The zone is a beautiful place. It’s a place where in running, you tick off the miles like you could go all day. In biking, you’re turning over your legs and going fast but it feels easy. It’s where there aren’t any distractions from the outside world. It’s a place where it’s only you, and you are completely comfortable with yourself and what you’re doing. Getting into the zone is not always easy, but when you’re there, relish it. I’ve had the opportunity to be in the zone a few times, but not enough! I’m going to take a walk down memory lane - this is my blog after all, so might as well be a little self indulgent! - the first time I was ever truly in the zone, back when I was 13 years old.
I’ve been running for most of my life, but the other sport that was my passion growing up was basketball. When I was 13, I participated in the Elks National Free Throw Contest. This contest starts at the city level and winners keep moving on to the next round. The rounds were set up like this: City, Districts, Sub-Regionals, State, Regionals, Nationals. Each contestant would go to the free throw line, and shoot 5 warmup shots, followed by 10 in a row that would count toward your total score. The next contestant would go and so on until everyone had shot their first 10 shots. After this first round, each contestant would go back to the line and shoot their remaining 15 free throws in a row, for a total score out of 25 shots. I was lucky enough to advance all the way to Nationals, but the round that I found myself in the zone was at State.
The state championship was held at the University of Central Florida – unbeknownst to me at the time, my future college. There were only 3 contestants in each age bracket; one each representing the north, central and south regions of Florida. I was from the central region, and was the second contestant to shoot. The first girl, from the north, made 8 out of 10 free throws in the first round. I also made 8 out of 10, but the south girl didn’t do so well and was pretty much out of it after that. The north girl then went up to shoot her final 15, and made 12 of them. She was sitting pretty with a total score of 20/25. I was up next and proceeded to miss my first 2 shots! However, I wasn’t the least bit ruffled. My mind was steady and I simply thought: “I’ll make the next one.” And I did. “I’ll make the next one.” And so it went. I quickly lost count and just kept thinking, “Okay, now I’ll make this one.” I would shoot, make it, and then turn to the guy who would hand me another ball. Until I turned to him one time and he simply said, “You’re done," with a smile. It was then that I realized I had just made the final 13 in a row to win. Not once did I doubt myself. The entire time I was confident that, no worries, just make the next one. It was an incredible place to be.
Worries, fears, doubts – all of these hinder us from finding the zone. Most of the time, it is ourselves that sabotage our races with these negative thoughts. We keep ourselves out of it. Don’t worry about your competition; you can only control yourself. Don’t worry about the weather; it’s the same for everyone, and you certainly can't change it. Don’t worry about the missed run as you toe the line; worrying about it now is not going to make one iota of a difference. Don’t worry about what people think of you; people don’t think about you as much as you think they do :)
Here’s to finding the zone! Let’s all play in it!