It was my Junior year of high school when I wrestled at the 106 pound weight class for Cambridge-Isanti High School. I was small in high school, but not that small. I came into the season weighing 126 pounds. To have a good shot at the State Tournament, I knew I would have to wrestle at 106.
Each pound that I lost, was lost with hours of hard work and dedication. My teammates and I would come in at 5:30 a.m. before school started to run and lift. After school we would have wrestling practice. Most of my winter days had little to no sun. I would wake up before the sun came up to do a workout and go back home after the sun had set after a long tiresome practice.
My weight never stayed at 106, once I made it there. It was only 106 when I weighed in. By the start of the next week I would weigh at least 116 pounds. Each week was the same. Go in before the sun comes up and come out after the sun goes down. Losing ten pounds may not seem like much, but for a person as small as me it was quite a task. The early mornings work outs and three hour practices drained me both mentally and physically.
I wasn’t the best at cutting weight because I liked food too much. I’ll just make sure my next workout is harder and longer. I never missed weight once in my wrestling career, but it was close every time. In wrestling, if you are even a tenth of a pound over your weight class you aren’t allowed to wrestle at that weight class. I never weighed in more than two or three tenths under my weight class.
Wrestling is hands down the toughest sport I have been a part of. It has taught me some of life’s biggest lessons, like discipline.
The tale of the bike
When I was 12 years old, my parents bought me a bike for my birthday. After having told them on no uncertain terms that I did not want a bike (I wanted a camera), I sobbed in my room the day they gave it to me.
For years, it sat unused in our garage. My parents later admitted that the purchase was probably a bad idea. Their youngest daughter could score in the 99th percentile in reading comprehension but she could not seem to enjoy even a leisurely bike ride. Or any very physical activity, for that matter.
My final year of high school, I found myself signed up for an outdoor education course. I love the outdoors, don’t misunderstand me. But ask me to run, bike or jog and I bail. As it turned out, our first unit in the outdoor education course was mountain biking. For the first time in five years, we pulled the blue bike out of the garage and carted it to Theodore Wirth Park.
My classmates and I mounted our bikes and began to ride – not down smooth asphalt, but up and down the dirt trails.
As I heaved my 120-pound frame up inclines, across rocks and through branches, I realized something about myself. I would never, ever enjoy biking.
Now, 20 years old and wiser, I still hold to that.
When my running shoes defeated me
When I signed up for track and field my freshman year of high school, I did it for the sole reason of satisfying a mutual hatred between my body and my running shoes. It felt good to slam my feet against the pavement, and for them to scream back at my body in return.
In some ways, hating something is the same as loving it: to give it up would throw your heart’s pH off-kilter. So you just keep on doing the very thing you hate because, well, you just have to.
That was me with running. I’d be lying if I said I did it to stay in shape. If that was true, I wouldn’t still eat ice cream twice a day and Lucky Charms every morning.
Anyways, I made the varsity track team my freshman year of high school. I ran the 400-meter dash, which was deemed the hardest race by most runners. It’s a quarter-mile dead sprint.
I hated practices. My coach would make me do three 400-meter dashes in a row, with only thirty seconds in between. He’d take me and the other runners to the nearest sledding hill and make us sprint up the slope. He’d send us to the YMCA and time us while we sprinted underwater.
On meet days, I couldn’t eat lunch. I’d throw up my food if I did. I wasn’t nervous about failing. I was just dreading the actual process of the race, the gunshot, the way my legs felt like jello when I crossed the finish line, the throbbing of my achilles tendons when I stepped off the bus after the races were over.
Then it got really bad. There were nights when I couldn’t walk up my driveway to the front door. The doctor said I had tendonitis in my achilles. He said I needed to give it up.
But I kept running. I kept feeding my body’s hatred for my running shoes, and my shoes would hate my body back. It was like I had this internal rebellion that nobody could see, and it felt good. In my mind, it balanced out my “I’ve-never-said-a-swear-word” life. My freshman year I already had a handful of Division-II college offers.
Getting noticed was the worst thing that could have happened to me.
When I heard my name called over the loudspeaker at what was supposed to be my last meet of the season, I cried. My teammates celebrated with me, thinking tears of joy were falling because I qualified for state. The truth was, I just didn’t want to run another race. It took too much out of me.
A few weeks later, my coach cried in an equipment closet when I told him I was quitting.
That was the hardest thing I’ve ever endured physically. Not the shots up my achilles, not the fire in my lungs. It was when my running shoes’ hatred for my body beat to death my body’s hatred for my running shoes.
I still try to get revenge a few times a week, but every time I step off the treadmill and struggle to walk without a limp, I know I’ll never win.