Editor’s note: Athlete’s Angle is a new series in which area student-athletes share their stories from the fields, courts, pools and wherever else they compete. This week’s guest is Waterville junior Lydia Roy, who plays soccer and competes on the track and field team. If your school is interested in participating in the series, please contact sports editor Bill Stewart at 621-5618.
Preparation for a big track and field meet starts well before the competition actually occurs.
In reality, it starts 48 hours before, beginning with the amount of sleep you get and the food that you eat. For me, it seems to matter what I eat and when I eat it. This includes breakfast, which is consumed long before the meet begins, and then small snacks that I eat at the meet. For others, preparation for big meets includes odd superstitions, like wearing the same “lucky” socks every meet, or wearing the same hair elastic because it once brought success. I have a few superstitions — my hair style and headband. I never change it. If I were to change it and I had a bad race everything would be blamed on the fact that I changed my hairstyle. But, regardless of superstitions, eventually I do have to race and that tends to be stressful.
There is a lot of work to prepare for a race that could last about one minute.
A lengthy warm-up — which could last anywhere from 20 minutes to even an hour — is necessary. I then check in with a meet officials and find someone to hold my blocks.
Next comes the wait, which can seem like hours.
Getting into the starting blocks for a race is one of the most stressful moments a track athlete faces. The silence is almost deafening — it’s just you, the track and the starter’s gun. It’s moments like these that could break an athlete; the only reason I don’t is because of my teammates. Over the sound of my pounding heart I hear “Here we go Lyd!” coming from one of my teammates or coaches from across the track. My confidence soars and I’m reassured that I can do it. It’s such a simple thing, having a teammate cheer for you — yet it does so much for me. A little encouragement and support can go a long way. It gives me confidence and the motivation to push myself just a little harder than I thought was possible.
As I wait for the official to start the race I try to focus on myself and no one else around me. At this moment, I always realize my mouth is dry, either because of nerves or because I didn’t dare drink too much in the minutes leading up to my race. Once the gun goes off I barely remember the race. I keep my thoughts as simple as possible. When the finish line nears, I hear the cheers of my teammates and the fans. I tell myself there’s only 100 meters left … then 50, then 10. As I cross the finish line the emotional stress is gone, even if it’s only temporary.
After all, there will be another race soon and the process will repeat itself.
I will have to forget about what I just ran and prepare myself for my next event. The life of a track athlete is hard especially if you suffer from stress, which many athletes do.
But fostering that competitive nature and embracing the team aspect of the sport makes it a rewarding experience.