Speaker 2 00:00:09 What do you do when the unexpected happens in that critical moment? When every decision counts, you have to adapt some, do it better than others. When success or failure depend on a brief flash of peak performance. Some people know how to take things as they come and turn every challenge into an opportunity that's ability to be ready for anything to make changes in an instant or remain unchanged under pressure might just be the greatest talent of a true champion. Sydney MCLA Sydney McLoughlin is one such champion in our conversation. She shared a story that says it all. It's a story of her world record break 400 meter hurdle race Sydney is 21 years old. She's in Oregon preparing for an important race, perhaps the most important of her career. In this first episode of season two of the edge by tag Hoya, I'll be joining Sydney to discuss her views on the growing conversation about mental health in the sports world. But first I'll let her tell her story in her own words.
Speaker 3 00:01:26 That was such an interesting day. Well, I have to start off by saying my coach. My coach has been around for a very long time. Bobby Kiy is one of the greatest coaches track and field has ever seen if not the best. Um, I think he's the best, but that might, I might be biased. Uh, I think going into the whole meet as a whole, he had me in a head space of being prepared for anything. Um, he's very good at making sure that you can handle whatever is thrown at you.
Speaker 3 00:01:59 So the day of the final, um, you know, I woke up like I normally do. I did my shakeout, I ate breakfast. I relaxed, I watched shows. I talked to friends, you know, whatever I do to distract myself and just kind of, you know, let the day pass without thinking so much about the race. Um, and then it became time to, you know, get ready and go to the track and did all the things I would normally do on a race day. And when we got to the warmup track, I got a call that the meet was actually gonna be delayed because of heat down on the track. It was like it was over a hundred degrees on the track, uh, and people were actually passing out. So they decided to push the meat back, I think, four hours. Um, so that it would be nighttime when we ran. So no one would get heat stroke. Um, and it kind of just threw me for a loop because I was already warming up and I wasn't really, you know, I was thinking in an hour or so I was gonna be done and, you know, I would've already ran the, and now I had to go back to the hotel and kind of just readjust myself mentally and get prepared to now sit for four hours and then come back and do this all over again.
Speaker 3 00:03:14 I definitely was grateful just for how my coach kind of prepares me for things like that. Um, because it wasn't anything kind of new, you know, there will be days where things aren't going super amazing at practice. And he'll just kind of tell you to like, wait before you start a rep or do something and is kind of like you're in a head space to get ready, but there's some sort of a delay and you have to now figure out how to deal with that mentally. So I went back to the hotel, um, I just ate some food relaxed, tried to regroup myself. I took a nap and woke up, came back, tried to do the same process all over again. And honestly the second time felt so much better for some reason. I don't know maybe it was the nap. Maybe it was just the forcing of me to sit down and have to wait. Um, you know, things aren't always gonna happen all my time. Obviously I would've loved to be done, but I think it was a, a humbling just you need to sit down and you needed to learn to be patient in this moment. And coming back, I just felt like something really special was gonna happen.
Speaker 3 00:04:28 So we go to the warm up area and I just remember not wanting to, you know, just look at my competitors. I wanted to keep my head down. I wanted to focus on what I was there to do, because normally this is a moment in time where, you know, the only three people make the team and you're so worried about, well, who are the other people gonna be? What is everyone else thinking? And doing? I just remember telling myself, just keep your head down. Don't look at anybody and focus on what you're here to do. And I heard, you know, I last season was a, a really big time for me just about, you know, my faith and that being such a, a crucial part of how I do things and also who I am. And I just kept hearing God say, just focus on me, focus on me, focus on me. And I just remember getting into the blocks and feeling just this amazing sense of peace. And it wasn't even fear, which it, it had been in the past. It wasn't even anxiety, which is what a lot of my races had been previously. It was truly just a sense of peace and the gun went off. And I just remember not even feeling like I was in my own body, you know, like I felt like I was somewhere else watching myself run and it just felt so freeing and to a degree, um, kind of like euphoric
Speaker 3 00:05:58 The moment of euphoria that I felt during that race, I truly think was kind of exclusive to that race. I have felt it before, um, in other races, but it's not in every day kind of thing. So getting into the blocks that day was kind of just different from a lot of other races. I think there have been days where you're overthinking, what am I gonna do? What is my pattern? What are my steps? You know, all these little things. Whereas I think that day for me was to kind of just go run and be free, you know, let yourself have fun and see what happens that day was just so perfect. I feel like it was nighttime. Uh, the heat was starting to calm down a little bit, so it wasn't too hot. It wasn't too cold. The lights were on, you know, in this huge stadium and there was no rain or anything. So, you know, none of the outside factors were really playing any sort of a role. It was honestly perfect running weather in my opinion. Um, so the only real surroundings that I had to pay attention to were just the other competitors.
Speaker 3 00:07:13 I think the atmosphere around you in terms of the fans, the crowd is always a bonus to any sort of competition like that because you kind of feed off of their, you know, their noise and their level of excitement. Um, and I think for me that day, it was a lot of the times I don't notice if I'm being honest, uh, I'm can kind of hear what people are saying at times, and I can see faces in the crowd, but, uh, when I go into a zone of running and focusing on what it is that I'm there to do, I honestly can't even really hear anything. I think it's amazing after you finish a race and everyone's clapping and cheering and you can kind of join in the moment, but when you're running around the track, uh, your mind's in so many other places than that. <laugh>
Speaker 1 00:08:03 Set.
Speaker 3 00:08:08 Look, looking back on that race overall during those 51 and 0.9 seconds, um, a lot was kind of happening, you know, like I said, it was the euphoric state, but I was still aware kind of just where I was in the race. I think through the first four or five hurdles, I felt very comfortable. I didn't feel super pressed. Like I was, you know, behind or anything like that, where I was strenuous.
Speaker 3 00:08:42 I'm very aware. I feel like of my competitors during the race. I think I can always sense kind of where people are, even if they're behind me, cuz I can hear them, I can hear their footsteps. And you know, you can tell who in front of you is either ahead of you or behind you based upon who goes over the hurdle first. So it's always good just indication of where you are. Um, and you know, you kind of know coming off of the last turn who kind of stands where, uh, in positions of the race. And I think just coming off of, you know, going into 200 meters and coming off that turn, that was when I kind of told myself, I was like, okay, now is when you need to decide if you're gonna go or not. I felt strong. I felt confident in my steps and I was like, just go for it. Um, and then coming off of hurdle eight, I felt in a really good position to kind of just surge, which led me through nine <affirmative>. And then ultimately through 10 where I, like I said, I was just telling myself, do not stutter, take whatever leg comes and then just sprint to the finish.
Speaker 3 00:10:05 And I felt very strong in my form, in my, um, endurance and my capability. And most of the race went by and I wasn't even realizing it was happening until maybe the last two hurdles. And I just was like, okay, tell your, you know, I can break down hurdle by hurdle, but I just remember, you know, being very close, uh, coming off of the last turn and I just told myself, do not stutter on these last two hurdles, whatever leg comes, just take it after you come off of 10, just run to the finish line.
Speaker 3 00:10:39 The last 50 meters, I just was so excited to cross the line and see what the clock said, you know, because there's been so many practices where you're preparing for something like that. And you're, you know, um, kind of mentally in a space where you're like, if this moment comes, how are you gonna finish this race to the point where now it was happening? And I was just excited to see it unfold. I made sure when I came off of 10, I sprinted as hard as I could. And I remember looking at the clock as I was crossing the line and I was like
Speaker 3 00:11:25 The first thing in my head after I crossed the finish line was, oh my gosh. I knew when I crossed the line, uh, that the record was broken. Um, I was just actually running that last 50 meters. Like please say 51, please say 51. <laugh> uh, you know, just cuz it hadn't been done. And I think it's just been so cool to see now just how much faster we're all running. Um, because that barrier's been broken and I think it's gonna continue to just go down more and more. So it was just really cool just to know that it was humanly physically possible. And you know, now we're kind of pushing the boundaries of 51 now and seeing what's possible there the first, you know, people that were close to me that I saw were my boyfriend at the time and my trainer, uh, they had somehow snuck down to like the track level part of the stadium and were right there.
Speaker 3 00:12:24 So I went over and hugged them and they had like lost their voices cuz they were screaming so loud and they were sweating everywhere and I was just, you know, hugging them and just super happy and excited. And I, you know, opted of out, I opted out of doing my, um, my victory lap, I think just cuz we were all so tired and it was so late. Uh, but I wish I had done it because my mom said that she had come down to the track level as well. And I wished I could have gone and hugged her and seen her and my brother sooner. Um, but I ended up seeing them once I, you know, left the stadium and was back out near the warmup track. So I got to see all my people,
Speaker 3 00:13:04 I would not have changed anything from that race. Um, you know, obviously there's always things that could be improved or done better, but I think for that moment in time, that was exactly what I needed. Um, and it's very crazy looking back. I looked at texts from maybe January or February of last year and my coach had literally texted me. I think you could run 51 90 or better. So for that to be the exact time, uh, for that race was absolutely insane. Um, and I, you know, there's always things that you can improve upon, but I was just so happy with how that turned out. Um, I would not change a
Speaker 3 00:13:59 World record is just unreal and it's an amazing, you know, amazing achievement that I don't think it really hit me the time, um, until maybe the next day, you know, I was just kind of in shock and it took a long time to kind of fully register <laugh> I would say it took me maybe like 12 hours to come down from that feeling. Uh, you know, in the moment you wanna enjoy it, obviously just everything that you and your coach and your, your team have worked for, but obvious, you know, there's that coming back to reality of like, okay, the job's not done, this was just to make the team and now we have to go and we have to prepare for what's next. So you do enjoy the moment because it only happens maybe once, you know, and then, um, it's back to what's next because there's always something that you can improve upon for sure.
Speaker 2 00:15:06 Um, at the time, did it ever occur to you that this might be the race that you're gonna break the world record? Is that something that you had in your head or was it a surprise?
Speaker 3 00:15:17 Um, I would say it's, you know, I don't think it was fully in my head that that was gonna be the race where I broke the world record. I think for me it was, it was a surprise, but I knew what I was capable of and I knew that it could happen. I think there's a difference between knowing this is the race and knowing that, you know, it could be the race. And I think after the semis, I was very confident in just where I was and how that race had gone, uh, about being able to do it the next day. But you know, every race is different. You never know what's gonna happen. And I just had to go out there and give everything I had and it ended up being an amazing opportunity to do it.
Speaker 2 00:16:00 You, you said that, um, you told yourself to, to surge and now you've gotta go for it. Mm-hmm <affirmative> would there have been an instance where you wouldn't have gone for it and what would that have been?
Speaker 3 00:16:09 No, <laugh> I don't think there's ever an instance where I tell myself not to go for it. I think it's just a matter of when and you know, how much do I have in the tank? You know, I obviously I wouldn't wanna kick too soon where I still have, you know, half of the race left. Um, and I, I wouldn't want to put myself in a position that could jeopardize, you know, where I am in the race by trying to make a move that just isn't smart at the time. So I don't think it's a matter of if it's just a matter of one,
Speaker 2 00:16:50 There's a lot of talk. Um, and we'll come onto this a little bit later. There's a lot of talk about mental health in sport. And you know, particularly now in our age, mental health is a very, um, correctly hot topic, but I think sport is such an interesting space for it because it's so much pressure is on an individual, particularly in, in a, a pursuit like yours. You know, there's a lot of talk about using kind of mental health support to deal with form of a better term failure when things don't go the way you want to mm-hmm <affirmative> but actually achieving something like that also comes with its own challenges. Right. And it must come with its own pressures for how do you cope with that? And how did you cope with it specifically to this race? <laugh>
Speaker 3 00:17:32 Right. Uh, there is definitely a huge talk around mental health right now, uh, especially in sports for sure. And there is a lot of weight that is added, uh, whether you're competing well or not. So well, you know, it comes on either side of the coin. And I think for me, when it came to that race specifically and how I handled that, you know, the number one thing for me is just what are you listening to? Uh, and what are you looking at? And I think social media has had such a negative effect on me in the past when it comes to track in my performance that I've learned to distance myself from it, uh, win or lose, just because you have a bunch of people's opinions coming at you at one time. And you know, the biggest thing that I've benefited from my feel like is just community and my friends and my family and the people that are closest to me and, you know, having opinions that truly are meaningful.
Speaker 3 00:18:34 Um, you know, cuz there's gonna be races that don't go super well. And am I listening to random people on the internet and what they have to say about me or the people that love me and have seen me through the ups and the downs and still know my worth and character, you know? So those are the things for me, for sure that definitely help because if not, then, you know, your value is now placed in what everybody else thinks of you. Uh, and that's just not the case, you know, because you're not gonna win every single race in the world and you're not gonna always break the record or have an amazing season, whatever it is. So, uh, back to the point of faith, I think that's why it's so important for my value to be placed in something other than me, because I am not perfect and, you know, putting it in someone who is, uh, you're never disappointing him. So mm-hmm, <affirmative>
Speaker 2 00:19:21 All, that's interesting. Um, do you feel like you can celebrate, do you ever feel like you can truly celebrate or does it always feel like there's something else that you're gonna have to do so, and particularly because you have to be so healthy, I'm not necessarily saying that you go out and get absolutely habited but you know what I mean? Like right. What are you able to let yourself kind of celebrate and
Speaker 3 00:19:40 Relax? I definitely am able to let myself celebrate and relax. Uh, I think my definition of celebrating and relaxing is different from other people's. You know, for me, it's just, uh, laying out somewhere for me, it would be laying by a pool in Palm Springs, uh, with good food and music like that. To me, that was how I celebrated after, uh, after Tokyo, you know, um, obviously there's always the season coming up and you wanna make sure you're healthy and you're ready, whatever that is. Um, but just being able to relax and unwind and not focus on training for a little bit, you know, uh, I definitely allow myself that time because the season just is so long in track and field that when you have that time off you, you need to take advantage of it. For sure.
Speaker 2 00:20:31 Sydney McLachlin has been an absolute joy having you here at the edge. Thank you so much for talking us through your amazing world record breaking experience. Um, never has there been a more worthy world record breaker? Thank you for taking the
Speaker 3 00:20:46 Time. Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Speaker 2 00:21:02 Thank you for listening to this episode of the edge, a podcast by Tago. If you've enjoyed Sydney's story, don't forget to give it five stars and subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And please spread the word. You can also join the conversation about this episode or the subjects raised by sharing your thoughts in the comments. We hope you'll join us for episode two coming next month.