“Life is a Journey, Not a Destination”
Every journey starts with the first step…
My drive to tri began in an unusual way; it was December 2008 and my college friends and I were reliving our youth, drinking appletinis in a hot tub when someone suggested, out of the blue, “Hey, you should do a triathlon with me!” She went on and on about how amazing an experience it was and how much it would change me. Needless to say, my judgment was impaired when I agreed to do it considering I knew nothing of the distances, had cobwebs and flat tires on my 15 year old mountain bike, didn’t know how to swim and never had a desire to learn due to my fear of open water, and most of all because my only physical activity at that point was yoga class. I hadn’t done a competitive event since freshman year of college, which was 20 years and three kids ago at that point. But somehow, for some reason, actually for many reasons, just like so many of you, I took the first step and said yes.
And so my journey began…
By chance I found out about the triathlon class at Rowan and signed up, not knowing a soul. Serendipity can be a beautiful thing as I have made what I hope are life long friends from that class who have inspired me to be more than I thought possible. That first swim workout I completed with no fins was such a huge milestone for me, a non-swimmer. And I often revisit another defining moment from that class. We were in the spin room with Coach IronNick at the helm playing songs from his iPod that you won’t find on any radio station. I was thinking to myself how tired I was from the swim workout and that I had a choice to make at that moment. As I rode that spinning bike, I said aloud in a whisper, “I can choose to be weak or I can choose to be strong. I choose to be strong.” From that point on, there was no question I could do it. I made the commitment, and I wasn’t turning back.
Fast forward to September 2009, and I’ve just crossed the finish line with that coveted finisher’s medal hanging around my neck. My other friend in the hot tub that fateful winter’s night finished as well, and we embrace in a teary, sweaty celebration of our accomplishment. Family and friends surrounded me, and I felt a sense of satisfaction I hadn’t ever felt before. After 8 years of living just for my kids and my family, I had finally taken the time to set a goal and do something for myself. But just when I thought I was finished, I realized I was just beginning. Sure, the race was over, but the journey would continue with full force. After that first triathlon, I took some time to reflect on how my journey had changed me and how that new and improved person will evolve in the future. Little did I know that the future would hold a half ironman.
On September 11, 2011, exactly two years after my first sprint tri, I completed the Diamondman Half Ironman in Bear, Delaware. The significance of the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 weighed heavily in my heart during the moment of silence that overcast morning, but it took the form of a sincere feeling of gratitude, and how, in spite of all the changes in our world since that dreadful day, we cannot forget the importance of believing in our dreams. Even when I climbed that nasty Reedy Point Bridge for the second time on tired legs while yelling expletives the entire way to the top, I was still truly grateful for the opportunity to fulfill my dream. I used those 56 miles of the bike course as an opportunity to thank the troopers and local cops for their service and told them I had not forgotten. It was important to keep the race positive every step of the way, and this was one of the ways I maintained that positive energy.
That positivity, along with the confidence I gained from a fabulous 1.2 mile swim, carried me off my bike and onto the run course without any hesitation, except for the time it took to use the port-o-potty. The start of the 13.1 mile run is when your thoughts can either make or break you. There is a huge gaping window of opportunity for any doubt or fear or negativity to come rushing in at that moment. As I trained over the months before the race, I made sure to train my brain to suppress those undermining doubts that can creep up at the worst possible times. Completing a half ironman was the goal I set back in January of this year, and every race, every workout, and every weekend I didn’t indulge in appletinis, was aimed toward accomplishing that goal. At the point when the race was the hardest, the key was to relax and trust my training. Somehow it all came together and, just as I had hoped, I finished in 6 hours and 15 minutes with a great big smile on my face. Because of all that training and determination, the race was a positive, fulfilling experience for me. Now that it is over, I have been on a mission to thank everyone that helped me achieve that goal. Doctors, coaches, friends, my fellow club members, my wonderful family and especially my number one fan, my husband, all played a part in this accomplishment. Thank you all for your time, expertise, friendship, support, words of encouragement and inspiration.
Another new beginning…
As the 2011 race season draws to a close, I look back at what I’ve accomplished with pride and look to the future with excitement. Yes, of course I am toying with the idea of a full ironman someday, but life is so much more than swimming, biking and running. The key is to take that confidence and move forward with it in all aspects of our lives. We are triathletes because we believed we could do it, because we chose to be strong; just imagine what else we can do, and let’s go and get that, too.
The wisdom and strength we gain from our journey as athletes are not limited to the sport of triathlons. The lessons we learn are never ending and life changing. Without this piece, we’re just chasing pavement. Not only should we ask, “where do I want to go from here?”, but we must also reflect on where the journey is taking us. Answering those questions is all a part of the journey, too. But whatever way you answer, be sure to enjoy the ride with a great big smile.