First Decathlon in Seven Years

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No matter how this first decathlon turned out, I knew it would tell me a lot. I knew it would reveal a lot — about how far I’d come in the last five months since returning to full-time training and how far I still had to go.

In truth, I was a little nervous about what my first decathlon in seven years might reveal  — to both me and to those in the proverbial grandstands. For weeks leading up to this meet I worried mildly, yet steadily, that several of my events — like the 100m, 400m, and 110m High Hurdles, in particular — weren’t as sharp as they needed to be on the eve of a major competition. Whenever someone would ask me how I was feeling about the upcoming meet, I would tell them that I generally felt prepared and was excited to compete again — and yet, at the same time, wished I had a few more weeks of training to tie up some loose ends.

But no matter how many extensions I could have been granted, I probably would have still felt that same vain desire for more time. It’s difficult to appreciate the extent of one’s preparedness until it’s finally laid bare by the rigors of the decathlon. To be successful in this two-day “struggle of ten,” every physical and mental resource has to be leveraged and exhausted. In doing so, strengths shine through while weaknesses get exposed. By the end of the final event, every decathlete’s score sheet offers a thorough appraisal of his training up to that point.

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Whatever my scoresheet told me about how well I’d prepared, I knew it would at least be orienting. From January through May, I worked tirelessly to prepare for this first competition; yet, throughout the process, I lacked a clear sense of how well I was progressing. It often felt like I was trudging through a dark forest, not quite certain where I was, but confident enough to believe that I would eventually get to where I needed to be.

Having this first decathlon under my belt has been like coming across a clearing in these dense woods and seeing my final destination on the horizon, two valleys in the distance. There’s still plenty of challenging territory to cover, but this heightened sense of where I am and what it will take to get to where I’m going has been incredible. It’s been invigorating. And I have a renewed sense of confidence that I will in fact reach my final destination before the sun finally sets on this project.

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Overall, I was thrilled with how I performed in Dallas. I was especially pleased with how consistent and composed I was throughout the two-day event. If there’s been one benefit to stepping away from competition for the past seven years, it’s been a settling of the nerves.

My eyes were certainly opened to some areas of weakness, though. Speed and speed endurance, in particular, will need extra attention over the next month or so as I prepare for my next decathlon. But I fully expect to continue to improve across all event areas and will be ready for an even better showing at the end of July.

Stay tuned for more updates on my next decathlon — the 2019 US Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, IA on July 25th and 26th.

I look forward to continuing to share this experience with you all, and I greatly appreciate your support!

Chris Helwick