I love his story. In short, Niemi was a rookie goalie from Finland who wasn't able to secure a spot in the Finnish Elite League. He drove the Zamboni before and after practice to help make ends meet. The Blackhawks eventually picked him up as an undrafted free agent. He had to battle against many, many obstacles to prove himself. Then, a few months later, he became their starting goaltender and he helped lead the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
|Antti Niemi lifting the Stanley Cup.|
What a difference a year made for Antti Niemi.
At the time, there was ample news commentary on the enormous pressure Niemi was facing as a rookie goaltender going into the Stanley Cup Finals. Niemi admitted he was very nervous. And when asked about his plan to combat the nervousness, Niemi joked, "I think I'm going to be able to sleep. I've got some pills that will help."
I understand. Antti Niemi and I think exactly the same way. It's like we are interchangeable people! Oh wait...
|Me in Antti Niemi's body |
(at the 2010 Blackhawks Fan Convention)
Another great story from the Hawks championship run was when Duncan Keith got seven (SEVEN) teeth knocked out during a playoff game. What did he do? He got some shots to numb his mouth, and then was right back out there on the ice. Unbelievable. That is about as tough as it gets.
When I'm out there at, say, mile 22 and feeling like death, I'll try to remind myself that at least I still have all of my teeth. (I hope.)
|"Does anyone know the number to a good dentist?"|
I am starting to think about these great and humorous stories as we close in on less than a week before the Chicago Marathon. I think about the mental toughness of the greatest championship athletes out there so I can try to be inspired when it matters the most.
Put another way, I am really nervous. Scared. Petrified. And I'm trying to prepare myself as best as I can to handle anything that might get thrown at me.
I did my final "long" training run yesterday, an 8-miler. After taking the entire prior week off of running, I was dismayed to feel groin pain almost at the outset. However, when I paused at about mile 4.5 to take a GU, I took a minute to stretch - and I noticed that I felt a little better afterwards. I came home and literally spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening stretching. And it seemed to help.
|I spent a good chunk of my Sunday watching TV while holding this pose |
(but I faced forward since I don't have a TV on the ceiling).
My PT has been telling me for weeks to stretch, stretch, stretch, stretch, stretch. And I thought that doing yoga was enough to fit the bill for "lots of stretching." But I now think that I need to really specifically focus on stretching my problematic groin area as much as possible. Time is running out for me to test this theory, but I am optimistic that focused and intense stretching will only help.
In the meantime - here are my fears for this Sunday:
- Getting injured on the course and not being able to finish.
- Having to deal with excruciating pain which will necessitate the question of whether or not to try to finish.
- Not being able to finish in the course time limits.
- Hitting the wall.
- The unknown.
I've heard many stories about the last 6.2 miles being a death march. Many have said it goes beyond anyone's comprehension until you've actually done it. (Yay!!!)
I've certainly gone through my share of torturous training runs. So it scares me to think that it could possibly get much worse. However, I have heard some say that the training runs are even tougher than the actual marathon. So I am hoping and praying that my experience is more along those lines!
Six days and counting!