“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
I have wanted to complete an Ironman since the first time I saw the World Championship televised many years ago. I always felt that this goal was out of my reach and have had some failures along the way that would suggest that my theory is true. Luckily, or unluckily for me, I am a very stubborn woman. Last year, I completed my first marathon which was the final of many checkmarks in my mind towards my goal of completing an Ironman (Marathon ACHIEVED: Roses and Sunshine vs. Death and Destruction). I loosely researched some of the closer races and settled on Ironman Louisville (mostly because of the “easier” swim). I was all set to register when my hip injury from the marathon seemed to reappear, putting my plans to register on hold until I was medically cleared. By the time I was medically cleared, my doubt had started to flare up.
Nevertheless, on June 24, 2018, I pulled out my computer and registered. I did it during a fit of confidence knowing that, once I pushed the button to register, failure was no longer an option. We won’t discuss what happened when the realization of what I had done hit me a couple days later…
Ironman is 90% mental and the other half physical.
Seventeen weeks into training, I am starting to believe that’s the truth. This journey has been full of countless hours in the pool, on the bike, out running, and even more hours lying in bed whining. I constantly post about my trials and tribulations on social media because social media has become the basis for my self-accountability. If I don’t post about workouts, people ask me about them and it keeps me in check and keeps me moving. But, social media also has me connected to people that are invested in my journey and are willing to lift me up when I can’t seem to lift myself up.
There are days that I am 100% sure I will finish the race…
… And there are days that it takes every ounce of my being to keep moving forward and I am 100% sure I will fail.
It is truly a constant back and forth in my brain and an even bigger back and forth in my heart. I have to check in with my “why” no less than 75 times a day. The mental and physical exhaustion I feel on a daily basis completely engulfs me and leaves me in a heap at times.
What is my why?
There is not just one why, there are many. I believe that the presence of multiple “whys” is purposeful in that, if one fails, another can pick up to fill its place. My whys are things that don’t require much brain power to remember so that, in those moments that my brain is scrambled, I won’t have to dig very deep for them.
My first “why” is a deeply personal one that is basic and super simple; I want to prove to myself that I can do this, that I AM AN IRONMAN. I have always been my biggest critic and my biggest doubter. The closer I get to the race, the more people ask how I’m feeling about it. My answer appears to be the same every time, “I know I have put in the work, so I am physically ready, but it will all be about how I handle my mental mess on race day.”
I have had tons of doubts coming into this journey, but as I have weaved my way through it, some of those doubts have fallen away. I truly wasn’t sure if I would be able to manage the training that comes with this journey in conjunction with life, work, and being a mom. Every day, I get up knowing exactly what needs to be done and I make a mental plan to accomplish it. This journey has taught me discipline that I wasn’t sure was something I was capable of, discipline that I know will be priceless on race day when things aren’t going right and all I want to do is give up. In those moments, I think about what brought me here and all that I have overcome on my way to that moment.
Another “why” is that I am doing this for those I have loved and lost that no longer walk this Earth. I have suffered deep losses throughout my life and I have turned those into driving forces to push me to be better. I think about my guardian angels often, but their memories often flood my mind and my heart when I am out there putting myself through intense suffering. I know that, at any given moment, they will be there for me to lean on.
The biggest and most important “why” is that I want to teach my children that ANYTHING is possible, as long as you put in the time and the effort. This journey is one of sacrifice and there is no one that feels it more than my two children. There are times that they want to do things or have wanted to go places and I can’t adjust my training schedule or I am just too tired to do it. They have been more than understanding of what I am trying to accomplish and the work that it will take to cross that finish line. They have been at my finish lines before and there is nothing like the joy that comes across their faces when they see me finish a big event. They are my biggest champions, my favorite spectators, and my reason to keep breathing.
As this journey is coming to a close, I am full of mixed emotions. My body is tired and just wants to sleep in late, to not have any more planned workouts, to ride easy for the sake of riding easy, to not do more intervals of any kind, and to just stop running for a week. But at the same time, this journey is teaching me about myself and what I am capable of. I am terrified of what happens the day after Ironman when there are no more workouts and no carrot hanging out in front of me anymore…
I have a little over three weeks until race day and I plan to cherish every workout, each moment of exhaustion, ache, and pain. All of the “suffering” I have endured with my friends has brought me infinity closer to them. They are a part of this and they are a HUGE part of my “why”… I will think about the mornings that I didn’t want to swim but went to the pool anyways. I will think about how they pushed me to go faster and faster in that water even when I feared I was about to drown. I will think about all the long, slow miles they have run with me even on days they didn’t have to run. I will think about all the miles out on the bike in the hot Florida sun. I will think about the days they dropped me out there but still waited at different points to cheer me and push me to keep going further and further. I will think about how the best thing they did for me out there was drop me even though I hated it. I will think about all the phone calls and texts about endless Ironman tips. I will think about nutrition test days. I will think about the well wishes. I will think about the tough love. I will think about when they believed in me even when I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I will think about how they have helped me shatter my self-doubt. Most of all, I will think about their love because, without it, I would not be 17 weeks into this brutal training. I have not broken yet and you can be for damn sure that race day won’t break me either.
Ironman Louisville, I’m coming for you!
”She was powerful, not because she wasn’t scared but because she went on so strongly, despite the fear.”
“The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.” ~Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon winner
The objective behind me running a standalone marathon was simple: I want to do a full Ironman so I needed to know that I could run a marathon.
I enlisted the help of a friend, Patrick, whom I knew had coached plenty of my amazing friends during their various athletic endeavors. I started running with the Two Rules Running group (www.tworulesrunning.com) on a regular basis and could see, pretty quickly, the improvements that I was making. As I mentioned in an earlier post, marathon training was stressful and physically/emotionally exhausting but, I was managing to follow the two rules of my running group… 1. Look Good. 2. Don’t die. Simple enough, right?
I was lucky enough to remain injury-free throughout my training but my journey was not without adversity. At the end of my 12th week of training, life threw me a curveball that I wasn’t sure I was going to get up from… A relationship that had become an integral part of my marathon journey ended in epic fashion. I found out that I had been cheated on and the news knocked me down physically and emotionally in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. The news and the experience sucked the life out of me and sapped me of my motivation to do much of anything. I was trapped in darkness that I didn’t feel I could escape and the last thing I wanted to do was get out of my bed, let alone go run anywhere.
I wanted to quit, I believed I was done. I told the people closest to me that I was done.
Thankfully, as I have said so many times prior to this and as I am sure I will say plenty more in the future, I have surrounded myself with some of the greatest people in the world and there was no way that they were going to let me get away with quitting. Not now, not ever. They did, however, let me get away with staying in bed for a couple days but that’s it. By Sunday afternoon, Leigh Ann forced me to get out of bed and go outside and send her a selfie while outside and Lavonne later showed up with her bike ready to go for a ride. We DID go ride and it was just what I needed; the ride and the cry on the side of the road in the middle of the ride. No one wanted to stop me from feeling what I felt; they kept encouraging the emotions while also gently pushing me forward.
I am a big believer in feeling your feelings. I believe that the only way to move through pain is to FEEL through the pain. The key, I believe, is to not allow yourself to get stuck in any part of the pain for too long. Obviously, this process is quite often easier said than done but it CAN be done. There were many days when I got stuck in the pain and I hid from the world allowing the circular negativity to go round and round in my head but there were plenty of days where I kept going and I kept running. Running is so very intensely mental for me and there were so many training runs that were filled with doubt and ended in tears. They ended in tears not because of anything that had happened on the run but more so because I expended so much mental energy running that there was no more energy left to keep my sadness at bay.
So I kept running and I kept crying and running and crying and running and crying some more. Sometimes even crying WHILE running.
My friends were never far away, in fact there were an overwhelming number of friends that offered and in turn joined me on my training runs during my last few weeks. No matter how much I wanted to retreat to my bike and call it a day, I kept running. I had a job to do and I was going to finish what I started.
The week after the proverbial shit hit the fan was supposed to be my heaviest training week and that weekend run was supposed to be the longest of my training, 22 miles. Three of my amazing friends (Ron, Kelsey, and Alice) joined me for some of this run; Alice for five miles, Kelsey for fourteen miles, and Ron for eighteen and a half miles. No matter what distance they each ran with me that day, they all left an amazing impact on me. They pushed me and kept me distracted so that I wasn’t stuck in that mental space where doubt lives. We didn’t talk about the break up and no one asked how I was doing, we talked about completely random things and we laughed a lot. Most importantly, although not on purpose, they left me to run the last three and a half miles alone. I needed those miles alone because I needed to push myself through that point where I was exhausted so that I wouldn’t give up. In fact, not only did I not give up but I pushed myself to run faster and I felt a sense of happiness creep in. It was at this very moment that I realized that no one, NO ONE, was going to take this away from me.
This was MY journey and MY sacrifices and there was no one in the world that was worth me giving up on anything, EVER. He didn’t get to take this from me. I didn’t get to give it to him to take.
I felt renewed, not necessarily happy, but I felt a renewed drive to run the marathon and accomplish a goal that I had only dreamed of accomplishing before. I won’t lie and say that everything went back to normal after my realization because that would be complete bullshit. I continued to run, I still cried, and I still doubted my ability to accomplish my goal but I knew that I wasn’t going to give up (a tiny detail that I didn’t realize was going to come in super handy on race day). I kept channeling my inner Wonder Woman and I kept training hard.
The last three weeks of training were a blur but what I can tell you is that they were full of lots of running and fear and doubt and then some more running on top of that. A little over a week before the race I received an email saying that we were able to pull up our bib numbers so I excitedly searched for it, it was 407. It wasn’t until a little while later that I realized the significance of that number, maybe it was weird coincidence or maybe it wasn’t coincidence at all and just some strange continuation of my “fun” relationship with the universe. You see, 407 is the area code for Orlando which was where my recent ex-boyfriend was from and also the city in which we met. I went straight to the universe conspiracy theory belief but one of my wonderful friends, Tammy, gave me this advice instead… “He was a big part of the journey and now this is the last piece. You will wear that number, you will run with everything you have, and you will leave everything about that relationship out on that course that day.” It appeared that having 407 as my bib number was, in fact, kismet.
Kismet (n): destiny; fate
I drove down to Miami two days before the race and must’ve gone through my mental packing list at least 7754 times before getting on the road but still managed to forget something that I had to go back home for. The five hour drive down south just served to make me incessantly think about my race plan and the 16 week journey that I had just gone through. I honestly couldn’t believe that the journey would be “over” in just two days.
The day before the race, I went to the expo to pick up my packet and the “realness” of everything finally started to set in and panic wasn’t far behind. I did all the normal pre-race stuff; I laid out Flat Beca, attached my Valentine’s card from Jimmy (my guardian angel) that goes with me to every big event to the back of my bib number, affixed my bib number to my shirt, set out all the nutrition I was going to bring with me, and charged my watch. I sat down and started reflecting on all the work I had put in during the 16 week journey…
Over 506 miles run during 86+ hours of running and countless new relationships forged.
So much of this journey had included so many amazing people but race day was going to be all about me, I would be toeing that line all by myself. I only had to overcome my own fear and doubt to finish the final 26.2 miles of my marathon journey. It would be my biggest test of endurance thus far and was sure to be one of my sweetest victories to date. I had trouble falling asleep the night before the race which I knew was completely normal but I was able to at least get a few hours of rest.
January 29, 2017, Race Day Report:
I woke up at 2:45am to the sound of howling wind and pouring rain. I pulled out my phone and checked the weather; temperature in the mid 50s, 10+mph wind, and LOTS of rain coming. I was overcome by panic. All I wanted was to get back under the covers and wish the day away but that wasn’t really an option… I had come too far to give up now. I started getting ready and was inundated by thoughts of everything that had happened over the last month, the anger and sadness I was feeling was truly overwhelming. My brain felt like it was trapped in a vice and I was focused on a dark cloud of doubt, fear, and negativity. I had a “come to Jesus” with myself and yanked at the mental reins. I pulled out my phone and looked at all the awesome texts, messages, and Facebook posts that my friends and family had taken the time to send. I started to focus in on all the love and light that I am surrounded by and I knew that, no matter what happened today, I had more than enough to be thankful for. I am a lucky woman and I had everything I needed to push through this day no matter what challenges came up.
I bundled up and headed out at 4:00am to ride the Metrorail surrounded by tons of fellow runners. I focused on my race plan that would hopefully get me my desired 4:15:00 and read all the positive messages over and over. Once I got downtown, I headed straight towards gear check where I handed over my warm pants and phone. The thought of not having a phone and taking 9657 start line pictures was a weird feeling; it had been a long time since I had been that disconnected from the world. I realized right away that it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be which made me feel better about the day ahead; all that cold weather training was paying off. I made my way to corral C and tried to take in as much of the start line experience that I could focus on. 6:00am came quicker than I expected it to and by approximately 6:05am my 26.2 mile journey began.
The first challenge of the day was the MacArthur Causeway Bridge where there were walking people to dodge, a steep incline to forge over, and a cold wind to contend with. Luckily at the top there were awesome guys playing the bagpipes to greet us which kept me smiling. People were flying past me but I kept reminding myself that the majority of people were doing the half marathon and I just needed to make sure to run my race and not theirs.
Somewhere between mile 2 and 3 I heard someone scream something about Team Chocolate Milk and I looked over and saw a woman that I had been standing near in my starting corral who was wearing a Team Chocolate Milk shirt. She was right ahead and to the left of me so I quickly crept over until I was right behind her. I thought about just creepily running behind her and pacing off of her but then I got to thinking about how lonely the race was already feeling without all my awesome running community friends so I decided to say hi. I asked her what her goal time was and she responded with 4 hours and then asked mine. When I told her my goal time she quickly responded that she wouldn’t mind running with me because she wasn’t really dead set on making her 4 hour goal. We introduced ourselves as we continued to talk and get to know each other. Jill was a very unassuming woman and you never would’ve guessed the extent of her badassery simply by meeting her. As we continued to talk, I knew that I was in the company of a BEAST (12 Ironman finishes and multiple Boston marathons)! I had somehow, randomly (or not so random at all) picked the right marathon buddy who would help me accomplish something I had never before done. Meeting Jill was truly my saving grace…
I was feeling pretty good, staying relatively warm, and keeping a pretty steady pace until the rain started at about mile 5. My hands instantly froze and it was nearly impossible to bend my fingers but we kept moving and running. At about mile 6 or so, I stopped to use the port-o-potty which seemed like an impossible feat given my frozen fingers and it felt like I was losing too much time in the endeavor. As soon as we started running again I finally met “the gorilla” I had heard so much discussion about. I hadn’t had any issues with my gracilis muscle through training but I knew from what others described, that was precisely what was hurting me. Jill asked if I need to slow and I said “not at all, I’ll be fine.” I had learned to run through pain in the last 16 weeks and pain wasn’t going to be what stopped me today. Jill told me that she was running to my pace so if I needed to slow down at any point that I should let her know. I told her that she wasn’t allowed to let me get away with wanting to slow down or stop. She agreed to my terms and we kept running and kept talking. I thought back to my 16 mile training run with my friend, Cat, and how we talked for the whole beginning and how I had paid for it at the end of that run and I knew today was going to be the same but I was enjoying the company and the conversation way too much.
Miles 7-14 were pretty uneventful other than stopping for a moment for Jill to grab water and swallow down a gu and for me to fight to get ibuprofen out of a baggie with frozen fingers (I considered swallowing the baggie too when I couldn’t get them out). I believe there was also another potty break in here somewhere during which I was again painfully aware of losing precious minutes. The continuous rain and cold wind was playing tricks on me and making me believe that I HAD to pee when I really didn’t have to at all… Mile 12.5 also saw with it the turn off of all the half marathoners and where the rest of our race really began.
We kept trucking along and continued to talk about race experiences and our running/triathlete friends. At mile 17, we both rejoiced in finally having the remainder of the day measured in single digits. We were still holding a pretty decent pace but I knew that my goal of 4:15:00 was all but lost thanks to the multiple potty breaks and the brutal weather we were being forced to endure. Mile 17 also brought with it one of my favorite encounters along the course… I have yet to decide if the guy was schizophrenic or had dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) but what I can tell you was that his conversations back and forth about himself and yelling at himself about how he was going to finish the race and had what it took to finish the race (in different voices and with LOTS of F bombs, I may add) were simply amazing. Like I said to Jill, they say you have to be crazy to run a marathon and here was clear proof of that!
I was starting to mentally struggle around mile 18 and I kept reminding myself that despite what I was thinking, my body was more than capable of finishing the race and finishing it strong. I kept reminding myself that the doubt was all in my head and I just needed to keep moving my feet. Jill was still talking to me and telling me stories but I was significantly less responsive at this point. I told her that I was probably not going to talk much from that point forward to which she said that she was planning to keep talking, for which I was very thankful. Mile 18.5 brought my high school friend, Lauren, with it and as soon as she screamed my name, something brightened inside me and I got another wind that made me realize that I was definitely going to finish the race. I smiled at her, waved for her picture, shouted that I loved her, took one last look at her friendly face, and kept moving.
Miles 19-22 are mostly a blur. Jill kept talking which kept me distracted off of hitting any kind of wall, my calves were cramping to holy hell, the physical pain was overwhelming, and there was another unnecessary potty break but we kept moving. I believe in here is when I told her that “I loved that she was all roses and sunshine while I was all death and destruction.” We both got a good laugh out of that one and thankfully she kept bringing the sunshine because Miami clearly wasn’t planning to offer any today. I felt like I was starting to fade and I crammed Gu chews in my mouth as well as some Jelly Belly sport beans. I made sure to grab water often from the awesome volunteers but made sure there was no stopping unless it was for the bathroom. There would be no walking today. Jill did try to tell me that if we kicked it into high gear for the last 5k then I still had a chance to make my goal but at that point, I was just hanging on for dear life by a tiny thread that was dangling over a pit of brimstone and fire. I sloughed off the 5k kick idea and told her that maybe we could kick it with 2 miles left. This segment also brought “Joe” with it… Joe was a hand cyclist doing the marathon and while I was really happy for Joe and what he was trying to accomplish, I really wanted to kill Joe. Joe had a regular cyclist with him and his cyclist was warning people that Joe was there except that Joe was so busy zig zagging that we honestly couldn’t tell where Joe was going to be from one second to the next. This was so stressful and I was burning entirely too much energy on worrying about being run over. At one point, Jill yelled to me to jump up onto the grass because Joe was aiming right for us. We both jumped on to the curb in the nick of time to avoid getting run down by Joe. Thankfully there was a hill ahead and we were finally able to shake free from Joe for the last time.
Miles 23-25 were on the beginning portion of the Rickenbacker Causeway towards Key Biscayne with a turnaround under the bridge. There were more inclines on this bridge and while I was super thankful for all of my hill training it seemed like even the slightest road incline might as well have been as steep as a damn mountain. All I wanted was to be done, to not be wet anymore, to be warm, to stop hurting, to FUCKING STOP RUNNING. Jill had other ideas for me at mile 24 when she started speeding up and told me to keep chasing her and not give up. I just wanted it all to stop. I wanted to lie down and die. Instead, I kept running… I kept chasing the proverbial rabbit. Our pace picked up and somewhere between mile 25-26 I heard my other high school friend, Gus, yell out my name. I looked over and saw his face, but couldn’t muster even a smile because I was so focused on keeping up with Jill and on how bad I felt.
I FINALLY saw the 26th mile marker and I knew it was so close to being over. She yelled back that the finish line was right around the next corner but I was entirely too tired to be elated. I was so excited to turn that corner right up until I turned it and saw the last thing on earth I could ever want to see at that point, ANOTHER FUCKING DRAWBRIDGE WITH MORE WET DRAWBRIDGE GRATES. Why?!?!?! Why did the race coordinators hate me? I yelled to Jill that I couldn’t go anymore and she assured me that I could and that it was almost over. I dug deep and pushed with every last ounce I had. As I came through the last leg towards the finish line I heard the best word I have ever heard in my life “MOMMY!” I turned and saw my kids and my parents. I wanted to run to them and collapse on them but I was sooooo close and I couldn’t slow down. I threw my arms up and finished like a champ. I was finally done.
I crossed that line, hugged Jill, and then instantly wanted to collapse on to the ground but she held me up. She held me up just as she had done for so much of the race. We walked through the finisher area, got our medals, got water and Gatorade which I couldn’t drink, got food which I could eat none of, and took pictures. The minute I came across the finish line I felt every pain that I had forced out of my mind and felt 9000x colder. My legs could barely hold me up and my body was shaking uncontrollably but I had finished and I had followed the 2 rules… I looked good (kinda) and I didn’t die (though I really really wanted to).
I am truly humbled by the love and support that I got from my family and friends on marathon day and every other day of my life. I cannot thank my parents, kids, Steve, Lauren, and Gus enough for braving the cold and rain to be out there supporting me and cheering me on. I could not have done this without their love and cheers pushing me forward. Both my father and teenage son took turns being my human canes to get me from point A to point B while I essentially dragged my leg around everywhere we went after the race. Steve took off my wet shoes and socks for me and replaced them with dry shoes (and, c’mon, who wants to be that close to my feet!). When I mentioned this to him, he simply replied “I’ve been there before and I know how you felt after you finished the race. It was the least I could do.” My celebration was their celebration and my pain was their pain.
I was truly overwhelmed when I opened my phone and saw my Facebook and texts INUNDATED with well wishes from SO SO MANY people. I literally laid in a bath of hot water and Epsom salt for an hour after getting home reading it all and crying joyful tears. It is hard to convey the gratitude and happiness I felt towards every single person that has been a part of this journey, no matter how small. So many people reached out after my break up just simply to ask if I was ok, if I needed anything, to just tell me they cared about me… My core training partners, Caroline and Zac, kept pushing me and kept making me laugh even when I really didn’t want to anymore. My running community rallied around me in ways that I have never before witnessed. I am thankful and so humbled by it all.
I went to Miami to run my first marathon in my hometown and that is precisely what I did. Official finish time: 4:23:47 @ 10:04/mile pace. I didn’t do it as fast as I intended to but I overcame plenty of adversity to get to that start line and it was only right that I should overcome plenty more to cross the finish line.
It has taken me a while to gather my thoughts and sit down to write this post; I am a little over a month removed from the marathon. Unfortunately, I am still healing from whatever I did to my leg during the marathon so I have been unable to run since then. It’s funny that with as much as I whined about running during my training, all I want to do now is go out for a run. I know that my desire to run comes mainly from the fact that I just can’t right now and I don’t do well with being injured. Life has taken a lot of twists and turns since marathon day and training has really been my outlet for dealing with life the last few years so it is hard to be without it. Fortunately, I CAN still ride but the short winter days often make riding a hard feat to accomplish during the week.
My marathon journey changed me as a person in so many ways that it is really hard to pinpoint all the lessons that I learned. And, even thinking about it now, I am not sure if it changed me as much as it reinforced things that I already knew about myself or brought other things to the surface of my life that I had forgotten about. I am completely grateful for the experience, all of it. I am grateful for the easy days, the hard days, and everything in between.
I walked up to that start line alone and finished it next to a new friend who will forever be etched in my memories. I had every intention to run the race alone that day and had somewhat mentally prepared myself for the feat that it would be to get through the day by myself with only my thoughts to keep me company. I will be forever grateful that God put Jill in my path and pushed me to say hello. I honestly believe that, given the crazy weather conditions, there is no way that I would’ve done as good as I did without her constant motivation, distraction, and support. Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve finished because I don’t quit, but it wouldn’t have been quite as close to my goal as I got.
I walked up to the start line with a lot of emotional baggage and I finished an infinitely lighter person. I took Tammy’s advice and I left everything on the course that day. I didn’t realize this right away, though, this lesson took some time afterwards to realize but I can definitely look back today and see how I changed on January 29, 2017. I am a strong woman with an incredible drive to push through adversity like a bull in a china shop but during the four weeks leading up to race day, I gave my power to someone else and I accepted much less than what I deserved to receive.
Race day taught me that sometimes you have to let go of things to achieve bigger, better things. Sometimes you have to change your focus in order to move in the direction you want to move in. The simplest way to describe this lesson is: If I had given into the pain that I felt at mile 6, I would’ve given up and not crossed that finish line. Instead, I refocused my mind on to other things and I kept moving despite AND in spite of the physical pain to accomplish my goal. The pain did not disappear, I simply allowed myself to move PAST it. To many people, this may seem like a really stupid thing to do but, to me, it means that sometimes we have to let go of the pain in order to get to where we want to go. Our bodies will do what our minds tell them to, it is often our mind that fails us well before our bodies do.
I registered for the 15th Miami Marathon to achieve something that I had only once dreamed of, to know that I could run 26.2 miles, to become a marathoner. I became a marathoner that day but I also became a better person.
“Like the marathon, life can sometimes be difficult, challenging and present obstacles, however if you believe in your dreams and never ever give up, things will turn out for the best.” ~Meb Keflezighi
While I needed to allow myself to feel my emotional pain during those last few weeks leading up to race day, I also needed to decide that I was done feeling the pain. I needed to stop holding on to the pain and the feeling of loss for what I believed could’ve been. I needed to refocus myself on to what is and everything that my life was at that very moment in time. I needed to move out of the bad and into the good. I needed to let go. I needed to ALLOW myself to move PAST it. I needed to greet the pain one more time, say hello, and then say goodbye. And, I did that just as soon as I realized that I had left it all out on those dreary, rainy, cold Miami roads.
A few years ago I learned an important lesson about forgiveness which I had since let fade to the back of my mind. Forgiveness isn’t always about excusing what was done to us; sometimes it is about forgiving ourselves for allowing ourselves to be in whatever situation we have found ourselves in. For the second time in my life, I had almost let someone steal my thunder. I am a firm believer that something cannot be taken from us unless we, ourselves, allow it to be taken. In this situation, he could not steal my thunder unless I was willing to let him have it. I almost gave it away, almost… In the end, I had my come to Jesus with myself on race day morning and several more along my 26.2 mile run. I had to forgive myself for allowing myself to remain stuck in the emotional pain so that I could move out of the pain, so that I could enjoy the moment that I was living in on that glorious day. I could not have both the emotional pain of the loss and the joy of my accomplishment, I had to choose. I chose to bask in the glory of crossing that finish line. I chose me. I chose happiness.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore” ~Andre Gide
One day until I walk up to the start line of my very first marathon EVER.
Seems like just yesterday that it was sixteen weeks away…
So much has changed in my life over the course of the last sixteen weeks. I have changed so much over the last sixteen weeks. I know there’s some sort of crazy life growth lesson in here that has happened in this process that I should totally be referencing right now but I can’t see it because I’m way too focused on panic and imminent doom. (Thinking about panic and imminent doom totally makes me laugh but kind of a crazy person heckle kind of laugh.) Besides, I am pretty sure that I will have more than enough time to think about all the important life lessons when I am cruising along on Sunday.
There is so much information flowing in and out of my brain at the moment that it is hard for me to focus on anything let alone what I have learned in this process or even thinking about what my actual race plan is… I am lucky to have wonderful friends willing to help me come up with a plan and a wonderful coach that basically made it simple and just said DO THIS and gave me my plan. My head is definitely not in a place where it can handle wiggle room… I need to live in absolutes right now. I need other people to make decisions for me so that I don’t have to think.
I have experienced this sensation multiple times before big events but it doesn’t seem to really get easier over time and I certainly haven’t gotten used to the uneasy feeling that is currently living in the pit of my stomach.
I am a big believer in the power of visualization so I have been trying to visualize my race as much as my super ADHD brain will allow me to. Focusing on visualizing this race reminds me of when I did Assault on Mt. Mitchell and how heavily I relied on visualization when I started to feel like I could no longer keep going. I am reminded of a mantra that I used during that century ride, “breathe in confidence, breathe out doubt.” I can already tell that I will be using the hell out of that mantra during my marathon.
I know that I have put in the training to be physically ready for this race but now I have to actively work to drown out those pesky self-doubt thoughts that always love to creep into my head. Now the marathon becomes a mental race instead of a physical one. It helps that I have so many people in my life that are constantly reminding me that I am ready and that I am going to do great. I. Just. Have. To. Keep. Reminding. Myself.
Physical plan: Finish in 4:15:00 at a 9:40 min/mi pace Mental plan: Breathe in confidence, breathe out doubt. One foot in front of the other. Just keep moving. Soak in the experience. And, most importantly, HAVE FUN!
See you on the flip side blog world! Hopefully with a whole lot more insightful stuff to say…
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
“Life is found in the dance between your deepest desire and your greatest fear. ~Tony Robbins”
The road is my home.
The road is where I belong.
The road is where solace, peace, and understanding live.
The road is uncomplicated; its twists, turns, and obstacles are marked.
The road is complicatingly uncomplicated.
Life is complicated.
As uncomplicated as you strive to make life, complication always appears.
Life’s twists and turns are not marked; sometimes these objects are closer than they appear.
Life is complicatingly complicated.
As much as I run from complication, I continue to find myself nestled right in its arms.
So I turn to the road…
I visit the road to escape from life.
I visit the road to escape complication.
I visit the road to find solace, peace, and understanding.
I visit the road to tire my brain, to exhaust my heart, to close my eyes, to simply “be.”
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” ~Satchel Paige
A couple weeks after doing Ironman 70.3 Florida (which I have yet to blog about) I got injured playing kickball. Kickball… Not one of the bagillion asinine other things that I do on a daily basis, I got hurt playing an elementary school sport. I went to the orthopedic clinic the next day and the diagnosis sucked just as bad as the pain in my foot. “It’s most likely a stress fracture but no way to tell for sure without an MRI.” This was quickly followed up with, “you’ll have to wear walking boot which means no swimming, cycling, or running for a while.”
Excuse me. No what?
To say the time in the boot sucked would be the understatement of the year… I had to pass my bike in the living room every day, multiple times a day, and it looked so sad just sitting there. I tried to follow the doctor’s plan as much as I could but I did throw in a ride, just to see if I could.
When I went back to the doctor, just shy of a month later, he cleared me to wean out of the boot, start riding/swimming again, and slowly start running again as well. ‘Wean out of the boot,’ to me, meant the boot was completely done. I went right back into riding with no issue but running was a different story…
When I finally started running again, I could tell that I had lost a lot of the run endurance that I had built up through my Ironman 70.3 training. Not only had I lost the endurance but my foot would burn while I ran making it that much harder to go faster and further. After several runs, I decided that this was probably going to be my ‘new normal.’ My age was catching up to me. I was starting to feel old. I felt like my body was starting to betray me. I hate getting old. When I turned 21, I was ready to stop counting. Unfortunately, that’s just not how life works.
Friends and family kept asking me what I was training for next, what races were on my calendar… I had no answer for that question because I had no clue. My body felt off and weak but I knew I needed something… I needed something to push towards. I needed something to make me believe again. I needed something to help me stop feeling broken.
Injuries steal something from you; not just endurance, muscle mass, or other physical stuff. Injuries emotionally rob you too. Injuries make you begin to doubt your body’s ability to be pushed to the brink because injuries are a stark reminder that there actually is a limit to what your body can take. They remind you that, even if you make it through training for crazy events injury-free, it is something small and unexpected that can sweep the rug from under your feet and knock you down.
On Thursday, June 16 I decided to go to a 4 mile group run with some friends that starts from a local beer/wine shop called Tipples Brews. It was the third Thursday so they bring out the race clock, which means I would inevitably be pushing harder than normal because I always want to ‘beat’ the clock. And pushing myself to the brink is exactly what I did… I took off near the front of the pack right behind a friend that I know likes to push her pace which makes me push right behind her. My foot started to burn around mile 2 but I wasn’t ready to back off so I kept pushing. Somewhere between mile 2 and 3 she got further and further away as she pushed her pace more but I kept steady to mine. Mile 3 was brutal but I dug deep and ended up finishing the 4 miles in 34:08 (8:32min/mile). I was on an emotional high from a great pace coupled with having had a couple ciders when I decided to give myself a seemingly impossible challenge to achieve…
I was going to ride 370 miles in 7 days.
Why 370 miles and why in 7 days? You see, a couple hours before the group run I realized that it was my last Thursday of being 36 years old. I knew the way the rest of the week was going to go already… Every day I was going to wake up and have the same conversation with myself, “Oh my God, it’s the last Friday… Saturday… Sunday… Monday… Tuesday… Wednesday…”
I didn’t want to do it; I needed to change the story in my mind. My M.O. tends to be that whenever I need to change the story in my mind, I dream up some outrageous thing to strive towards, something that will take up my time and distract me from whatever negativity needs to be avoided. I knew there was no way that I was going to run 37 miles on my birthday and riding 37 miles would be nothing big. I needed something bigger, something crazy. So that’s what I did… I gave myself a crazy challenge to pull my focus away from feeling weak, away from thinking about the upcoming change of my age number…
I had no plan and definitely no clue on how exactly I was going to achieve this goal but I knew that I needed to feel as if someone was going to hold me accountable towards completing it. I went to social media and shouted from the rooftops that this was my goal. I knew that, if I put it out into the universe, there was no room for failure. Then all I had to do was start riding…
And ride I did… Rolling into the weekend, I knew I had to ride big miles because I still had to work full time and take care of a pair of kids while trying to achieve this monstrous goal. I was reminded of a question someone once asked me while we were facing a seemingly impossible task at work, “Do you know the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I didn’t think about the bigger goal, I broke it down and focused on smaller goals and each individual ride I was doing. I stayed in the present and quit worrying about everything on the peripheral.
The days went something like this:
Day 1: 100 miles total for the day. 6 rides: 33.5 miles, 10.06 miles, 10.55 miles, 26.23 miles, 4.17 miles, 16.11 miles
Day 2: 70 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 56.14 miles, 14.22 miles
Day 3: 72 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 52.18 miles, 20.18 miles
Day 4: 48 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 28.12 miles, 20.34 miles
Day 5: 43 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 23.26 miles, 20.20 miles
Day 6: Rest day, yay!
Day 7: MY BIRTHDAY!! 1 Ride, 37 miles in honor of turning 37!! Plus I threw in a brick run with my boys just because J
Total riding time: 23:00:34 at an average pace of 16.1mph
Deep down, I knew this goal was about more than just getting it done… It was about reflecting on the current state of my life and the past 37 years. I have consistently written about the peace that I feel when I am riding, even on the especially tough days. Riding is my happy place. Riding is the place where I hash out my life and these 370 miles were no different. I learned new lessons and was reminded of old lessons while out of the road over these 7 days.
Anything is possible. Not only is this the motto for Ironman but it is the damn truth. Anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you work hard to get to where you want to be. Life really is mind over matter; as long as you believe, you can achieve. There are so many more clichés that I could throw in right here because they are all so very true. There were moments where I doubted myself but those were far outweighed by the moments where I knew I would not allow myself to fail. I don’t like failing and I certainly wasn’t going to fail at my own self-imposed birthday goal.
This year had more gains than losses. This past year had been one of growth and learning, it brought with it a lot of losses but even more gains. I needed the time out there on the open road to put that into perspective. While the losses were significant, the gains were exponentially larger.Training for Ironman 70.3 brought with it an entire new foundation of friends; I gained a new support network. Whether my new friends were runners, cyclists, or triathletes, they accepted me with open arms. The amazing thing about these wonderful humans? Once you met one, you were instantly linked to 10 more. It was truly as if I had known them for years. They were ready to push and challenge me around every corner, never allowing me to give up. The time and effort that all these wonderful people put into themselves and everyone around them is a thing of beauty, everyone wants to help everyone and everyone is a family. Thank you to each and every one of them for entering into my life at the most opportune moment.
A special thanks to Caroline, one of my newest pals, who came through to help me suffer on two of my fifteen rides on this journey. I won’t even begin to talk about all the texts she sent me pushing me to roll out of bed and keep moving towards my goal. Thank you. Thank you from the depths of my soul. You were my champion this week and will forever be a true friend. Things like this are what make people who were once strangers become friends and eventually even family.
This past year also brought with it a change of employment. It was not a change that I was ready for but it was definitely a change that, in hindsight, was much needed. I had been at my previous job for 6 years and the stress levels were crazy high there. My new job is much more relaxed and is a semi-vaca from clinical work which is a very welcome change. I have great coworkers that constantly have me laughing and have brought another layer of wonderfulness to my already charmed life.
Even a glorious failure can be an immense success. I won’t get deep into this because it will be delved into much deeper in a later post (hopefully). The gist of this is that sometimes what one person calls a failure is actually a success. And, sometimes you need some “failures” to propel you towards an even bigger success. I am so proud of everything I have accomplished this year, whether it be a glorious failure or a resounding success, I am proud of it all. I think this Robert Louis Stevenson quote about sums it up, “Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits.”
I am such a lucky girl. Anytime that I feel myself slip into sadness all I have to do is take a step back and look around me. I am surrounded by so much love, friendship, and family. I have so many friends in my life that have been there for years upon years. It has to say something about a person if they can rattle out the names of so many friends they have had for 10+ years, not to mention the two best friends that have been in my life for 29+ years each!! I may not have a “partner” to walk through life with yet but I have so many wonderful friends that are there precisely at the moments when I need them most, some before I even realize that I need them at all.I can honestly say that I don’t think I ever take my wonderful friends for granted but I do believe that, sometimes when we allow ourselves to wallow in whatever pain has overcome us, we forget the things/people we have directly in front of us. Sometimes we let the pain take over and steal our joy. I am trying to do a better job with moving myself through pain by reminding myself of all the goodness in my life. Sometimes this works and sometimes I fail at it but, like I said earlier, even failure at something can be a grand success in the long run. Sometimes we need to just feel the pain before we can move through. Continuing to focus on the positive of all the things I DO have is definitely a goal for my next year.
Being single ain’t so bad. I love love. I love being in love. I love having a person. But, I have been loving being single and immersing myself in training. I have learned that I don’t need to have someone in my life; I don’t need to be in a relationship with anyone but myself. This has been an interesting lesson for me since I have been so used to being in relationships. I am such a social person that being alone in itself used to be painful. Through my few years of cycling, I learned how to be alone. I learned how to be alone and ok with my thoughts and myself. This year was different because I wasn’t only alone out on the road; I was alone when I came home too. These 370 miles were a reminder of what I already knew… Being alone is ok. Furthermore, being alone isn’t just ok, it’s wonderful. I get to do what I choose to do, train when I want to train, I get to dictate my own life (when my kids aren’t doing that, obviously). I get to be the master of my own peace, something which I didn’t even realize until this year. I am open to the idea of someone coming into my life but, until that happens, I am happy and ok being alone.
I am NOT broken. Age is just a number. Everything happens for a reason. I am pretty sure this speaks for itself given the ridiculous goal I achieved. Getting injured wasn’t the end of the road for me, I got to heal and keep going. I may not understand the reason behind why I got hurt, no one ever wants to get hurt, but it happened for a reason. Maybe the reason was to propel me to set this goal and smash it so that I could see that getting old doesn’t mean that I will be worth any less than the younger person at the start line next to me. I have to push harder to fight the aging process but that’s a challenge that I am totally willing to accept. Bring it on life!
I believe there are probably tons of lessons that I am forgetting at this precise moment but these six were by far the most important of this experience. I am sure that they will come to me later on and then I will get to mold them into their very own blog post. For now, though, these are enough.
Life is going to keep coming and there is nothing that I or anybody else can do to slow it down. I might have to live life on life’s terms but you better believe that I will be trying to control those terms as much as is humanly possible. I truly can’t wait to see what the next 37 years brings with it! Who knows… maybe there will even be a RAAM ride in there somewhere (Ride Across America, check it out!)
But… when fear sneaks in through the window that you forgot you left cracked open it has the ability to infiltrate every single corner of your mind.
I equate it to having a flea problem in your house… you can wash everything, spray your house, and treat your pets but somehow fleas always seem to appear here or there from time to time.
“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear.” – Gandhi
Fear can paralyze you, it can make you believe that you are incapable of doing something that you are certainly capable of doing. Fear can negate days, months, years, or even a lifetime of hard work.
So, when fear sneaks in, what do we do? Where do we go? How do we overcome?
I battle these questions EVERY TIME I enter the pool.
I have an intense fear of drowning but even bigger than that is the intense fear I have of not being good at something, of failing at something.
I want to be an Ironman probably more that I could ever adequately express in words. I can’t even tell you why I want it so bad, I just know that I do. One might think this desire would far outweigh any fear that might enter my mind… But, alas, it does not.
Whenever I am getting ready to go swim my anxiety levels begin to rise… My heart rate starts to increase, my breathing becomes irregular, and my thoughts start to race. I start to make bargains with myself about how much I am going to swim. When I get in the pool, all my symptoms become that much worse. When I go underwater, the panic becomes palpable. I start to feel as if I am going to run out of breath, like I have forgotten how to do what I have to do. I find myself stopping after every lap to catch my breath, to give myself a pep talk, to convince myself to keep going.
Swimming is my Achilles heel.
But, sometimes, there is this strange thing that happens while I am swimming… Sometimes when I am swimming there is a strange sense of peace that comes over me. The panic falls away, I feel calm, I do what I have to do without overthinking it… It actually feels natural.
So, when fear sneaks in, what do I do? Where do I go? How do I overcome?
I keep going. I keep pushing. I go to that place within my heart, within my soul, where my confidence and drive live. The place where I know that I can conquer the world and anything that comes between me achieving my dreams. I overcome by pushing past the fear and continuing to get in the pool until swimming becomes second nature to me because…
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.”
I often talk to my clients about comfort being the enemy of change. I find myself reminding them that if they are comfortable in my office during therapy, they probably aren’t doing the hard work necessary to achieve the positive change they want.
It’s strange how the lessons we most often teach others are the ones we tend to forget when it comes to our own lives.
I wouldn’t say that I have been “comfortable” in my life by any means but I think it’s safe to say that I have found a place where the discomfort I feel has become routine and comfortable in its own right. I have definitely become complacent. I have found myself putting things off that I have dreamed of in order to keep living my “routine” life.
Life has a way of shaking things up, usually when you least expect it. I have found that when the universe decides to upend my life, I tend to make big decisions and big changes. Most people would probably steer clear of making big decisions during rough patches but I find that they bring me solace and a goal to work towards so that I don’t get swallowed up by whatever nonsense is going on.
Recently, I once again found myself at a crossroads in my life… Change or stay where it was “comfortable”
Most people that know me or have read my first couple blog posts know that my love of cycling was born from a disastrous break up and that the strength I had to persevere to the top of Mt. Mitchell came from the sudden death of someone very close to me. Now, at this tough juncture in my life, I have made yet another decision… To chase my Ironman dreams.
I found myself in bed for 24 hours on Labor Day, an emotional wreck. I could not even muster the strength to go ride which I knew was a very bad thing for me. The next day, I knew that I had to do something or the hole would just grow and end up swallowing me whole. I made a decision, a very scary decision for me…
I have dreamt of doing an Ironman from the first moment I learned of its existence. Back then I was not a cyclist, probably couldn’t have run around the block, and certainly wouldn’t be caught swimming with any type of “form” other than that which resembles how a dog would swim and, yet, I still vowed to one day cross that finish line and be announced as an Ironman. I made that promise to myself a long time ago when I had a much younger body…
I have since been living life while still holding that dream in the back of my head. Three years ago, I completed a sprint triathlon but came very close to drowning during it. I have an intense fear of drowning most of which I know is mental but is quite real to me nonetheless. My fear of drowning coupled with my complete disdain of running had made it very easy to avoid considering what it would take to be an Ironman finisher. Until September 8, 2015 that is…
I knew that I needed something big to move me, to motivate me, to lift me up…
I researched the Miami Half Ironman and reached out to a close friend who used to swim competitively as well as used to coach swimming. Every fiber in my body told me that it was time… I made the decision to actively begin training for the Miami Half Ironman in 2016.
Since I began actively training for this crazy big dream, I’ve become more comfortable swimming (I don’t panic as much) and I have become a better runner. I even registered myself for the Miami Half Marathon on January 24, 2016 to give me something to work towards in the meantime.
I can feel a change happening within me…
I can even honestly say that I have developed a love for running that I never would’ve thought would happen. I can’t say that I love swimming just yet but I do believe my biggest personal growth has come from becoming better at that discipline. It is quite an amazing thing to feel as if you are overcoming a fear, overcoming something that you never thought you would overcome, and actually feeling like you are kind of good at doing it.
My first love is and will always be cycling but I am learning that I have room in my life, and can make space for, other things too.
Even within my love of cycling there are areas of discomfort which I try to avoid such as riding in groups… I recently conquered this area of discomfort by stepping out of my comfort zone and venturing out to do a big ride without my coach. I finished my first century ride in which I didn’t have him (my friend, my lucky charm) by my side. I was terrified of not having him with me to coach me and lead me. I was able to conquer my fears and actually joined a few groups of strangers on the ride, I got dropped by the first group before ending up with the group that I stayed with to finish out the last 50 miles. I was even able to make a few friends on this journey and look forward to expanding my horizons even in the sport that I love so much.
Life really is full of twists and turns and sometimes you have no choice but to roll with the punches. But there are other times where change is necessary, you have to make yourself uncomfortable, and you have to punch life right back in the teeth.
Here’s to punching life in the teeth and becoming the Ironman that I know I am!!
Lately I have been struggling with coming up with any ideas that I felt were worthy of developing into a blog post. I have no big events coming up that I am training for and am really just riding to maintain my sanity. I began writing this post several days ago and then life hopped in and I “forgot” about it and put it to the side. Last night something happened that triggered me to want to continue this particular post.
“When in doubt, pedal it out.” I am more than certain that I should be crediting that fantastic one liner to someone brilliant but I have no clue who first said it so I’ll just go with that it wasn’t me that came up with it…
I found myself driving in the car the other day when it felt as if a proverbial brick hit me in the face… I had the sudden realization that I am 36 (even though I’ve been 36 since June). I started to panic thinking that I was now closer to 40 than I was to 20 or even 30. I began to ask myself (literally out loud) what the hell I had to show for it. My life had not gone as I had planned it to… EVER. I was able to calm myself and stuff down the emotions associated with this horrendous realization simply by telling myself that I would consider this in more depth on my next ride. Riding is, of course, where I ponder life’s great mysteries or where I decide what I am doing for dinner… whatever.
The next ride came and think about it, I surely did. I began to think about all the things that I DO have in my life for which I have to be thankful rather than dwelling on those that I don’t have. I thought about my kids, my good health, the fact that I have the ability to ride as much as I do, my home which I own, the wonderful support system that I have built around me, and my amazing family. Thing is, I know all those things and yet I still experienced the anxiety that I had felt in the car the other day. I began to think about the things I had planned for myself in my life and the way life had instead dealt me its own version of a plan for me. I decided to focus on the saying that “everything happens in its own due time.” I also started to consider that, I am exactly where I should be at this exact moment in time.
That is where I left off writing and actually the same line of thinking is what brings me back to finish writing this specific post.
Recently, I have been struggling with managing my anxiety, whether it be in direct relation to something going on in my life or even in relation to absolutely nothing that I could pinpoint at all. Riding is my natural outlet to manage all sorts of emotions and the way that I keep myself level and grounded. I have learned to lean heavily on my riding over the last two years but I have also been actively working on making changes to the baseline thoughts that drive the anxiety I experience. One would assume that this would be a simple process for someone whose entire career is dedicated to teaching others to do this very thing. It is, in fact, one of the most difficult feats to accomplish. Our thoughts are truly the beginning to everything we are and I know that if I can focus on changing them then I can change so many pertinent things in my life.
There is a quote that I often refer to when talking to the kids I work with about how to make changes in their lives:
“Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
I think I have reached a point in my life where I have finally realized that I don’t have control over much and that I need to relinquish my desire to control the uncontrollable (shocking, I know). Something happened last night that was once again a stark reminder that,
I am exactly where I should be at this exact moment in time.
That, most of my anxiety is driven by fear that is unfounded and by my propensity to overthink things. I am working on focusing myself in the ‘here and now’ and living the life that I have in the precise moment in which I am. There is something truly freeing in this way of thinking, similar to the freedom that I feel while I am out on the road. I find that I have to actively tell myself this and sometimes work even harder to believe it. But, I know that the brain needs to be exercised just like the body that I use to power my bike. The more I exercise all of me, the happier, healthier, and more grounded I will feel. So here’s to exercising all of me all the way closer to 40 and then waaaaaay beyond that. Oh Lord, here comes the anxiety again… I really don’t wanna be 40 and, at this moment, I don’t even wanna adult anymore. 🙂
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” –George Bernard Shaw
For the last two years of my life I have dealt with a crazy series of ups and downs in all facets of my life (relationships, family, health, work, etc). However, no matter what was going on in my life, the one constant that always brought me solace and peace was cycling. It didn’t matter what up or down I was going through, the road was my sanctuary and free from anything external. It was as if, for the most part, the emotions of my everyday life just had no place out on the rides with me. Cycling truly was my heaven on Earth, until recently that is…
For the last week I have been dealing with something in my personal life that made me feel as if the air was sucked out of me. I am not even 100% sure why this situation hit me so hard but it did and my heart feels like it is quite literally broken into tiny pieces. I have racked my brain to try and process what made this hit me the way it did and I haven’t come up with much of an answer. I kept thinking that, if I keep riding, at least that time would be free from the emotional pain that has lodged itself deep into my being. I was wrong; boy was I ever wrong… The pain and the heartache have followed me right on to the road and infiltrated my safe place in a big way.
It is such a disheartening feeling to wake up on ride days and not want to get up and ride… Cycling was the one thing out of everything in my life that I always woke up looking forward to doing. I still make myself get up (earlier than usual) and I have been making myself ride further even on weekdays hoping that something will click into place but it hasn’t. There is this terror inside of me that the joy that I felt on my bike is gone. I can’t bring myself to believe that it’s gone; actually I won’t allow myself to believe that. My whole 30 mile ride this morning was full of a blankness of feeling of some sort, not the good kind of peaceful blankness but a sort of confused and lost blankness.
Those who know me know that I don’t do well with not knowing things but, unfortunately, that is all that I am left with. I keep hoping that it was all a nightmare that I will soon wake from and that I will go back to feeling good and happy but I know that isn’t the case. I find myself praying a whole lot more these days too… There is a constant repetition of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” in my head. Logically I know that I have overcome so many bigger things and so much emotional pain to rise above but the emotions I feel now are fresh and the wounds are wide open and trying to tell myself logical things doesn’t help heal/close up those wounds any quicker. Apparently, not even riding can do that right now…
But still I ride… I ride in hopes that I will feel better or that I will feel anything other than lost and confused really. I ride continuing to hope that eventually clarity will strike or that eventually the pain will lift off my heart and once again allow me to be free, to be the me I had come to be. I ride to be one with the thing that had become my passion, my soul’s savior. Instinctively I know that the storm does not last forever and that eventually the rainbow will appear in the sky but, for right now, only clouds are visible in the distance. I may have lost my mojo for a moment but I know that it is not gone forever and that I will overcome and persevere as I have always done in life.
In 5 days I will be attempting the most difficult feat to date of my cycling “career,” to say that I am nervous would be the understatement of the year. Every day my coach texts me the countdown of how many days we have left to go but that countdown is already seared in my mind without the help of anyone else’s reminders. I have trained for this day and I believe that I am ready but the inner voice of doubt is still loud in my head. So many questions roll around in my head all day long… Have I trained enough? Could I have done more to prepare? Am I ready for a century ride when my longest ride thus far has only been 72 miles? Am I ready for the adversity that I will surely face in the grueling 103 mile ride that will make me climb over 10,000 vertical feet?
Deep down in my soul I know the answers to all of these questions. Yes. Yes to all of them. I surely could’ve trained more. I could’ve done more to prepare. But I can also say that, yes, I am ready to complete a century ride. And most importantly, YES, I am ready for the adversity that I will face on this ride. The truth is, life has prepared me for May 18, 2015. May 18, 2015 won’t be about my physical ability, it will be about my mental strength. I am physically willing and able to put my body through whatever it will take to finish the ride and stand atop Mt. Mitchell basking in the glory of the North Carolina valley below me with a once in a lifetime view of the beautiful world that God has created. Life has dealt me some blows along my 35+ years on this earth and I am still standing. I am still standing because there is more that I must do, more I must accomplish. There are things that I have experienced in my life that have brought me to my knees, broken me, and caused me to question my own existence…
These experiences are the reason and the purpose for why I ride as I do. Some people think I am crazy for what I do, others think it’s amazing, others just simply don’t get it. I honestly don’t get it either sometimes, there is just something within me that tells me to keep riding, to keep going. Even when all I want to do is stop and rest, I keep going. I often think about why it is that I do what I do and what I keep coming up with is that this is my way of exercising control over a crazy world in which I truly have little to no control. I have experienced so much unnecessary/unwanted pain at the hands of others or at the hands of life in general and this… THIS is the pain that I hand myself. This is me beating life to the punch, me kicking life in the teeth, me taking life by the reigns… I know that my life can be compared to the lives of others and, chances are, I haven’t suffered as much adversity as some others have. In fact, I see that every day in the eyes of the kids that I work with. Thing is, I can only live my truth. I can only feel what my life has dealt me and the things I have experienced, most in recent years, have hurt like hell. I have learned to smile through the pain of life. I have learned to ride through my emotional pain and to transform it into a sort of physical goodness. I can handle soreness because the physical pain reminds me that I am alive; it reminds me of what I have accomplished thus far in my life.
So… in 5 days, I will ride. I will mount my bike and I will put my entire physical being through grueling agony so that I can feel alive, so that I can hurt a little less emotionally. I ride for the people that I have loved and lost. I ride for those that have hurt me. I ride for those whom I have hurt. I ride for the countless adults/children/families that I have tried to help in my career and the many yet to come. I ride for the opportunities that I have missed out on in life. I ride to make my kids proud of whom their mother is, to show them that there is nothing impossible in the world. I ride to feel whole. I ride to feel at peace. I ride to feel as one with the universe. I ride to feel close to God. I ride for the people I will forever grieve: the child that I miscarried, my grandparents, my greataunt, my aunts, my uncles, my Vanessa. I ride for all the people that grieve these same people and grieve other lost loved ones. I ride for people who have yet to know the depths or true grief so that, when that day comes, they may be able to overcome the pain and sorrow that comes with losing someone you love. I dedicate this ride to Jimmy, may his soul rest in peace to never again know the pain that caused him to leave this earth so early. I ride for the people deeply affected by his loss in hopes that they will once again know peace and joy in their hearts.
No matter what I ride for, doubt will always be an unwelcome visitor in my mind. I continue to remind myself that “Fear is a Liar” and that my stubbornness will always prevail. I try to not leave room for doubt because when you give doubt an inch, it will surely take a mile. This ride will test every ounce of me and I am confident that I will come out a victor. To me, there is no other option. I will not allow fear, doubt, or the clock to beat me out of what is rightfully mine. Failure is not an option because I don’t fail. Over the next 5 days and throughout the entire 103 mile journey, I will visualize myself atop the highest peak east of the Mississippi. No matter how long it takes, no matter what aches along the way, on May 18, 2015 I will stand atop Mt. Mitchell enjoying the beautiful view below. I will stand next to my coach and bask in what will surely be one of my greatest accomplishments thus far. Just wait and see!
Check out the Assault on Mt. Mitchell webpage here: