Three Lessons

Jan 11, 2013

Jennie crosses the finish line a national champion

Whenever I am in Park City, I usually do strength training at the Basin Fieldhouse in Kimball Junction. It is one of the very few gyms with a Concept2 SkiErg that I have found in the US. This is awesome, because 1) there should be more gyms with SkiErgs and 2) it really pays to be able to double pole prior to a race! This came true as I double poled to my first US National Championship a few days ago in the classic sprint. After many tears of sadness in 2012, these tears of joy were better than I could have imagined (which brings me to my three lessons), but first, a little background...

At the tail end of my July training camp this summer, I found out that I had both Mono and Lyme disease. I was optimistic, thinking I would be back to my old self in a month. This didn’t happen. I ended up trying to start my first intensity training during October camp, but then got a cold, so only ended up doing a little intensity here and there. My races started in November. Surprisingly, they didn’t go as badly as I feared, but I was definitely not where I wanted to be. My results ranged from top 10 to 40s. I realized I just couldn’t hold it together in my distance races, but short sprint races were all right. Recovery hasn’t been good in between sprints heats, but this has given me something to measure my health progress by. So...

Lesson #1. Maintain a neutral mentality when negativity is present and positivity is difficult. Never surrender to the dark side. I have had to work on “chilling.” No, I don’t mean ice baths; I mean not running around saying “my sky is falling,” which it was. I decided the best thing I could do was maintain a neutral mentality. Instead of reminding myself that I was unprepared, out of shape and mentally beaten, I took each race as a new day. A new day can bring anything if you put in the work, but leave out the mind games.

Lesson #2. Life is unpredictable. You might as well roll with it.
“When Jennie Bender is near you in a sprint, you never know what she will do.” I have heard this many times by many people, and I have to admit, it’s a reputation I am definitely fond of. We have to plan life at times in order to get anything done, but when life erases your “to do” list, you might as well see what it has in store. My summer and fall did not go at all how I had planned, yet, I had pictured my classic sprint win. Deep down inside, it’s been growing, which is why I tried to maintain a neutral mentality. This makes the option for greatness possible, no matter how far off it seems.

Lesson #3. A win is a win!
As Al Pacino said in Any Given Sunday, “life is a game of inches.” After crossing the finish line, many hours later, and even right now, I don’t feel like I achieved my goal. It has only felt real because of all the external congratulatory influence I have received since. Perhaps it’s because I know I am not where I was last year, or where I want to be now, but the more I hear it the more I believe that I am, in fact, a national champion. So, I hope in your life you are slowly gathering those inches, and if you’re lucky, they will pull together when you need them the most.

Life is unpredictable. Unpredictability can be negative or positive. Stand your ground, and eventually the positive will come around.

On the podium

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