Hitting My Stride

Day 8 of the Olympics, and we’re nearly though what I think of as the “swimming/gymnastics” half of the games, getting into the “athletics/whatever else TV decides to cover [generally not the stuff I want]” half of it. We’ve seen Ledeckey, Phelps, and Oleksiak smash their competition with confidence, and watched a ridiculously powerful American gymnastics team and a star Canadian trampolinist master their disciplines.

As I’ve watched so many hours of sports over this week, I’ve enjoyed learning the little details of technique and strategy about these disciplines that I’ve never tried. I’m finding myself enjoying watching soccer and basketball, much to my shock. I’ve seen kayakers paddling upstream through gates on an artificial whitewater course, which I couldn’t even imagine before I saw it. I’m having throwbacks to childhood visits to my grandparents’ house, watching golf and tennis. And I find different kinds of qualifying brackets fascinating, though I’ve somehow resisted the temptation to make my own spreadsheets.

One area that’s surprised me is the various racing sports. There’s swimming and running, of course, but I’ve also gotten up early several mornings and caught most of the rowing. I’ve only ever been into artistic and combative sports myself, so I assumed that with races, you just sort of go as fast as you can in as straight a line as is required. I mean, how complicated can it be to run/swim/paddle as fast as you can?

But I have learned that this is pure ignorance. There is a ton of strategy and pattern, which varies broadly based on the distance and the technique and the size of team and all the rest of it. To say nothing of the emotional piece, which deserves a reflection of its own.

The ones that seem to keep winning are the closers. There are a few athletes that start in front and finish in front, like Ledeckey, who is just wildly stronger than everyone else in the pool. But Phelps, Oleksiak, and that excellent Canadian women’s double sculls rowing team, are all closers. They make a race awfully exciting, coming back from behind, finding that power to go faster when everyone else is petering out.

A fast start is important; the rowing commentators must have said at the start of every race, “you can’t win a race at the start, but you can lose it.” But what you have left, in body, mind, and heart, at the end of the race, appears to separate the greats from the greatest.

Quite unintentionally, I seem to have followed this pattern with my Ravellenic marathon piece. My start was fast, furious, and complicated, and despite some row gauge problems, I think I’ve managed to create a yoke that’s more or less shaped like my shoulders. Having spent the first weekend sprinting out of the gate, I settled into a nice stride for the workweek.

Tuesday through Thursday were all about sleeves. I wanted to get through them by the end of Friday, leaving the second week to body and collar, and I was concerned it wouldn’t happen, what with actually having a job and children. But, every now and again, I have a day with a fair bit of reading, and the odd meeting with the sort of person I can knit with. This happened on my long work day, Thursday, and I was able to crank right through.

Now, for the body, I’ll really hit cruise control. I’ve worked out my stripe pattern based on how much dark brown I have left, and I’ve rejiggered the body increases based on my ridiculously short row gauge.

Four inches down from the armholes now, with over 200 stitches on the needle. I’ll get to nearly 250 by the end of the body increases, and just have to keep the pace for another 16 inches or so, with the only hiccups being some short row shaping.

Then comes the final sprint: pockets. Shaped collar. Weaving in ends. Blocking. Those bits when you feel like you should be done, but there’s not only more to do, there’s fiddly bits to do.

Watching me knit in boucle the color of mulch isn’t nearly as exciting as watching honed, powerful, beautiful athletes strive to the best in the world on a global stage, and reach goals they’ve been devoted to for a large chunk of their lives. So go watch them. But I’m feeling inspired, so I’ll share my inspiration. How about you?

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