Saturday, January 28, 2012

First Blog/Confessions

This is my first ever blog so forgive me if I am not very good at this.  I  decided to give this a try just to help my friends, family, and fans (if I have any) in touch with what I am doing.  So here goes nothing.

I figure I will take this first entry in order to introduce myself and just say what has been going on these past 4yrs.  My name is Brittany Riley and I am 25 years of age.  I throw the hammer and weight as a post collegiate and hope to one day make the Olympic team.  My personal bests are 72.51m in the hammer and 25.56m in the weight throw.  This is my first year back competing since I decided to leave the sport in 2008 after the Olympic Trials.  A lot of people ask me why I quit the sport after college when I had so much potential, so I will put it out in the air now and never talk about it again.

I won't make excuses for how I performed from the summer of 2007 to the summer of 2008, and why I decided to leave after my underwhelming performance at the trials.  2007 was a breakout year for me, and my best year ever as a thrower.  I buckled down and lost 35lbs which helped a lot with my speed, and my strength was also steadily improving as I got lighter, which in turn made me more explosive.  I have always been strong for a girl since I was young.  I have been a tomboy my whole life and have always been into sports.  I was the girl that bit the feet off of her Barbie dolls, pulled their arms and legs off, and cried when my mom made me put on a dress.  I spent my summers as a kid playing basketball for hours a day with the guys, climbing trees, building tree forts, racing an doing tricks on my bike, skateboarding, rollerblading, baseball, etc.  Any outside activity you can thing of I did, including tennis, roller hockey, and golf.  Then during the school year my parents put me in gymnastics, wrestling, basketball, karate and swimming, on top of learning to play piano, guitar, and alto sax.  Gymnastics was my first sport and I started when i was 4 years old.  In high school, I took weight training and conditioning with the football coach in place of a regular gym class.  Having never lifted weights a day in my life before, I could bench press 195lbs and back squat 225lbs for 3 sets of 10 the first day.  The football coach actually asked me to come out for the team and play linebacker after seeing me lift and do his agility training easily, but I declined.  I would excel in any activity I did, which I think spoiled me.  The point in me telling you all of this to say, I relied a lot on my natural ability and never put any effort into getting technically better.

My Coach tried to drill me on working on my turns but I was more concerned with being stronger and more powerful than the next person.  Technique to me was boring to work on but I should have listened to him.  At the end of 2007, after winning USA's and making the Pan Am and World team things started going down hill.  I got lazy, my grades slipped, I developed a bad attitude and work ethic, which I will get into shortly.  I could give the excuses that it was because I was burnt out from school, travel, personal issues, not taking more than 2 weeks off a year, all coming from Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.  I could tell you that I was depressed, tired, and started questioning whether I was competing for myself or just to make everyone around me happy.  You see...the only reason I started throwing in high school was to get the coach to leave me alone about coming out for the team every week just because I looked strong, and the only way I could afford to go to college was on a scholarship.  All of the above would be true, but none of it is a good enough reason for becoming the person I became that summer of 2007.  People deal with worse everyday and don't self destruct like I did.  I was 21yrs old and made a lot of bad life choices that I regret, mainly in the way that I treated the people around me during that time, not training hard, and quitting.  That year I saw two different psychologists, a psychiatrist who put me on anti-depressants, and even went to anger management. 

Things initially started going downhill at the end of 2006 but it didn't start to show until the end of 2007.  I think it was towards the end of 2006 I had started feeling depressed and overwhelmed.  I had a meeting with my head coach one day because of the change in my attitude and I broke down in her office and admitted that I had considered killing myself.  We talked about how I felt, and how I was struggling with everything and she suggested that I should see someone.  She called the student health services and made me an appointment to see the psychiatrist an hour later and went with me to the appointment and they put me on Welbutrin.  After being on those for a few weeks my mood completely changed and I had started eating better and working out and that is when I started losing weight.  However, anyone that actually knows me, knows that I hate medication and refuse to take any pills, cold medication, any medication, no matter how sick or in pain I am.  So after a few refills I stopped taking them and a few months later I started to go back downhill again.  To this day, people will tell me things that I said or did during that time and I remember absolutely none of it.  I took all of my frustrations out on everyone, I honestly gained 50lbs, and just wasn't at all the person I was when I was on them, and my performance suffered that summer, and the following year because of it.

The week after losing regionals in 2008 with probably my worst throw in years I injured my lower back during cleans and couldn't get out of bed for a week.  I couldn't move the lower half of my body if I wasn't already standing up and I refused to go to the trainer because I didn't want to be forced to sit out before Nationals.  Luckily for me Rickael "Rikki" Roach, my teammate and friend who, along with my coach, received a lot of the brunt of my frustration because she was the one person that was always around, stayed with me everyday at my apartment to help me get out of bed, cook for me and went to the chiropractor with me everyday.  After a week with Dr. Bradley, I could finally get out of bed by myself, although with a lot of pain, and went right back to practice because Nationals was 1 week away.  The first day I could barely throw a 3k 150ft.  I couldn't actually throw until I started wearing a belt to keep my lower back from working as much.  It still was very painful to even sit in a chair, so I always had to either stand up or lay down wherever I went.  The 8hr drive from Carbondale, IL to Des Moines, IA for Nationals was not the greatest trip in the world because of that.

Somehow I managed to throw 68m at Nationals on my last throw to get 2nd.  At this point my back was slowly getting better, but a week later I pulled my left hamstring.  This was 1wk before I was to leave for the Trials.  I blame myself never stretching contributing to both injuries.  I again couldn't practice because my hamstring would tighten any time I tried to sit on my throw and I didn't want to risk tearing it.  I only took a few days off until it got to the point where I could sit enough to complete a throw without it hurting as bad.  Finally, 2 days before I was to compete at the trials I was pain free in my back and hamstring and was throwing over 235' in practice.  When I got to the finals, I got nervous, the first time I have ever been really nervous before I competed.  My body felt good enough to throw 70m that day, but each time they called my name on deck I got nervous and went numb and couldn't feel anything.  As soon as I threw, the nerves would go away and I would be fired up and ready to throw, until my name got called again.  Needless to say, I didn't throw far enough to make the team, although I ended up being the alternate.

At the end of the meet I went back to my room and thought about what I wanted to do and decided that I was done.  I admit I had thought about it a lot over the year whether I would continue to compete or not but after the trials being the bookend to a bad year I made my mind up that I was finished.  I made the final decision based off of my disappointment in myself at trials and probably should have thought about it longer because I'm sure my decision would have been different.  After I moved back home to Chicago 2 weeks later it dawned on me that I made the wrong decision.  I didn't want to tell my coach I made a mistake because I felt like I had burned those bridges by failing at the trials and being the way I was that year towards him and everyone else.  I relaxed for about a month and then got a job in tech support.

I was still going back and forth as to whether or not I was going to come back to the sport until June of 2011 I finally decided that it was now or never.  Over the years that I wasn't competing I had finally talked to my coach and he let me know that if I wanted to be coached by him then he is my coach for life and I can always come back.  Before that I had flirted with getting back into it, becoming a volunteer assistant coach at Chicago State University in 2009 but never fully got back into it.  So in June of 2011 I finally started training regularly and lifting again but all I had was a 16lb hammer and a 4k hammer.  I bought myself a 3K and a 10lb to practice with over the next few months and started traveling to Carbondale, IL every week to train with my coach at the beginning of October 2011.  So far I have thrown 25.12m and hopefully will break my record of 25.56m this year.

I currently train in Carbondale, IL, usually Tuesday thru Thursday and work Friday thru Monday in Chicago.  It is a 4.5hr ride by train from Carbondale back home that I take every week (Thank goodness for Amtrak).  I currently do technical support for BP, formerly British Petroleum, as a 'Tier 2 Technical Support Specialist'.  BP is an official sponsor of the 2012 Olympics in London and have been very supportive of my training and starting next week I will be training in Carbondale Thursday thru Monday and will work at the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Since I don't have any sponsorship I am funding everything myself, so this allows me to keep my salary and work full time by working remotely from Carbondale on Sundays and Mondays while having Fridays and Saturdays off to compete.  They have allowed me to alter my schedule and hours to fit my training schedule which is very helpful with being able to get in the training that I need.

I think that is all for today and will probably never, ever, ever, ever type something this long again.  If anybody actually reads this, I hope you enjoyed.