70.3

What I’ve Learned About Failure From Diana Nyad

“I wanted to teach myself some life lessons at the age of 60,

and one of them was that you don’t give up.”

-Diana Nyad

 inspire

I think you are all aware by now that I have a rather substantial lady crush on Diana Nyad.  In fact, I am pretty sure I wrote a whole post about it at one point.  This post, however, is not simply about how much I am in total awe and inspired by her (which I totally still am), but rather what I have learned from her about life and specifically failure.

When Diana made her #EPIC journey from Cuba to Florida, I was glued to the CNN app on my phone (I’m talking Boston Marathon levels of stalking).  For me, it was the equivalent of Man’s First Steps on the Moon.  Here was this woman in her sixties taking on the ocean, Gulf Stream, dehydration, hypothermia, sharks, jelly fish, and exhaustion in the hopes of finally chasing down her dream.  She wasn’t deterred by her age, all her failed previous attempts, or even the fact that her most recent attempt had nearly killed her, TWICE!  She was all in, Cuba or Bust.

It happened at a time in my life when I was struggling to learn to swim.  I couldn’t even wrap my mind around swimming the amount of time or distance she was attempting, forget all the other hazards… or the currents… or salt water… or restrictive gear (because we all know how much I love my wetsuit… NOT!)  To me, she was the epitome of the indomitable human spirit.  I would think about her during my swims just in awe on so many levels.

The more I learned about her, the deeper my admiration grew.  This is not a woman who has had an easy life.  In fact, she’s had very much the opposite.  She was abused by her father and assaulted by her swim coach for years in silence.  Being abused by my ex husband as an adult almost broke me.  I can’t even imagine what kind of strength it took to survive and endure being injured in that way by the men she was supposed to be able to trust at such a young age without ever reaching out to someone for support.  Beyond that, that fact that she has the courage to speak about it openly (especially in a culture with such prevalent victim shaming) speaks volumes to her personal fortitude and character.

I don’t know whether it was inherent strength that got her through or developed out of necessity, but I doubt it is a coincidence that a woman who was able to endure and thrive after that kind of childhood abuse is the same one who was able to shut down her critics and swim from Cuba to Florida.  Coming from a place of having survived and overcome the betrayal of physical and emotional abuse, I can speak first hand to the type of perspective it can give on life and specifically on pain.

Everyone has a scale for pain.  When something hurts, your brain is programmed to compare it to past hurt.  There is NOTHING in this life that I have ever encountered in the way of physical pain that even comes close to the psychological pain associated with abuse.  No sport, race, or distance to date, and I doubt any ever will.  It may be a reach, but somehow I think swimming 50+ hours across the ocean probably doesn’t compare for Diana either.

However, the reason I admire Diana is not the fact that she is an open survivor of abuse, so much as who she is as a person.  She had a crummy past, but it doesn’t define her.  Instead, it has made her tough as nails.  She is utterly unwilling to accept defeat, and that is my kind of lady.  If Diana has taught me anything in life, it’s that there is no such thing as failure unless you quit.  You may have failed attempts, but until you throw in the towel and give up- it’s not over.

Prior to hearing about Diana and learning about her, I used to worry about the big D-N-F.  I was afraid of failing.  However, now I realize it’s not a failure unless I give up on my goal.  As long as my desire and dream are still alive, I’m not defeated; and the story isn’t over.

When you look at her journey from Cuba to Florida, Diana didn’t fail on those previous attempts.  They were all important steps on her journey to get there.  In the end, I’m sure the fact that she had to fight so hard for so long made it that much more meaningful and rewarding.  So now, every time I have a goal (like 70.3) that I just can’t seem to get to, that is what I think of.  It’s not a failure, it’s just going to take a little longer than planned.  Eventually I will get there, and the victory that much sweeter.

PS. If you haven’t seen Ms. Nyad’s documentary The Other Shore yet, you should probably watch it. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a swimmer or even remotely interested in swimming. You should still watch it. Because the truth is, it’s not about swimming. It’s about living.

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The Detour

“I used to have all these plans and think ‘Ah, I have my whole life figured out’,

but then I realized no matter how much I plan: life happens!

So I find myself living day to day trying to do my best, 

embracing every moment as a learning opportunity

and chance to get to know myself a little more.”
– Q’orianka Kilcher

Image

 

I’m guessing that after reading the title of this post, most of you have figured out the direction this is going.  No, I’m not pregnant.  Yes, I am temporarily out of commission.  It’s kind of a bummer, but I was really ready for a break anyway.  Besides, another week and change and I’ll be back to running, swimming, and cycling (on the trainer at least…)

Let me start by saying that I DID NOT over do it at the REV3.  I one hundred percent went easy that day and did not push myself.  I may be a glutton for punishment, but I’m not stupid (ok, not most of the time… at least when it comes to injury prevention anyway).  I knew I was in new territory, so I raced according to my goal- which was simply to finish.  I went slow and enjoyed the experience.  When I crossed the finish, I still had plenty of juice left in my legs.  I felt strong and knew I could have covered more mileage if I had to.  This was not particularly surprising considering I had actually trained for a half.

It was a nice feeling to cross a finish not completely spent for a change.  I didn’t want to end up sick or dehydrated so I was careful to get plenty of calories and liquid out on the course.  In all honestly, it was probably the best I had ever felt at the completion of a race.  

The hubs and our friend (who both biked out to meet me) made it home well ahead of me due to the post race traffic and had already ordered lunch when I arrived.  I still felt great after eating and showering.  It wasn’t until a few hours later after dinner that I started to feel really crummy.  At first, I thought I was simply getting a migraine from being out in the sun all day.  I tried taking a nap, but woke up overwhelming nausea and epigastic pain.  All I could think was “This is not going to be good”.  I sent the hubs to get some zofran hoping I could avoid a trip to the emergency room, but taste of the tabs almost sent me running back to the bathroom all over again.  I decided that if this is what morning sickness is like then there’s probably a good reason I’m not pregnant yet.

When the pain and nausea had not improved an hour later I finally broke down and had the hubs bring me to the hospital.  I gave the surgical team a heads up that I was headed in and pretty sure my gallbladder would need to come out.  I did have luck on my side in that the surgeon oncall that night was one the best that I work with. (Thank God for small favors!) 

As it turned out, I was right.  My gallbladder was the culprit and needed to go.  This was no great shock to me.  However, I was struck by whatImage a coincidence it was that my gallbladder attack happened only hours after completing my first tri.  Here I had worked my butt off over 10 months and managed to make it through the whole race feeling strong before my symptoms started.  That was an epic #WIN in my book! What’s more, had I not downgraded to the Olympic course, I would have raced on Sunday instead and would have missed out all together!  

Obviously I considered this the universe at work in my favor as repayment for every ounce of good karma in my life.  Can you even imagine how devastated I would have been to have invested all that time and energy only to miss out on my big chance?  It’s just too depressing to even think about.  I am so beyond grateful for whatever triathlon guardian angel hooked me up on this one.  I am forever in your debt!  

As far as the surgery itself, it may strike you as funny, but I was less nervous in pre-op than I was gearing up for the race!  With the timing of how I got sick and who the surgeon was on call, I just felt like the universe was looking out for me and it was going to be okay.  I can’t even describe the sensation, but I was completely at ease.  There was not even a little part of me that was worried going in.  In fact, I felt incredibly lucky to not only know exactly what was going to happen, but all the staff taking care of me as well. 

It’s hard to be scared when you are surrounded by people who know you and care about your well being.  Every person (ok almost every, but the Emergency Room was legitimately getting slammed so I have to cut them some slack) was so kind and caring throughout my stay.  I really feel blessed to receive the care I did.

The only part I was disappointed about was that I missed volunteering at the REV3 half and my niece’s first birthday.  I guess life happens though.  All I can do at this point is be grateful for everything that went right and just roll with it.  Luckily, my sister was ok with throwing another party for my niece with just immediate family this weekend.  Plus, now that I won’t be able to race in the Griskus Olympic, I should be able to volunteer that course instead.  In terms of taking time off from training, I feel like I have been handling it pretty well.  For one thing, it’s given me a chance to catch up on other things I’ve been neglecting… like writing. 😉  It’s also given me an excuse to slow down for a change.

So that is my story about my slight detour on the path to 70.3… and eventually 140.6.  Luckily I still have my whole life to get there!

#KeepDreaming #ThriveOn