TAKING IT ALL IN
It’s taken me nearly two weeks to mentally digest the part 1 of two 2016 Olympic Trials. The regatta that my sister continues to remind me is no longer called the Miami OCR but rather Sailing World Cup Miami presented by Sunbrella. This event may have only lasted a week, five-days of racing with the sixth day for the top 10 finishers in each class. But this week that encompasses over 6 nautical miles of Biscayne Bay, hosting close 713 sailors from something like 62 nations, began a year ago for me. It was something I dreamed about, focused on, and have worked toward daily for a long time coming.
Racing is a dream come true. Honestly. This was my third Olympic Trials: 2000, 2004 & 2016 and I’m so proud to have participated in this regatta by taking time off work and training in the ways I could. I’m grateful for all the knowledge I received from new friends in the class. And overwhelmed by the support I received from friends and family to make this happen. As for the racing, it was a week of pushing physical limits, testing patience, finding motivation, and locating perspective to enjoy the ride. Pretty cool to come away as 5th American in the fleet. Could not have done it with out support from my wife, help from my sister and siblings and backing from Adventure Sports & Magic Marine, along with the friends and family sending lots of positive vibes, sharing floor space, and cooking yummy dinners.
I will admit, I was feeling low, very low at points. Physically and mentally exhausted. Lucky for me, this pity-party only lasted a day, while talking to 2012 gold medalist Dorian van Rijsselberghe before he stood on the podium at the awards ceremony. He said “This is a really hard board to sail, man.” Knowing that the guy at the top of the mountain recognizes the challenge is incredibly motivating because you know what “it is hard” and it should be.
For most sailors this event is four years in the making. This is the trials for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games and the qualification regatta for North and South America. What was I thinking jumping in at the 11th hour to race against former and future Olympians and the best in the sport? Foolish, right. Maybe. But where there is risk there is the opportunity for reward.
PREPARATION: YOU’RE JOKING, RIGHT?
My year of preparation was not perfect. Nor was it proper. I recently read that LeBron works on ballhandling from 8:30-10, does a cardio and strength training session from 11-1pm before capping his day off with another 2 hour shooting practice. That is a champion’s training schedule. Lots of focused training with recovery time. (Did I just compare myself to LeBron? Not a chance!)
Days when the race committee boat stood as if atop a glass mirror of Biscayne Bay, with instruments recording wind averages of 3.5 knots. On those special days (of which there were two and a half), I learned no training or cross training prepares you for a windsurfing event like windsurfing does.
Pumping for 10 minutes off the start line to get to the weather mark is the forearm burn of rock-climbing el Cap and the core and lower body blast of dolphin kicking the 500. Heart rate jacked. The one-two punch here is explosive strength with the endurance to last. And repeat. And repeat. You have to be a machine.
Could I’ve done more? Of course. And knowing that leaves an acidic burn in my mouth and some pain in my sciatic. Instead of sailing day in and out, I logged a few hundred miles pounding feet to pavement to prep for two half-marathons which I ran with my lovely wife this past year. Truly, the hours spent on those stretches of road paved deeper connections between the two of us and our marriage, something I tapped into to find depth and strength in during the tougher parts of the trials.
FITNESS WITH A CAPITAL “F”
Gold Medalist, Anna Tunicliffe says fitness is the only thing you can control in a sailboat race. I think she’s right. My body is old. Or rather, feels old. I turned 30 this year. Which is light years away from 20 when it comes to elasticity and recovery time. So, I spent more time preparing for and recovering from exercise then I did exercising each day to stave off soreness.
WALKING IN BIG KID SHOES
It was incredible though to dip my feet into the shoes of the professional sailing world, where the day’s activities and meals revolve around the event itself, along with preparation and recovery peppered with fresh foods and lots of loud, grunty stretch sessions. Pretty sweet way to live.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of the entire regatta experience was getting together with my siblings, outside the constraints of a holiday, as adults. The day in/day out of living with them again was a time machine to the past. Cooking, eating, nerf gun fighting. It was quite special to be at an event where Meredith oversaw ‘mission control’ while Luke and I raced, as Nic supported from the coachboat. So many worlds coming together for team Muller. Freaking amazing.
The next big event, and part 2 of the Olympic Trials is in Palma de Mallorca, Spain is at the end of March. Currently I’m positioned a whopping 20 points behind the top US sailor, Pedro Pascual. Reality bites: Is there any way I can take top spot while being so far behind? I guess there’s only one way to find out….
Merz at the awards ceremony with Gary Jobson