“Happiness comes only when we push our brains and hearts to the farthest reaches of which we are capable.”
I have stopped telling people I’m training for a half ironman. In fact, I have stopped mentioning to people that I want to do tri’s at all. Why? Well, frankly, I am tired of people asking “why would you do that?” The first question in itself is not too bothersome, but the barrage that follows is: “don’t you have to swim?” “isn’t swimming hard?” “aren’t you worried about the swim?” “do you have any experience at that?” “don’t you think you should start with something shorter?” “you know I heard that course was hard”… It goes on and on.
While I appreciate the genuine concern, sometimes it makes me want to scream. OF COURSE I know the course is hard! It’s a half ironman! That is the whole point! Why would I expect it to be easy? Also, I am well aware there is swimming involved; but last time I checked, it was not impossible to learn to swim as an adult. As far as having experience, if we all waited to have experience at triathlons before ever doing one, I suppose none of us ever would, would we? Besides, I am an endurance athlete. My favorite race distance is 13.1 miles. I ride my bike for hours at a time. Why on earth would I want to do anything with the word “sprint” in it? The race would be over before I ever hit my groove. Plus, I just don’t move that fast. It’s not my thing, end of story.
People don’t understand this though when you try to explain it, so I’ve stopped trying. I know they don’t mean to rain on my parade, but I’m still tired of the negativity. I don’t want to be told I can’t or shouldn’t do something when my heart is already set on it; and I especially don’t want to hear how unhealthy my endurance training lifestyle is from people who drink, smoke, and over eat. I feel like there is something a little backwards when people chastise me for running long distances, but pat each other on the back for binge drinking and hooking up with random strangers.
What these people don’t understand, and there is no hope in explaining to them, is the deeper why: The is a reason I push my self through grueling endurance events that goes beyond a new record or shiny bling. It’s about building inner strength and reminding myself what I’m made of. I try to pick at least one race a year that is way outside my comfort zone because I don’t ever want to stop challenging myself or pushing my limits. I want to keep finding things that look impossible and prove to myself they aren’t. Every event is an opportunity to look fear and doubt in the face and then leave them in the dust. These events have helped mold my identity and make me feel good about myself.
For me, it’s also a reminder that all pain ends eventually. Not just on the race course, but in life. It’s a conditioning exercise in dealing with bad times and crisis. Anyone can handle life when things are going well, but doing these events gives me that extra faith in myself that I’ll be able to handle whatever else life throws at me as well.
When I was with my abuser, he made it a point to make me feel like I wasn’t good enough. He pointed out that I couldn’t handle “any little thing” and regularly pointed out everything he thought was wrong with me. He truly believed that I was weak and couldn’t handle life. Doing a half ironman (especially after selling my rings to buy a bike) will be my way of saying “hey pal, you couldn’t have been more wrong about me.” Even more than that, it addresses those little twinges of doubt that linger even years after the abuse. That little voice that creeps up and tells you that he may have been right...there’s no better way to silence it than prove it wrong.
At the end of the day, when I am out there in the midst of a race hating life and wanting to quit- that is when I am learning who I am and growing. That is when I feel most alive. I’m not out there to break any records or compete with anyone else. I am out there for me. It’s an investment in becoming the best possible version of myself. I don’t need cheerleaders at the sidelines or pats on the back, I just need me and the course.
I am ok if people don’t understand the why or think I’m strange. I’ve never been one to follow the crowd anyhow. The bottom line is I don’t know how to do anything half assed. Anything I am going to spend energy on- from my job to my life- I am going to give 100%. Therefore, if I am going to sign up for an event, it’s going to be the toughest one I can handle. In this case, it’s a half ironman. After that who knows… maybe a full ironman, and no I probably won’t share that I’m training for it. ;)