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The Monkey Bars

So this is not a post to pat myself on the back.  It may seem that way in the beginning, but let me finish and…then you can throw tomatoes if you want.

I was at my Grandmother’s visitation and funeral last weekend, where I had done a careful job of trying to look nice. However, due to the Savannah heat, I was just sweating like a madwoman. I didn’t feel like I could keep makeup on my face, and my hair–let’s not even talk about hair and Savannah humidity. Coupled with the Igor-like limp I had from the bike crash, I was a hot mess, but felt like I pulled myself together pretty well under the circumstances.

But those of you who really know me (or have read this blog for a while), know that I have the self-confidence of a squirrel.

I don’t really have any confidence, despite the fact that I am loud and take more selfies than is really healthy. But that’s called content, people. Content. 🙂  Anyway, in real life, my equivalent of Nicky Manaj’s “Damn, I look good” would be, “Eh, at least you are standing upright and don’t have lipstick on your teeth.”


So at the visitation, people from the past and those I haven’t met before, one-by-one, would come up to me and say, “Look how pretty you are” and “Look at those guns!” and “You are so beautiful.”

It got to the point where I seriously thought there was a hidden camera, laughing at me. The people had to just be running out of things to talk about. Or I was on hidden camera show. Where was Ashton Kutcher?  

I was seriously humiliated.  Because… the truth of the matter is that I don’t feel that way. At. All.

My gracious response was, “Oh geez. Well, thank you but I don’t feel that way. But thank you.”  [By the way, who says “thank you” like THAT anyway?]  My poor Mom was privy to many of the comments, watching me drop my head and turn beet red.

After a few days when I returned home, I mentioned it to the Expert, telling him how embarrassed I was. How when I look in the mirror I see nothing but a laundry list of mean things:  fat.  slow. sad. (sweaty).

Caption:  "Woman why you always taking pictures?"

“Woman why you always taking pictures? It’s 5:45 in the morning, for the love…”

And the Expert said something that made me pause.

He said, “You ARE. You are beautiful. You always have been.” (Well, he’s my husband. He’s “supposed” to say that.)  

He went on, “But here’s the thing… you have CHOSEN to make triathlon your PLAYGROUND.  And it is a playground of lots of fitness, thin-ness, and speed.

“It’s a playground that will mess with your mind, too.  It’s full of kids who are different than you are.  And maybe somewhere along the way, you’ve ingrained that in your own head way more than you should have. And of course, looking at the wide picture, hey, maybe you DON’T technically ‘fit in.’

“Those triathlete kids on the playground are swinging high on the swings, fast and furious.  And you’re over there, hanging out on the monkey bars, doing your tri thing to the beat of a whole other drum.

“But you are LOVING it! And you love it so much that you tell EVERYONE about it.


“In reality, the fast and furious kids on the swings don’t care that you are on the monkey bars–they’re too busy with their own stuff.  And sometimes, hell, they come to the monkey bars too—” (to which I interjected, “Yeah, but I can’t make it over there on the swings!”  The Expert frowned at me. Moving on…)

He continued, “Nevermind the swings.  You are doing your thing.  And wait–don’t forget the kids who aren’t even ON the playground. The ones who are looking at ALL OF YOU from the street thinking: ‘Wow, I wish I had the courage/balls/strength to do what they are doing! That crazy blonde one on the monkey bars looks like she is having so much fun!’

“Mere, you have worked so hard in this sport and only YOU can change YOUR perception of yourself.  Be beautiful in your own mind, and keep being a damn triathlete. It’s YOUR playground too. You need to step back, realize WHO you are and what you have accomplished FOR YOURSELF.

“Now get back on the monkey bars.”


That Expert is pretty smart, first of all.

And here is my  next point:

Motivational Monday2 - Swim Bike Mom - Meredith Atwood

Triathlon is actually a sport that is fairly diverse.

When you are in an Ironman race, you wouldn’t believe the sizes and shapes and ages of everyone.

However, what we each CHOOSE to see about this sport may be another thing.  We may see the super-thin and fit people (some of us are those people) and maybe how we can never catch up.  We might compare ourselves to them, thinking, “I am not a ‘real’ triathlete.”

And trust me, love muffins… I FEEL THE SAME WAY.


Even funnier to me is when I see super-fit folks on the course and have conversations later with them… and they don’t feel good about themselves either. (What in the heck! None of us “get” it, it seems!)

Of course, there’s me…. a three-time Iron distance finisher, and I am still like “I can’t (or shouldn’t) play with anyone on the playground.”

(What kind of messed up sh*t is that?)

So here’s the thing… we are all on this playground and we should act like it.  We. ARE. Triathletes.  (or)  We. Will. Be. Triathletes.

And whether you’re on the swings, or on the monkey bars WITH ME, I do take joy in the fact that we are all on the same playground.  Triathlon is a playground of beautiful people of all shapes, sizes and ages… all united by one common thing: Spandex.

And for those of you who are outside the playground… just head on over to the Monkey Bars.   I promise that neither I, nor our little community, will let you fall.

* * *
“Five years from the date of the attack that changed our world, we’ve come back to remember the valor of those we lost—those who innocently went to work that day and the brave souls who went in after them. We have also come to be ever mindful of the courage of those who grieve for them, and the light that still lives in their hearts.”

New York City mayor ­Rudolph Giuliani
at the World Trade Center site in 2006
Photo Credit: Dorothy Kurzydlowski Photography

Photo Credit: Dorothy Kurzydlowski Photography

* * *
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    • Nancy

      September 12, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Basic human nature. If you sat around telling yourself “I AM good enough!”, would you feel a need to test yourself? No, because in your mind, you would have already proven yourself. That’s the fun part of being driven. Self improvement is a journey, not a destination.

  • Jenny

    September 11, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    I’ve been following your blog for several years and you continue to inspire me with your words. I love everything about this entry! You are so very lucky to have a wonderful husband who supports you this way and puts things in perspective. And the analogy is great! There are many levels of the playground, and I’m sure it looks different from every person’s eyes depending on where they are on their journey. To me, you have moved far beyond the money bars!

  • Rachael Werstak

    September 11, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Thank you Thank you for this post!! I feel this same way about myself and Tris. I’m gearing up to register for IM Louisville 2016. I always think, what am I doing, I’m just little old mom me. How do I think I am going to do an ironman. Your blog and words are both encouraging and inspiring!!!!

  • Ignatz

    September 11, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    I forget where I read this or who told it to me, but I have tried to follow it most of my adult life.

    When receiving a compliment, take a deep breath, a real deep breath, before you think or say anything. Breathe that compliment in on an actual physical level. This helps, in part at least, to quell the inner voice that wants to say “No, I’m not [fill in the blank]. Really I’m not.” Then simply respond with a Thank you.

    It helps, really it does, for those of us wanting to push that compliment away.

  • David

    September 11, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    I will be joining you and others on the Monkey bars!! I love it there and hope to meet you some day to say thank you for your inspiration!! Just need for my knee to get better!! The thing about TRI’s is even when injured there are things you can do to train and continue to improve and get better. Tri’s gave me the power to blast out of my comfort zone and push myself to do more!! From your blog I have noticed that you have grown in so many ways in your journey!! You may not notice it, but it can be seen through your words and your pictures! Keep moving forward!! Thank you very much!!

  • Nikki

    September 11, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    about three years ago I started running. I am a women of size so when I started running I was pretty slow (still am) but regardless I continued. honestly however I did get tired of being at the back of the pack and about a little more that a year ago I started doing more weightlifting and crossfit type workouts and I like it a lot! My body seems to respond to the weights and strength training in a positive way, pushing weight just make me appreciate what the body can do.
    I want to get back into running, but I have to realize that I may be on the “monkey bars” in the running world, and you know what, that’s ok.

  • Alicia Amaro

    September 11, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    I keep saying, “I’ll never be on the podium but I always cross the finish line” as if I have to give a reason or excuse for not being faster. And the reality is, I’m pretty dam fast when I put the work in and don’t let the mental games get the best of me. I work hard on believing it. I struggled for years and still do at times on how I look on the outside. My wonderful husband calls me beautiful just about every day. In fact if I hear someone yell that out in a race it’s usually him calling out/cheering me on. As a Girls on the Run coach we tell the girls (3rd -8th) it’s not about how you look on the outside, it’s what’s inside. Sometimes still a good reminder for my 58 year young self.

  • Ed C.

    September 11, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    Thanks for this post, it really hit a nerve. When I dropped out of IMCDA I felt a lot of things and one was of not being good enough and being a fake. My daughter pointed out to me that she had seen a lot of people that I would view as being real fit triathlete types who were out long before me. I have struggled to accept that I did do as good a job as possible for the conditions on that day and that is ok. It doesn’t have to define me, I need to dwell on all that I have accomplished.

  • Mariale

    September 11, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    First, let me tell you that I have been very embarrassed to type this on your IG but I’d love to look like you! You’re not only beautiful but you have the healthy and glowing look of a happy athlete! You’ve inspired me so much to be better and eat better and train better to get that look too!
    Second, yes I understand the playground metaphor, Race registration and transition set up are the moments I dread the most. Because I think I don’t belong because I don’t look like them not I’m as fast them. I seriously need to work on that. I chose to play here and I’d better enjoy it and OWN IT like a boss!
    Hope you are feeling better with your hip. Sending you a big hug.

  • SoAnyway

    September 12, 2015 at 8:19 am

    All these years later I only feel a little like a triathlete. I mean, I know I am one, but I don’t really feel like it. Despite of all the folks I passed in my Ironman marathon. Seems silly, right?

    You’re strong, fierce, brave. And an amazing athlete, SBM 🙂

    • Nancy

      September 12, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Totally. I think when you start defining yourself, you start limiting yourself. When you limit yourself, you start setting yourself up for failure. Great point to a great post.

  • Ally Chisnall

    September 12, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Thank you for this, I need to stop qualifying myself and my abilities. I am an Ironman and a marathoner and the finishing time, my size or my weight do not change this fact. I did this, I got myself on the monkey bars, the slide and the rest of the playground and did it.

  • Kara

    September 16, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    Thank you so much for this topic. I just had a id tag made in your honor : suck it up buttercup ! I struggle because I feel like I may “look” super fit and thin but I am not. I do not have the fitness to swing high and fast on the swings any more than anyone else. I try to remember that there are kids afraid to come play and that gives me courage when I am second to last in my age group. Yes, my last tri. But I want to keep trying! Even if to the beat of my own drum! Thank you!


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