mainly good, and just a little bad. And as for the beautiful? I really needed this. I really needed a solid few months of consistent contentment with my performances. Last season took a serious chip out of my confidence and these past few months built me right back up. My love for this sport has been reignited because I have been reminded of why the tough times of plateau are worth it. I have been reminded of why I keep fighting. People always say there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. For years, I only saw that light in brief glimpses. I just spent the past few months bathing in that glorious light called self-improvement and it feels absolutely wonderful!

Thank you to my coaches, family and friends for supporting me all season long and special shoutout to my Pa for coming all the way to Edmonton to watch me jump and run! I can’t wait for more of the beautiful this outdoor season. For now, I have a week off of training. Someone pass the Cheetos!

-CARO