Losing Speed

I was always faster than Sarah, and I always knew it.

Last season when I was injured, I would go to practice but I wouldn’t play. I’d watch and I’d count down groups to run their sprints at the end of practice.

And I remember looking at Sarah while she was running the sprints and thinking, “is this it?”

It wasn’t that she was slow, it was just that she didn’t really try. I’d watch her run as if she was moving in slow motion. You can tell when someone isn’t trying their best, and in her movements I could see that Sarah lacked desperation. She wasn’t ripping through the air, clawing it with her hands, red faced, brow furrowed. I expected more from her so I’d yell at her during the sprints. Trying to say something to get her juices flowing, to make her put in some effort.

I wasn’t running next to her but it was obvious to me that if I was, I would beat her.

I showed up to practice this winter for a lot of reasons. I’m not eligible to play college ultimate anymore, but there really wasn’t a reason not to go to the practices. I was well liked and respected there. I would have an opportunity to workout. And I could impress the freshmen and teach them in the process.

I showed up and the first thing that we did was 4 lines. And my first cut was the wrong cut. I’ve been running the 4 line drill for 5 years, and I couldn’t remember the first cut.

Then I figured out the cut, and I cut so hard that I jumped out of my shoe. So much for the poised, experienced player coming to teach the kids a thing or two.

But the worst was that at the end of practice, Sarah and I ran sprints next to each other and I was slower than her. A good three steps behind her. I’m not used to being beaten in a full out sprint. Running as fast as I can and still not even being close. I remembered all of those times when I believed that I could beat Sarah, and when I actually could, and how I had lost that. Whether she was trying her hardest or not, she was still faster than me.

There are a lot of things that I can say about it. I got a late start on the sprint. I hadn’t brought my inhaler and my asthma was acting up. I’m not completely healed from my foot injury. But those are excuses. The fact is that Sarah was faster than me.

But sometimes you need this. Sometimes you need to make a fool out of yourself to remember that you still have things to learn. Sometimes you need to confront the fact that you’ve been lazy, or absentminded, or telling yourself that you’re working hard when you’re really not.

It can be discouraging to realize this, but it can also be inspring. It can be a starting point. And it will feel even better when I’m fast enough to beat Sarah again.