Jessie Raymond: Daily life spawns personal Olympics
I always wanted to compete in the Olympics. A few things, however, worked against me, such as my family not having the money to send me to an elite training facility when I was younger. That and having no athletic ability beyond doing the Macarena are the two biggies.
But I’m talented, in my own way. I can knit socks, for instance. Can Mo Farah do that? (Probably yes, and faster than I can, but for the sake of my argument let’s say no.) I cannot, however, run six-plus miles averaging just over 4 minutes per mile, like he did to win the gold in the 10,000-meter race. To be honest, I don’t remember the last time I ran a mile in under even 5 minutes. Then again, I haven’t been keeping track.
Unlike Simone Biles, I can’t sprint across a gym, leap several feet into the air, twist my body around three times and land on my feet, smiling, repeatedly. I wouldn’t even want to do that, given my delicate equilibrium; I got carsick going over the steep hairpin turns of McCullough Turnpike last weekend — and I was driving.
But the recent Summer Games sparked in me the desire to improve myself, to test my limits, to get drunk with my bros and vandalize a gas station and then lie about it on the news — you know, to live the Olympic dream. So I decided to hold my own one-woman Olympics during the Games and compete, against myself, to see what I had in me.
This meant a change in my normal routine. Most of the time, if I want to push the envelope, I just try reading a menu without glasses, provided the lighting is decent. But this was more. Every day from Aug. 5-21, I got up early, ate a high-carb breakfast (not for training purposes but because I really like carbs), limbered up, and attacked a dozen different events.
These were not standard Olympic offerings. Instead, I chose challenges that I encounter in my daily life. I mean, how often do true Olympic events spontaneously break out at, say, family barbecues? “Hey, Jessie, after horseshoes, we’re having a synchronized diving contest. Are you in?”
Here are just a few of my events:
• The Zucchini Throw. As anyone knows, if you take your eye off a 4-inch zucchini for 24 hours, it will grow to the size of a preschooler. In this event, I took the zucchini that were too big to eat and, from a deep squat position, launched them over the garden fence into the pigpen. I earned silver; I got record distance on my last throw, but I stepped into the carrots, incurring a penalty.
• Speed Laundry. This event grew from the scientific fact that hanging clothes on the line causes rain. In it, I timed myself from the moment I realized it was starting to sprinkle to the moment I got the last item off the line. In preliminaries, I finished this event in a respectable 47.42 seconds. During finals, however, I was disqualified for standing in line at the supermarket when a heavy downpour hit. No medal.
• The Spider Race. This straightforward event involved me trying to outrun the wolf spider that ambushed me by the basement door in the kitchen. I took home the gold, naturally, as I would rather die than have a spider catch up to me.
• The Tomato Marathon. This long race is still going on, even after the closing ceremonies. Did you know that three healthy cherry tomato plants can produce over 40,000 tomatoes in a season? The picking is endless.
I’m setting a good pace right now and am in the running for a medal. If past performance is any indication, however, I’ll gas out by the second week of September. When it comes to gardening, I’m stronger in the early-season sprint events, like picking peas.
I realize my personal summer Olympics falls far short of the real thing. As of yesterday, for instance, I hadn’t been offered a single endorsement. Still, I’m proud to have stood with the U.S. team this year, if only in spirit.
And get this: The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius. This is amazing, because — if my memory of high school Latin serves me — it translates to “A poorly thrown giant zucchini can give a pig a concussion.” I have no idea how that relates to the real Olympic games, but it sure hits home for me.
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