I wanted to write a blog explaining why I spent my summer here at ZAP Fitness. It’s a good question, honestly. My home is Eugene, OR, also known as Track Town, USA. I moved here four years ago to join the Oregon Track Club Elite, a team similar to ZAP, and in those years I have wanted for nothing. My coach, team, facilities, fans and resources are world class and I feel deeply lucky to be living the life I do. However, my time here has not been easy. If you, as a fan of the sport, know anything about me it is this: I am not an Olympian.
A year ago I was a favorite to make the Olympic team, and I almost did, but I didn’t. Some other girl did instead. She lunged past me in the last step of the race, beating me to the line by .04 seconds. In a packed and silent stadium of 20,000 people we both stood reeling for a moment. Then, she went on to celebrate in open-mouthed disbelief, grabbing her American flag and running her victory lap. I sat down on the track.
I’d like to say that I picked myself up by my bootstraps and used the disappointment as catharsis for a big return. But, the truth is that it’s been a hard year. It was hard in ways that I didn’t know how to fix. I tried to wait it out. I got back to training, did all the work, ran all the miles, and generally lived the single-minded existence that got me this far but as a sad and not-quite-all-there-version of myself. I did not race well. I did not expect to. And, after a year of uninspiring existence, I knew that I had to either find my fire again or hang up my spikes.
That’s why I asked Pete if I could spend my summer at ZAP. I discovered running here in North Carolina as a gawky teenager on my high school cross country team, and I loved it immediately. I loved it without knowing or caring why. On single track trails through dense woods, sprinting around blind curves, skipping from rock to rock, I surprised myself with how fast and how far I could go. I felt strong on these trails. I felt big.
I came to ZAP to be reminded of that, to sit and soak in it. I knew that if there was anywhere on earth that could spark me back to life it was here, secluded in the woods without distraction, living a tedious and deeply inspiring existence along with other athletes whose hearts beat for the dream. I came to see if I still loved running. And, I do. I love it. Running is now my livelihood and it carries with it the baggage of 15 years of heavy wins and losses, but running through warm rain still fills me to overflowing.
I’m not sure how to gauge the success of the summer. My goals are still beyond me: to win a National Championship and compete with the world’s best. Those races aren’t ’til June and I have a lot of work to do between now and then. Even at my best, I’ll never be guaranteed success. But, I’m ready to fight for it.
I am deeply, deeply appreciative to Pete and Zika Rea and all the ZAP athletes. They gave me a home and a foster family and were kinder than was reasonable, and I still can’t figure out why. I’ll never forget it.
- Julia Lucas