Endurance Kids

Y'know that #relatable moment when your intern at the U.S. Olympic Committee is sitting in the cubicle across from you and watching the TV show you were on when you were 15?

No? Hm, weird.

Well, for those of you that are new around these parts, I was on a TV show when I was 15. It was called Endurance. You can read about it here and here and there's definitely an Endurance wiki somewhere on the internet, but I do not Google myself so you're on your own! *finger guns*

This summer was the 11th anniversary of the show's filming -- ELEVEN! YEARS! -- and to celebrate, a few of us had a little reunion. And it all kind of got me thinking.

I tried out for Endurance because I was the World's Biggest Fan of the show and thought it would be the coolest thing in the world. There wasn't really much thought to it beyond that. I imagined doing all these challenges, getting a partner and a team color, and meeting some (hopefully) awesome people that would (hopefully) turn into FRIENDS 4EVER and we'd (hopefully) have awesome reunions and it would all just be grand!!!

I didn't think about running into the dude that sent me to elimination on our shared college campus four years later. I didn't think about the friends I'd meet while studying abroad who'd watch my episodes of the show in a hostel in Copenhagen. I didn't think about the coworkers I'd eventually tell about my reality TV past, or the fact that I will be able to own Two Truths and a Lie for the rest of my life. I didn't think about all the "soooo, there's this thing I did..." conversations I'd be having with new people in my life for, uh, the rest of my life.

The reality of reality TV (heh) was totally lost on me. But here I am, 11 years down the road, living life as a grown-up reality TV kid.

^ A grown-up reality TV kid.

Now, let me be clear and say that reality TV is not my life by any stretch of the imagination. Until I started watching American Grit (which had one too many weird similarities!), Endurance very rarely crossed my mind. I give it a passing thought each year on significant dates, but otherwise packaged up my experiences into some insider knowledge on reality TV, hella real trust issues and the knowledge that my dreams are never out of reach if I make a good enough five-minute audition tape (metaphorically, of course).

But at 26 years old I suddenly found myself hanging out with two of my cast mates that I hadn't seen in years, and I realized... we're all making s#!t happen for ourselves. Lilly lives in LA and is a story producer for reality TV shows; she has literally worked with some of the people that were our producers on Endurance. Aric teaches guitar for a living and left our reunion to go to Vancouver to interview some music industry bigwigs for an article he was writing. And I'm working at the USOC, getting to go to Games and say I used to live at the Olympic Training Center.

Very different paths, sure, but we all had our passions and just kind of... did them!

Are we like this because of Endurance? Or were we always like this and Endurance was just a byproduct? Who knows. But either way, maybe there's something to this "reality TV kid" thing.

It's a pretty cool thing to be.

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Snippets From Rio


Y'know, I didn't mean to go so long between posts this time. I really didn't. But I actually have a good excuse this time: it involves a kidney transplant and no days off of work for about a month and a half. But that, kids, is a story for another time.

We're gathered here today for the last of my Rio Paralympic recaps. *crowd cheers* It was almost exactly a year ago that we flew to Rio, so this is rather aptly timed.

I've mentioned that I kept a journal while I was there and wrote in it every night -- which is the basis for these blog posts, in fact -- and I tried really hard to be... good at it. I've kept journals on and off in the past, and in reading through them years later I've been disappointed in how little I talk about important moments and feelings. I had a persistent bad habit of writing in the vein of "we did such-and-such, and it was awesome," or something equally as boring and lacking insight. In Rio, I wanted to make sure I didn't just give a play-by-play of my days, but also took the time to record my thoughts and feelings and experiences. So I really made it a priority to be present in the moment when I realized something special was happening, and would occasionally take notes in my phone to remember things to write down later on. Some things, I'm sure, fell through the cracks, but overall I did a pretty good job at writing down the important stuff!

So, to wrap things up, here are some of my favorite miscellaneous moments moments from my Rio experience.

+ On the way down to Brazil, the PR group I was traveling with had a layover in Houston, as did most of the other athletes and staff. And everyone was traveling in Team USA gear, naturally. Not long after we arrived, we were standing in the terminal when a woman in Team USA gear and a wheelchair rolled over to us and said, "Woooooo! What sport?!" Our answer to that was, y'know, not a sport, but it was a really fun moment and my first real Games experience as the member of a delegation (and not a fan eagerly looking for people wearing delegation garb). Stuff like that continued to happen during the Games themselves; people in Olympic Park would say "hello USA!," and one morning a security officer sang Born in the USA to me as I was being scanned into the media entrance. :)

+ On our first day in Rio, our group ended up spending the afternoon walking along the beach across from our hotel (#blessed) and stopped at a little beachside stand to sit and get some food. Our table was right by a speaker that played Brazilian music 99% of the time, but played a few songs in English completely out of nowhere. The first was Here Comes the Sun, and the second was Revolution. Both are by the Beatles, and both were played in the London 2012 ceremonies. Here Comes the Sun was one of the groups I saw rehearse multiple times when I was a volunteer, and the song is on my London 2012 playlist. To be sitting in Rio four years later and hear it playing out of the blue... I got a little choked up. What a full-circle moment.

+ A day or two before competition started, I was on a morning media shuttle from the hotel to the press center. On the way there, we passed some para-cyclists riding on the path next to the road; there were one or two hand cyclists, and a tandem bike with a visually-impaired athlete and his guide. I don't know why it stuck with me the way it has. Maybe it was because those were the first athletes I saw in action in Rio. But whatever it was, that was the moment that it hit me that this was all actually real.

+ I hate to even bring this up, but... Tim Tebow signed with the Mets the day after the Opening Ceremony. That morning I was completely exhausted after the late night, and when I pulled out my phone to check Twitter on the shuttle, my brain literally couldn't comprehend what I was reading. I thought it was a joke and needed to see it confirmed by about two dozen sources before I could accept it as truth. (Still kind of can't accept it as truth, to be honest.)

+ On one of the first few days of competition, I went to judo to see a friend of mine compete (and he ended up winning bronze!!!). In judo, they have multiple weight classes finish up in the same session, so there were a whole bunch of medal finals while I was there. In the first match I saw, a Colombian girl won bronze... and I almost cried. It was so unexpected! But she was (obviously) so excited and celebrating and crying and all that, and it was the first time I'd ever seen anyone win a medal in person. I was at judo for three-plus hours that day, and watching athletes celebrating their medals didn't get old.

+ One afternoon, several of us that were working at the main press center (MPC) had lunch at some food trucks that were parked near the tennis venue in Olympic Park. It was crowded and seating was limited, so we ended up sharing a table with a Brazilian couple and a man from the Netherlands. They all spoke great English and we had some great conversation. It was such a quintessential Games moment, and felt like what I imagine the dining hall in the Olympic village feels like.

+ I've written at length on my paracanoe experience, but one of my favorite ~in the moment~ moments came that morning, in a very early Uber on the way there. This driver was so incredibly nice to the two Americans who couldn't speak his language! He gave us little candies and we taught each other the word for them -- "bala" in Portuguese -- and there was this moment that I was chewing a banana-flavored candy given to me by the Brazilian guy driving the car I was in as a favela loomed straight ahead of us and Forever Young played on the radio... I don't know, man. It was a moment.

+ On the last full day of competition, several of us went to see the wheelchair rugby semifinal in the afternoon. My coworkers stayed at the venue after it was over, as they were planning to go to wheelchair basketball after that, but I had different plans for the evening and walked back to the MPC through Olympic Park by myself. I hadn't yet been in the park alone, and it was so nice to wander slowly, stop to take pictures at my leisure, and just sort of take it all in one last time. I'm always so much more reflective when I'm alone and have time to really be present and introspective, and I'm so glad I had that walk to myself.

+ It's really odd to include this moment on a list of "favorites," because it's not even remotely happy, but it was extremely significant and I have to make note of it. On the media shuttle to the MPC on the final day, I saw on social media that a girl I worked with at the gym in college had died of breast cancer. She was young and beautiful and healthy -- she was a trainer, for crying out loud! -- and even though we were never close, her death hit me hard in that moment. There I was, living my professional (and personal) dream, knowing I would be going to what's basically a giant party (the closing ceremony) that night, while someone else's life had just ended. It was a pretty brutal reminder that I'm really lucky, and to really appreciate everything that I was experiencing.

+ Aaaaand finally, the closing ceremony! It was really good, though (as expected) nowhere near as good as the opening ceremony. BUT! I think my weepiest moment came during this one, during the flag handover ceremony. During each closing ceremony, the mayor of the current host city passes the Olympic/Paralympic flag to the mayor of the next host city. It's the only thing that truly links one Games to another. So as I was watching the mayor of Tokyo receive the flag, I got to thinking. Four years earlier, I watched the London organizers hand the flag over to Rio from my parents' living room, and all I could do was hope that somehow I'd be there in 2016, that I'd be involved in some way. And there I was! I'd done it! In four years I'd gone from a volunteer on the outside looking in to a credentialed member of the U.S. delegation. It was the craziest full-circle moment of my life. It hit me like a truck, and I totally cried. Still makes me a little misty, if we're being honest.

And that's that! Obrigada for the memories, Rio. I'll cherish 'em forever.

But now... less than six months until PyeongChang! :)

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