This past weekend I went to my first official appearance as Mrs. Colorado America 2015 - I was at the Denver Derby Party which is a benefit for the Sean ‘Ranch’ Lough Scholarship Program which awards full four year scholarships to Colorado State University to deserving students who would otherwise probably not have the opportunity to attend college. It’s truly a life changing opportunity for these kids and an amazing thing to witness.
So anyway, I got to judge the hat contest which was a lot of fun and of course one of the highlights of the day was watching the Kentucky Derby. I watched and cheered with 5000 other people as these beautiful thoroughbreds ran their hearts out for 1 1/4 miles - and then in just barely more than 2 minutes it was over. That’s it. And then I got to thinking………pageant contestants have a few things in common with these horses. I know that may sound a little odd, but just hear me out.
The thoroughbreds that run in the Kentucky Derby didn’t just show up one day and decide to race. (OK, let’s be honest, the horses themselves don’t make these decisions - their humans do. But just go with me on this!) These horses have trained to be there. They begin training when they’re two and run this race when they’re three. Not that they have just been sitting around not doing anything prior to that year, but the intense training starts at that point. So for the past year they have been training to be at their peak physically - to be the first one to cross the finish line at the end of 1 1/4 miles. Generally they can only run at their peak speed for a quarter of a mile - there is a strategy to figuring out when during the race they should hit that maximum speed. Apparently if they hit it too early or too late in the race it throws off their chances of winning. There is clearly a lot of thought that goes into it. But there’s also one really important thing that those horses focus on: being their best - being their fastest. Those two things don’t have a whole lot to do with any of the other horses.
I know there are statistics for everything: how often the horse coming out of which gate has won, what color the winning jockeys have worn in the past, who the trainer is, who the jockey is, what number the horse is wearing on his jersey, is it sunny, is it overcast …..the list is endless. If American Pharaoh had listened to some of these things he might have just packed up his horse suitcase and gone home. After all, in 140 previous runs no horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby from the 17th post (he was originally slated to come out of the 18th, but moved to 17 when Stanford scratched).
Which brings me to pageant contestants. For the two years before I became a contestant at Mrs. Colorado America I watched from the audience. I counted how many gowns of each color there were. What colors were in the Top 10, the Top 5. What color did the new Mrs. Colorado America wear? What contestant number was she? When I competed in the 2014 pageant I was so busy analyzing these things and so many others that I forgot what was really important: NONE OF THAT MATTERED!! I should have taken a lesson from the horses a little sooner.
In the year between the 2014 and 2015 Mrs. Colorado America pageants I was focused on April 18, 2015. I was focused on being my personal best. I concentrated on how to be at my peak physically. I practiced answering questions not only about myself, but general questions like the ones that might be asked of the Top 5 on stage. For lack of a better word, I was in training. So were a lot of the other 59 women who went on this journey with me. But that wasn’t all. I stopped worrying about what anyone else was doing. There is no point in it. There’s nothing you can do about it and someone else being at their best doesn’t have anything at all to do with you being your best. I just stopped the madness.
What that allowed me to do was really enjoy the experience. The “training” took on a whole new significance in the fact that I had a chance to appreciate the fact that no matter the outcome, I was at my best. Just like in the Derby, there’s only one winner, but that doesn’t mean the others go home empty handed. For the horses it doesn’t negate the fact that they are the top 20 points earners through a series of 35 designated races over the past year. For the other contestants in a pageant it doesn’t take away the obstacles they’ve overcome. It doesn't diminish the fears they’ve faced head-on, the hours of hard work, sweat, sacrifice and dedication as they worked toward their goal. It doesn’t take away from the fact that they are at their personal best. It doesn’t take away their previous achievements and successes, the love of their families, and it doesn’t dim their stars at all. So that’s the least I knew I would walk away with in the end. The satisfaction of knowing I had worked hard and run my hardest.
I would venture to say that if the Kentucky Derby was run again on Sunday instead of Saturday there might be a different winner. Maybe Dortmund would have rallied to win or International Star might not have scratched. Who knows? Every pageant contestant knows that if you held the same pageant with the same contestants and the same judges on a different day you just might have a different outcome. The one thing I realize is that we have an advantage over the horses: at the end of the Run for the Roses there’s a clock keeping time with a very definitive, indisputable answer as to who came in first, second, third or last. For us, we have the knowledge that the race we run is subjective - that not only can we run the race again, we can win the race in our own way every time.