During the second semester of my senior year of high school, my English teacher, (an amazing, yet quirky lady), went off on a tangent one afternoon about how someone who is the student body president, a varsity athlete, and a Homecoming princess will peak in high school, and the rest of their life will go downhill after graduation. It was the first genuine passive-aggressive punch in the stomach I had ever felt. My friend Mason, (an adorable, yet mature Sophomore), and I stared at each other throughout her entire monologue, and after she finished he said, “She’s talking about you.” I am not sure what provoked her, I was an obedient and decent student, and wasn’t even late for class that day? I never talked to her about it, and tried to let it go, because maybe she was right? I did squeeze everything I could out of high school, I loved those four years, and if that was the best my life would ever be, so be it. I had a blast!
I had a similar feeling this week.
I was both ecstatic by the simple bliss of being able to move again, but still stung by the slap in my face the pneumonia left me. I couldn’t resolve the fact that it didn’t let me enjoy the fruits of my labor from all of the training I put in from January until June. Actually, it was more than that. Every single decision I made after losing my job in September was motivated by getting into the best shape possible, (body, mind, and spirit), by June 9th.
I did everything I could think of to make that happen.
I traveled all over the Southwest to achieve the finest training imaginable, which often meant being dropped on the bike, lapped during interval workouts, and straight up embarrassed in the pool. I ran a lot, rode a lot, and even prescribed a “Swim Streak” from mid-March up until race day, swimming every single day, both on the days I had legit swim workouts, and days I didn’t, (except for rest days), in order to improve my skills, fitness, and confidence in the water. The upside to that challenge is that I flip turn regularly now, but I still believe I have the swimming ability of a three-year old in floaties.
That is the part of missing Ironman Boulder that hurts the most, the fact that I put in all of that work for nothing.
I listened to my girl Gwyneth on her Goop podcast this week during an episode when she interviewed the fantastic writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, (Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic), and the part that struck me was when Elizabeth shared the importance of telling ourselves the truth. Up until that moment, I did not want to tell myself the truth, but with Elizabeth and Gwyneth’s guidance, I finally said it out loud. “Maybe I got sick because I couldn’t handle the stress that I put on myself leading up to the race? I made it my entire focus, but was that intensity too much? And ultimately my undoing?”
I don’t know.
I do know that I wouldn’t change a second of it if I could, and that every moment was worth it.
The truth is that triathlon has been a vehicle that has steered me on the path in life I was meant to take, but not the path itself. It has lead me to be stronger than I ever imagined, both mentally and physically, it has introduced me to incredible people that I never would have met otherwise, and it has given me countless opportunities to pursue what I want more than anything, to tell stories. In essence, triathlon has helped me become who I am, but it is not all that I am.
Naturally, I am upset that I did not race Ironman Boulder, but I value what has transpired since more than any medal I would’ve earned that day. I have allowed myself the space to be sad and angry that months of momentum came to a screeching halt, but also believe that I will grow mightier because of it.
I’m just getting started.
By the way, I saw that English teacher one time at a grocery store when I was home during one of my college breaks. We kept the conversation surfacy, but I wanted to tell her she was wrong, because college was even better than high school! Although, what I would tell her now, over twenty years later, and as fellow adults, is that no one ever peaks, we are always in motion, and the fun and challenge of life is finding a way to smile through the highs and lows of it all. I’ve found my way to do it, and I hope she found hers, too.
The song choice this week is a classic from the 80's, Here I Go Again from Whitesnake.