Here's a conversation you don't want to have with your 12-year old, at midnight, the night before a national championship.
Setting: Hyatt Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the night before the 2017 USATF Masters National Championships.
Child: (Rushing to the foot of my bed at the hotel). "Mom! I think I'm going to throw up!"
Me: "That's okay honey, if you feel sick, you can throw up."
Child: "Okay." Whoosh. Yep, he threw up right there at the end of our bed. (We're talking chunks on the carpet.)
So, there I was, 10 hours before I was scheduled to compete, mopping up my poor baby kid and his throw up. After tucking him back in, I crept in the dark to clean up the floor of the hotel room and thought about how to handle this nocturnal development.
My father used to say, "If nothing went wrong, you'd never have any stories to tell." Isn't that true? What if I turned up with the family all happy and well, saw their shiny faces in the stands, jumped a PB, easily won the event and went home?
But, that's not how this championship played out. So, guess what? I have a story to tell! I decided (while cleaning up vomit) that I would tell myself, I am a person who operates best under duress. And this situation was going to work for me. Or else.
I got a little sleep that night and woke up completely focused. I stretched, worked out some kinks, massaged oils into my creaky muscles, packed and headed to the track. The "throw-upper" ended up staying in the hotel with my husband, so I knew that was covered. My 14-year old came to the venue and was assigned "coach-duty," i.e., giving me some visual feedback from the stands and taking some video. And, I told myself to get out there and do my job.
At the end of the two-hour competition, I had won gold. My win was based on jumps, which is about as close to "leaning into the tape," as you can get in high jump. The second place competitor and I both jumped the same height, but miraculously, (because I was also sporting a hamstring and foot injury!) it took me fewer jumps to get there. Phew. Let me take a moment to say, that at these competitions, ALL the athletes are winners. Getting out on a track at our age, is miraculous. Really. The hours of training, focus and preparation before you even set foot in the stadium require great commitment. And, the fitness levels of some of these athletes, is remarkable.
My gold medal jump wasn't a PB and it wasn't easily won. It was tough with all I had going on. And I was pretty unsure as to how that entire morning would play out. But I did know this...I would have a story to tell!
Happy to win my fifth national championship and be the 2017 USATF W55 High Jump National Champion.
Julia Curran-Villarreal is a three-time USA W55 national masters high jump champion. After a 35-year break from her favorite high school sport of track & field, Julia returned to competition in 2013 at the age of 53. Follow her journey on @juliajumping on Instagram and @juliacurran on Twitter.