Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No Regrets

I debated writing a blog about the trials, when the pain is still so fresh.  This may mean for a bit of an emotional one, but after all of the texts and messages I got from everyone, I feel I owe it to you all.  I would like to make it EXTREMELY clear to everyone how much their comments, both hopeful then sympathizing have meant to me.

To be completely honest, I felt heartbroken.  Four years of blood, sweat, sacrifices, and (lots of) tears.  It would be easy to get completely lost in the disappointment.  But you all have been my constant reminders that pole vault is what I do. . . NOT who I am.  And I will never forget that the sacrifices were not all mine.  I was able to go after my goals because of the help of so many people.  Some gave unreal amounts of money, others more than I could have hoped for.  It is hard to not feel like I let people down, but again your messages show me otherwise.  Given a couple of days, I will set out for my next goals in life.  If there is one thing my parents and family has taught me, is that the only person that can keep you down is yourself.  I refuse to give up on my dreams.  Sure those dreams may change and grow, but I know I am being the best I can be when I am working toward something meaningful.

It didn't take me long to realize that I am not done reaching for my pole vault goals.  I understand that it would be easiest to quit now, but I have never been one for taking the easy road.  I have so much more to give, and with only 9 weeks to come back from a second surgery I was able to make vast improvements.  I truly believed I could make the comeback, and every single day I worked like I was already on the Olympic Team.  I did not have one moment in all of that time where I didn't give it 100% in every workout.  I HAVE ZERO REGRETS.  God just has a little different plans for me than I had for myself.

I am ok, I am a strong woman full of faith, who has found I have more support than I ever could have dreamed of.  Pole vault has given me a platform on which I have been able to help and inspire people, and what more could you ask for in life.  When I say that I have so much more to give in the pole vault, I don't mean just jumping.  I want to be able to share my experiences with others.  To emphasize to our youth that hard work takes you as far as you want to go.  If I gave up now, I wouldn't be following my own advice.  I want to wear the Red, White, & Blue as I stand on the runway representing the United States.  And there is at least one possibility within every year to do so.  My next goal will be to make the US World Championship Team in Moskva, Russia August 2013.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A little love for the Ta Ta's

We have been so lucky to train at the Olympic Training Center, and not just because of the unmatchable facilities and coaches. . . Just recently I was able to be apart of a cause I feel very strongly about.  Raising money for breast cancer research.  This opportunity arouse after receiving an email from my Track & Field Athletes Association President informing us that there was a husband and wife collecting signed sports bras from professional athletes in order to sell them on ebay.  They had just finished a successful selling of the US Women's Soccer Team's bras.  Having a grandmother as a breast cancer survivor, I was moved to get involved.

With the help of our Media Relations Coordinator, Emily Cox, we were able to get a great turn out of female athletes to bring sports bras in, and decorate them in order to add a little personalization.  We had a lot of fun doing this, and our chief chef even provided us with a fresh baked tray of cookies!

It seems very rare you find someone who has not been personally touch by the wicked fingers of cancer, and more specifically breast cancer.  And so it took little convincing to get this large group of girls to give up time on their Monday night to help out a great cause.  I am thankful to all of them, and extremely thankful to the wife and husband behind it all, Dave and Carey Bayer.

Check out the MZ & Emmers Sports Bra Auction for Breast Cancer on Facebook and buy a sports bra if you can!!! http://www.facebook.com/MZEmmers

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"The Last Best Place"

I have wrestled for 2 weeks now with how to approach writing a blog, in order to both show my gratitude for the Live Locally Race, along with shed some light into how lucky I am to come from such an amazing small town.  Now some people, like my boyfriend, are blessed with the amazing ability to beautifully if not poetically put down on paper the words that are in their head.  Me on the other hand, was not blessed with such ability.  Especially on a topic such as this, where I am trying so hard to express how deeply grateful I am.  I guess the phrase "Words cannot describe" could not be truer here.  

On October 22nd my hometown of Polson, Montana put on a 5k-benefit run where all proceeds were graciously given to help me train for the upcoming Olympics in August.  I am not sure if I will ever be able to describe how truly honored I am to have been born and raised in a town where the people care for each other so much.  I have told many people of how jealous the athletes around me get when they hear about the support I have back home.  When an athlete comes from somewhere such as LA, Atlanta, or even Seattle they are one of MANY other highly competitive athletes.  Heck most every state has a professional football, basketball, or baseball team that takes up most of the attention.  Not in Polson, and not in Montana.  I wonder how many other athletes have been on a run, while visiting home, and had a neighbor run out their door after them with a check in hand wanting to help.  I would dare to say none.  

This is what makes, what I do, so special.  I get to share it with so many caring and supportive people.  All in my corner, and all helping push me every single day to work as hard, or harder than any of my competitors.  That is what I want people to know, that every single email, Facebook message, letter, text message, etc has helped drive me.  I would not be where I am if it were not for the great people of Polson, Montana, and the unbelievably giving companies such as Country Pasta.  So for anyone who is reading this, who has given and or shown support I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  And to everyone else. . . you now have a small glimpse at the facts, which support my claim, that I come from the “Last Best Place”.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Amazing Article by Brandon Hansen in my Local Paper

Strength in the face of adversity

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Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2011 7:30 am
POLSON — While pole vaulting is an individual sport, Polson’s Melinda Owen has found that there’s a whole team supporting her quest to go to the 2012 Olympics in pole vaulting.
“I feel so fortunate to come from a small town where people care,” Owen said. “It’s such a neat feeling because I have an entire community to share the experience with.”
Owen, who graduated from Polson High School in 2003 and went on to excel at the pole vault at the University of Idaho, has made a lot of progress throughout her international career. Last February, she placed third at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden. Her jump of 4.4 meters was behind the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked vaulters in the world.
Since vaulting into the forefront her senior year at the University of Idaho with the highest jump in the nation in 2008, she now spends most of her time training at the U.S. Olympic Center in San Diego when she’s not traveling to meets.
It would be easy for Owen to forget about Polson, since she doesn’t get back very often, due to her demanding schedule. It would also be easy for the people in the Polson community to lose touch with the vaulting phenom, who had to borrow her first pole from Charlo High School when Polson didn’t have the proper equipment.
However, that hasn’t happened. In fact, it’s been the exact opposite.
Last October at the Live Locally 5K race in Polson, Country Pasta owners Amy and Fred Kellogg donated $10,000 to Owen. On top of that, the charity race raised $4,250. That’s an essential amount of income, as an Olympic-level athlete doesn’t necessarily earn a salary and Owen still has to foot standard living expenses along with travel expenses to meets.
“It’s pretty phenomenal that she is training at this level,” Heather Knutson of County Pasta and Live Locally 5K race organizer said. “She’s truly a remarkable young gal.”
While in the past, the community-minded Live Locally race has donated over $7,000 to Mission Valley Aquatics to fulfill their dream of a swimming pool in Lake County, once they reached the groundbreaking phase, Live Locally found another wonderful cause to support.
“Last year, Melinda’s Mom was in HealthCare Plus and I got to visiting with her and realized Melinda’s dedication and heart at reaching for her goal of the summer games in 2012 and thought what better way to help support this individual than to use Live Locally to promote and assist our own local Olympic hopeful in reaching towards her dream,” said HealthCare Plus employee and race organizer Sarah Bird.
Last year’s contributions were extremely important to Owen, and she couldn’t have been more surprised and happy about the community of Polson supporting her.
“Its definitely not easy financially to compete professionally,” Owen said. “[The 5K] race was the reason I was able to compete last season.”
Over 191 people ran in the 5K race last year to support her, and 231 total walkers and runners registered, with some just contributing the money for Owen’s cause. The support for one athlete surprised the organizers of Live Locally.
“We had people just stop in the office to donate money, people who weren’t going to partake in the race but wanted to support such a great individual, and to be honest, until I met Melinda I didn’t know how great she was,” Bird said. “She truly is one class act, with the heart, desire and dedication to bring home the Olympic gold. She not only has a passion for competing, she has a passion for people, and while she was at home she took time to get involved in the local school system and tell her story, offering support and instilling the message that hard work is worth it.”
And as impressed as people are of Owen’s success, she’s equally blown away by what the community of Polson has done for her.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for what they did for me last year,” Owen said. “I feel so fortunate to come from a small town where people care. A lot of athletes that come from bigger cities don’t have that.”
A true testament to Owen as an athlete is the way she’s been able to overcome injuries and excel at the sport. She suffered a torn quad her freshman year of high school and broke her leg her sophomore year, but placed at state regardless. In her senior year, she was a state champion.
During her career at the University of Idaho where she really came into her own, Owen placed 10th at nationals her senior year and earned the attention of U.S. Track and Field coaches. However, she had to have surgery first on bone spurs in her foot.
And just this year, Owen had to have surgery yet again on her foot to remove spurs, but it will ensure that this tough-as-nails pole-vaulter is more ready than ever to compete.
Before the surgery, Owen had made really big strides. She was invited to top-tier meets, put up the No. 2 jump in the nation at 4.51 meters and was nearing her goal of making the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field national team.
“I felt like I was on a roll,” Owen said. “I was setting PRs at every meet.”
However, her ankle had been giving her trouble since the indoor season last winter. She had five MRIs and no one could figure out what was wrong with it. Owen then decided to take it easy for a month to let the ankle heal itself, but for some reason it got worse.
“At the New York [Madison Square Garden] meet, I was vaulting well, but at the end of the meet I couldn’t walk on my ankle,” Owen said. “At Nationals, by the first warm up, I could not walk and my ankle gave out.”
Unfortunately, Owen had to pull out of Nationals, but that didn’t dampen her spirit as evident from the last line of a blog post she made explaining what had happened. It spelled out to the tee what kind of drive she has:
“Watch out 2012, I don’t get mad… I get even ?,” she wrote.
Owen turned to her doctor in Missoula, who had done her foot surgery in 2008 and again found that bone spurs were the root of her problem.
“As I would run on it, it would cause an abrasion and it calcified into a bony block,” Owen said.
When she took more time off to let her ankle rest, it allowed for the bony block to grow bigger. While it was nice to get the problem solved with surgery, there was a glaring question mark… how long would it take to rehab?
“They were pretty positive that there was cartilage damage,” Owen said. “When they operated, they found that it was damaged but with no bare bone showing.”
That small detail saved Owen from a potential six-month rehab process. Had the bone been exposed, doctors would have had to initiate a micro-fracture break to allow it to heal properly. Luckily, that wasn’t the case and Owen was on the fast track.
“I’m at three months now and I’m having no pain,” Owen said. “I should be good to go. I’m pretty much cleared to do anything within reason.”
Owen spent three weeks of that three-month rehab in Polson, namely, under the care of her parents.
“That’s the longest I’ve been in Polson since high school,” Owen said.
She’ll be back in town for the Live Locally 5K on Oct. 22, but then will focus on the upcoming indoor season with the World Championships in Turkey as a goal for the spring.
Over the course of five years, the Live Locally 5K has helped fuel MVA to break ground on the aquatics center, and hopefully in 2012 will see Owen compete for her country in the Olympic games.
This year’s race will take place Saturday, Oct. 22 at HealthCare Plus on Main Street and 7th Ave. in Polson. While it’s called a race, there’s a lot more that goes into it.
“We want to support the businesses and organizations around our community,” Knutson said. “It’s a different type of a race. It’s a race and a community event.”
With a community like Polson and an athlete like Owen, this race already looks like a winner.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Elevating The World

I have been fortunate enough to have been an Elite Athlete Ambassador for Lululemon for one year now!!! Although injury kept me from competing this weekend at the World Outdoor Championships, I was instead blessed with the opportunity to spend this past week in Vancouver, B.C. at Lululemon headquarters.  What an amazing experience this was.  With one other Elite Athlete (Canadian Swimmer) and over 50 Ambassadors from all over the world. I was able to meet the Founder, CEO and all of the people who make Lululemon one of the greatest companies in the world.

No one would ever have to convince me that the workout gear this company makes is the best there is.  Extremely well made, very functional, and also lets be honest, it looks good on!  What I was blown away by, at this retreat, was how truly dedicated the company is to the betterment of society.  Their mission statement is "To elevate the world of mediocrity to a place of greatness" Through their local Ambassadors, the community is given a chance to come together to practice yoga, participate in bootcamps, and join in on group runs.  All at no cost to yourself. . . They kept telling us the whole weekend to give without expectations.  And they practice what they preach, which I have a whole lot of respect for!

One thing that can be a deterrent from Lululemon is the pricing of their clothes. . . We had a chance to ask Chip Wilson (the founder) any questions we wanted to during one of our meetings.  A fellow ambassador asked why the clothing cost so much, and why they couldn't lower it so that the average person could purchase it.  I had often wondered this same question.  Chip explained it amazingly, which I know I will not be able to do justice explaining.  He said that when he decided to create clothing hewanted it to be made only of the very best and most durable material.  Every garment you buy is created to last at LEAST 5 to 6 years.  In doing so, this cost a great deal more to manufacture, which means that you must pay more.  You can however, look at it as making an investment in your clothing.  You may not be able to buy as much, but what you do buy will last.

I can vouch for the lasting fact, because I have now own all my Lululemon workout gear for one year. And seeing as I workout 6-8 hours a day in it, in that one year, may wear it more than the average person would in 3 years.  Just the other day I had someone ask if my tights were brand new.  That is how well they keep.  They have not lost shape, nor has the color faded even a little.  I have also bought inexpensive tights from a place like Target, which I love, but they do not even last a year.  So if I payed a little over $20 every year for Target workout gear, by year 5 I have spent more money and gone through more clothing.  Which does happen to go against my "Thinking Green" philosophy :)

To sum it up, this past week made me even more proud to be sponsored by a company like Lululemon.  Financially they have been a huge help to me in taking away the costs of buying workout gear.  It also feels very nice to endorse a product that continues to make an impact in their communities!!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Surgery Was a Huge Success!!!

Well it has taken a couple days for the effects of the anesthesia to wear off, so I figured I had better wait to blog about how the surgery went until now.  I am my fathers daughter when it comes to how much I am effected by the drugs they give you to put you under.  I text messaged my college coach today to tell him how the surgery went, which he then informed me I had already called him right after surgery.  Oops :)

Anyway the operation on my ankle went better than I could have imagined!!! As I was slipping off into the world of blackness on the operating table, I still had no idea what my timeline for healing was going to be.  Dr. Jarrett, the surgeon who had done my last surgery, decided to go in with a scope to clean out any loose bodies and shave off bone spurs if they showed themselves.  He was not certain how the condition of the cartilage in the joint would be, and prepared me for worst case scenario.  We already knew I had some disruption of the cartilage, but the extent was uncertain.  If there were any bald spots on the bone, Dr Jarrett was going to create a small micro-fracture in hopes of making new cartilage.  This would be at least a 4-6 month recovery until I would be back 100%. (Like I said worse case scenario.)

But as I started coming to in the recovery room, I was immediately informed that no micro-fracture was done!!!!!!!! I started cheering!!! The doctor came back in to explain to me what he had done in the procedure, and why I had been is so much pain when I sprinted.  He said that I had a curved bone spur off the bottom of my Tibia that gouged into my Talus every time I went into dorsi-flection.  Believe me, it was as painful as it sounds.

With the multiple bone spurs, loose bodies, and more taken out of my ankle, the doctor was VERY confident that he had addressed the main problem.  He made sure to explain that with the state my ankle is in, I would never be without a little pain.  Which is fine by me, no pain no gain right? :) As long as it is not as severe as these past 4 months.

Ok so now onto the recovery.  I am non-weight bearing for 4 weeks, with 2 of those weeks being pretty much bed ridden.  Then after the 4 weeks my comeback to 100% is exponential! The laying around is not ideal for an athlete, but I have not and WILL not complain.  This is nothing compared to what I was mentally preparing my self for with a 4 month recovery.  I am loving the time with my family, and getting to appreciate the most beautiful season of the year in Montana!!!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Everything Happens for a Reason

This past weekend I had the US Outdoor Nationals in Eugene, Oregon.  This competition decided who made the World Team that is to head to Daegu, Korea in August.  For the past three years this has been a huge goal of mine, topped only by my goal to make the Olympic Team next year.  As I said in my last blog, I have been battling an ankle injury since the end of indoor season, which only continued to worsen at the Nationals.  
I regrettably had to withdraw myself from the competition.  Somewhat of a setback, however, adversity is all apart of the job.  Thankfully I had plenty of family and friends there to support me and help provide perspective.  Now the time has come to get HEALTHY!!! I have surgery scheduled next wednesday on my ankle then back to rehabbing.  
Watch out 2012, I don't get mad. . . I get even :)