In 2012, I retired from a decade-long career as a decathlete.

Six years later, I’m back at it — but with a brand new perspective.

 

In June of 2012, I laid my track and field career to rest after finishing fifth at the US Olympic Trials.

Despite turning in my best performance of the year, I finished two spots shy of making the team. And like that, my career was over.

 

Decathletes gathering for a photo after the 2012 US Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR

How did I feel as I walked off the track that day for what I thought would be the very last time? — Tired.

Not so much from the 10 events I just did, but from the years I spent chasing the elusive Olympic dream. I was plain burnt out. At the age of 27 I had not only been a decathlete for more than a decade, I had been involved in competitive sports for as long as I could remember.

My life was about to change in some big ways.

All of a sudden, competitive sports were no longer a part of my daily life. The thing that had defined and consumed me my entire life was now gone — and it wasn’t coming back.

This was a new and wide-open space for me.

Free from the pressure and expectations I’d been lugging around for the past several years, physical activity started to feel playful and inviting again — just like it had when I was a child. Athletic movements were no longer a means to validation, nor did they pose a threat to my self-image if I didn’t do them well enough. In fact, my only measures of success were now health and enjoyment. Intrinsic satisfaction was the only prize to be won.

Over time, this new way of experiencing physical activity opened my eyes to just how important my athletic expression was to me. Having stripped away the context of competition, I found that I still loved the challenge and the artistry of athletic movement. This desire had always burned inside of me, but throughout my mid-20’s I lost touch with it. Instead, I went chasing after the allures of status and recognition when I should have stayed grounded to the source of what makes all great achievements possible: the love of the work itself.

This next chapter of my athletic career is one that must be written.

I’m as surprised as anyone to be making yet another run at the Olympic decathlon. However, the years I spent away from track and field helped me realize the purpose and value of being an athlete, and I feel compelled to serve as an example of how to do it better. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned up to this point in my life, and I’ll continue to tell my story as it unfolds — no matter the outcome.

Because this time it’s about the process. And it’s about the journey. Not just the destination.