Rachel Dawson: 'The truth about the Olympic year'

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Rachel Dawson hopes to lift U.S. field hockey up the ranks when the team takes the field in London.

It's an Olympic year and I'm ready to give you the (un)beautiful truth.

It is a grind -- a slow, unrelenting, purposeful grind toward the golden mirage that has been tugging at our hearts since we were kids.

Unfortunately for those kids, there is no magic involved whatsoever. What the world will see in six months -- though it might look like magic -- is simply the final product of hard work, practice, nutrition, rest and a pinch of trust that it will all come together at the right time.

The Olympics are the biggest stage for our sport. Most of the time, people -- and Americans specifically -- don't have the faintest idea what field hockey is. Quite often it's called "that sport girls play in skirts." But it all changes during the Olympic year. People start to care a lot more when you add that magic word:Olympics. People want in on the Olympics.

But just because it is 2012, what we do every day hasn't changed. We are on the turf at 8 a.m. for warm-up every weekday but Wednesday. Training starts promptly at 8:30. Each day has a particular focus, such as skill circuits on Monday and intrasquad scrimmages on Thursday. We rarely leave the pitch before 10:30 a.m., and oftentimes it's more like 11.

Injury treatment and rehab follows training. Food follows treatment. And then, at 1:30, we head to session two. Again, each day is always the same: On Monday we lift and then do a recovery run; on Tuesday it's a sprint workout; Thursday we lift again; and Friday we hit the track.

We spend Wednesdays and Saturdays away from the stick and ball, focusing on our physiology during conditioning exercises and 70-to-90-minute-long runs. Our heart-rate monitors and GPS watches have become our best friends. They monitor everything we do and help us evaluate our physiological progress. Are we training in the proper heart-rate zone? Is our pace too slow or too fast? With the help of an online program, we monitor our daily metrics to ensure that we are optimizing every aspect of training.

That's the road to London. The climb ahead of us is steep. Sometimes it feels endless because where we are today is not where we want to be in July. We are currently ranked 10th in the world, and our goal is to be first. At the beginning of January, we played four matches against seventh-ranked Australia. We tied twice and lost twice. The ugly truth was served: We aren't good enough yet. We aren't fit enough, strong enough or smart enough to achieve what we want to achieve.

Luckily, we are committed to each other and our mission. We understand it will be an uncomfortable process. There will be moments of extreme vulnerability and we may give our best and still fail.

We've accepted the unbeautiful truth. We have accepted the daily grind and the unpredictability and uncertainty that accompany it. It will be terrifying and exhilarating. Anything can happen.

In July, 16 women will take the field in London. Right now, there are 24 of us training at the Olympic training center in Chula Vista. Sixteen dreams will come true, and eight hearts will be broken.

Luckily, most days, we are too tired to think of those ugly truths because we are stuck in the lovely grind.

Rachel Dawson will be blogging for espnW throughout her training for the Olympics in London this summer. Check back in February for more on her journey.

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