Payton Jordan: A New Season
Post Olympic depression is a real thing. I thought I could skirt it by continuing my season after the Olympics, but the truth is it will wait for you.
The Olympics don’t usually bring you fame and fortune. After the Games, I got a rude awakening that I suddenly needed to find an agent and a sponsor who was willing to pay me, both of which were much harder than I anticipated. I saddled a lot of rejection last fall. Admittedly, it shook me a little.
Training this winter was clouded by feeling an intense amount of pressure from expectations (mostly from myself) and thinking that I still needed to “impress” a lot of people. I also had a faint, yet consistent thought that last year was a fluke. My workouts were going well, but I was completely and utterly stressed out. The result was a few indoor races that I didn’t talk about much (read: disappointments).
I didn’t enjoy this time, and I was gaining momentum in a negative direction. I knew I had to stop and Flagstaff was the perfect escape from myself. I got to Flagstaff, took a deep sigh of relief and finally felt like I could focus on the races ahead. I didn’t think about sponsorship (much), I didn’t doubt my fitness and I focused on what I could do every day to make myself better.
When I got to Palo Alto for Payton Jordan, I felt calm (with intermittent moments of intense nerves, but I would say mostly calm). I had done the best preparation that I could over the past month and I felt that the standard for Worlds was well within reach. It was something to be respected, but for the first time I was in the fast section of the 5000m. The section that I used to watch from behind the fence after already racing and thinking “one day.”
The weather in Palo Alto was cold and windy on the night of the race for possibly the first time ever. That made the pace slower than I expected and created a crowded race. The whole time I was very aware that we were running way off pace, but there was something in me that knew I was still going to run the standard. Call it late race delusion if you want.
But somehow, my metronome pacing skills didn’t let me down. I ran as hard as I possibly could in the last 400m and it was just enough to dip under the standard by three tenths of a second. When I mustered up the strength to lift my head from my doubled over position and saw 15:21.64 on the score board next to my name, it was as if someone had cracked a perfectly timed joke. I laughed out loud, out of relief and shock.
The chase for the World standard is over before it started. I now have the luxury to perfectly plan a season to put me in the best position to make the World’s team and then make the final at Worlds.
I’ve realized two things since this winter that were solidified on Friday night. I’m still a scrappy little nobody, and this sport doesn’t owe anyone anything. I’ve competed on the biggest stage in the world, but the announcer is still going to mispronounce my last name every single time. But I’m going to keep scrapping. That said though, I’ve come a long way and I’m pleased with where I am. Racing in a yoga top from Whole Foods doesn’t mean I’m not good at this. It just means that our sport is broken.