Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What I Learned in Triathlon School

Triathlon isn’t really a sport for the meek, in my opinion. To cross that finish line you have to be sort of, well, gritty. It’s a tenacious endeavor; that really means if you do it right, you’ll probably end up fairly scarred, certainly sore, definitely sun and wind burned (with bad tan lines) and most likely with a big-ass smile on your face. I'm not saying anything about not being humble, as I find that the most important and respected of the qualities of those who perform at any level.

I didn’t get into triathlons to learn something, or to be good, or to see the world, all I really wanted to do was race and find something new into channel my competitive energy. I wanted to continue improving. Improving what? Humm…interesting question. Looking back I might have said, each sport, the world, myself…who knows. Something though.

I needed a new gig. Yep, I can say I got that.

I actually got quite a bit more than that. Something about triathlon has allowed me to tap into another level. In college sometimes I would end races and think, “did I really go hard enough?” or “did I realy give it every last drop?” Triathlon never allows me to ask that question.

Not only do I give it every last drop, I squeeze it out…mile by mile. Like a sopping wet rag at the beginning of the swim, I get to the end of the run and I’m wringing my soul out for all it’s worth. I spend my time seeing just how far I can push it every time I hit the course. I never question anything. Actually I do question a few things, but most times it’s just a matter of if I will make it to the finish standing or not, which lately I have been doing (thanks to the Lord above and learning how to dial in my nutrition).

From triathlon I’ve learned to be a fighter like I’ve never experienced. I fight to stay in the swim pack (coming from someone who hadn’t swam a stoke four years ago, this is a feat for sure!). I fight to ride a solid and aggressive bike, passing with authority (and safety). I certainly fight out that run. Many people probably think since I’m a runner it’s all smooth sailing for me. Actually no kids, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I hunt every last mile split down and then beat it into submission. I push myself beyond what I think I’m capable of actually managing for those first ten miles of a half IM, and then spend the last few miles with my brain talking my body out of shutting down (and vice-versa).

It’s good though. I needed to learn more about that over the last few years. Sometimes life requires us to be fighters. Lately, I’ve been doing everything from fighting to fend off negative thoughts, to fighting just to get out of bed and train and go to work. Some days are really, really hard. I’m not saying I have it the hardest, but for me, this time of my life is pretty much as hard as it’s gotten thus far. I lay in bed when the alarm goes off and when the thoughts start pouring in about turning thirty in two months and my life not looking anything like I thought it would, I fight back the tears with reasons that I’m thankful and that I should get out of bed and move on one more day.

One of my favorite lines from the movie Shawshank Redemption is when Red says to Andy that he can either, "get busy living, or get busy dying."

Just because I’m not talking about it doesn’t mean I’m not going through it.

Most of the time I just put it away because people have a hard time hearing just how I’m really doing or how much the pain eats me up, swallows me and then spits me out again.

I look to routine. I look to my friends. I think about my blessings and being healthy. I pray to God, and I go on yet another day. Nobody's life is perfect. Mine is far from it. I'm learning a bit more about how much I can take, and looking to those who have more understanding than I do in counseling to help me sort it out.

Speaking of friends, I just met up with a good friend and triathlete, Heidi, who inspires me daily by recovering from a broken pelvis this winter and finally getting the go-ahead to swim, bike and run again! She's amazing and such a great person. We had a wonderful dinner on Friday night at my favorite little Itlian place where I go so much they know me by name now!

Thank God for triathlon. Thank God for the people in it who remind me that I am strong and that this too shall pass. Thank God for the little things that make me happy and make me feel like as messed up as things are, somewhere, someday I’m going to not have to fight quite as hard as I am now and maybe the road will be a little smoother.

Until then, yep, you guessed it..I’ll be over here duking it out with my thoughts and praying that I can keep my eyes focused on whatever is in store next. I surely didn’t think I’d be here at thirty (well, almost…) but I also never thought I’d see the finish line of the World Championships three year after my first (and only that year) Butler YMCA triathlon.

What I’m trying to say is…despite it all, this crazy sport and everything in it has served a huge purpose for me. I’m thankful I found it and I truly enjoy all aspects about it. Who knows what IT will bring…surely not me.

Sometimes I just think about Aruba and how much fun I had there with great friends. What a trip!

In the mean time, I’m starting to swim, bike and run again and it feels good. It’s only three weeks until my next race and I don’t have a CLUE what that will bring. Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 is on the horizon and my love of the sport is coming back slowly and surely.

I've started training again and even thought it's not what it once was, it works for me for now. I'm just slow and steady. I think I won't be doing Ironman Florida this year. It's just too much. So, look for me in Clearwater at the Half Ironman World Championships on November 14th! I'll see you guys there!

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