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Unlocking YOUR Speed

At my talk this weekend someone asked the question about when running became easy for me.

Of course, the response to that was all, “Ummm… Never?”

Because running isn’t easy for me.  Swimming can be–to a degree.  Cycling comes in second–not easy, but more natural, but only after working at it for years.

But running–no, that’s been a long process of trying to be even competent.

[And out of the three sports in triathlon–let me be clear. I’m not super great at ANY of the three.]  And mind you further, I am not being negative. This is not me being “so down on myself” or asking for you to say, “Oh, but you ARE sooooo great!!!” On paper and in an objective way, one really cannot say that I am great at any of the three disciplines that involve triathlon–there are far, far far superior athletes out there, so there’s not need to belabor this point.  

But I have worked really hard over the past six years in many, many ways… in the public ways, and in the behind-the-scenes ways that no one even really knows about… and never will.  

Because for me, I am GREAT at triathlon.  For me.  Sure, some may think I run “slow” at my 10:00 pace half marathon recently. Others will think that’s pretty fast.  Regardless, I think it’s fan-freaking-tastic!

Because when I started this sport 6 years ago, I couldn’t run 10 minutes without BRUISING the bottoms of my feet.

Literally. I was doing one mile jogs at a 16:00 minute mile–and leaving myself with bruises—from my post-two-baby weight, from the pain, from my ignorance about proper shoes, running form, any of it.

  • All of it… it was a bloody hot mess.  So the progress to a 2:11 half marathon of 13.1 RUNNING miles at a 10:00 pace, in reality, is actually huge. Even in six years.

And the cycling?

Falling at every light because I couldn’t work pedal or brakes. Crying, sweaty hot tears because, “For the love of god, how hard is it to RIDE AN EFFING bike!??” Not understanding ANYTHING about a bike. Gearing? Oh em gee. When I started riding? A 6 mile bike was torture… torture! And 10 MPH? Yes, on a good day…

  • Fast forward a few years… to go from crashing at stop lights (still do, sometimes!) to Ironman on the bike (yes, even at 14.8 MPH for the 112 miles).

That is also actually huge. Very huge.

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Finally, the swimming. During my first swims, I sputtered down the pool… stopping before 25 meters. Weeks and weeks later, my first mile took me almost an hour.

  • And to end up swimming 10,000 meters a few weeks ago (and I’ll be honest in a really obnoxious way, because it’s all I’ve really got… that 10k swim wasn’t even hard… like at all)… 🙂  I call that progress.

And then a first triathlon.  Well, that was a funny story.

Meredith Atwood. Losing her swimcaps since 2010.”

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Well, those are my triathlon truths.

This journey—while some people still think I may suck (because compared to many out there, yes, I indeed technically very much “suck”)—this JOURNEY has been an incredible joy, full of terror, injury and heartache too…filled with personal triumph and progress.

And it’s been a hell of a ride. (I sound like I am quitting. I am not.  Ha.)

Here’s the thing.  My journey in triathlon has been on a display for a while.  And I put it right there–right on display–and I’m good with that. No regrets whatsoever about any of it. I am glad to have written thousands of posts and words over the last years that have been inspiring, aggravating, annoying and whatever–because it’s a documented process of my journey.  MY journey.

And all the scares and scars and pains and destruction that I have encountered–I have been proud to share those too.

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I am not sorry for a day in the life of it. Not one.

I have learned to deal with major addictions, sabotages, weaknesses, injury and more through MY journey.

And six years later, if I had anything to say to someone starting out in this sport… or venturing into new territory whether in life or in sport, I would say one thing… and it’s this:

Your JOURNEY is YOUR freaking journey.

Be kind to yourself.  Be patient with yourself.  Talk nicely to yourself. Deal with the crap that is sabotaging your progress, your life, your family, your job… deal with it. Don’t drown it, don’t ignore it.  I drowned so much for so long in a giant wine glass… and it’s much easier to deal with it sooner, rather than later, trust me on that.

At the end of the day, while this sport challenges and changes us, sure… the truth is that it doesn’t matter if your friend runs faster. Or if she came to the sport and was a natural, lost 50 pounds and is now winning races. It doesn’t matter. Like, at all.  

Like at all, at all.

It matters what YOU think about yourself.  What YOU want.  What makes YOUR soul sing.  What makes YOU feel alive.  What is best for YOUR life.

FORGET the rest, people.  FORGET those people who say you can’t, or shouldn’t.  Forget those people who crawl inside your head and make you nuts.  Get them out of your head.  Ignore them.  Haters or friends or frenemies, or whoever they are.  Don’t even give them a name or a place in your head.

I don’t have a step-by-step list on how to stop the noise.

But in recent months, I have figured out how to do it FOR ME.  You have to come to terms on how to do it for you.

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All I can say that may or may not be helpful… is I realized that I have ONE life, and this IS it.

When my grandmother passed away last month, I realized, holding her hand… that as her sweet little last breath happened, that I gained a mountain of life.  With her passing I gained a mountain of strength… like she passed it right to me… I felt that. Like all of her power and being and strength, she told me great things, and I could feel it.

It was if she said, “Life is short.  Do everything you can to love those around you, to break barriers at every corner, and most of all… do everything in your power to be YOU.”

And as truly talentless in this sport as I am… (and again, I am not being negative… I am being objectively real), I have found my strengths… IN ME.

Even injured and sidelined right now.  I am fast.  There is strength. It’s inside me… hanging out like an old friend. There are also many more truths about me: there are not enough brick runs in the world to help with hip dysplasia and translating that to a “fast” Ironman, a fifteen year-old issue from a broken ankle isn’t going to be fixed overnight… general coordination problems (a/k/a “Swim Bike Klutz”), and having never run a lick as a child.  There’s not much you can do coming to a sport when you actually suck ass at all three. 🙂

There’s not much you can do… EXCEPT… work your ass off.  Every day.

Fear is a liar.  And if you let Fear talk to you, live in your heart and head… you become a liar, too.

And working hard, in spite of the fear, well, that’s where I decided to land in this crazy journey.  To work and show up and give my best, with all the strength I can. FOR ME.

And that is the one key that has, in truth, unlocked it all.  When I decided to live my life FOR ME, for my kids, for my support system… that’s when I realized my speed. MY speed.

MY SPEED.  Not yours. Not hers. Not anyone’s.

Mine.

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The Speed of Life.

And it’s moving fast, and I am here… to be present, to live, to breathe and to show up every single day—just as I am.

Make changes and be relentless FOR YOU.   If it’s not for you, then don’t even show up.

At the end of the day, we have to find what makes us happy, our families tick, and our hearts soar.

Don’t think for a second that someone can tell YOU how to play the part of You better… only You have been chosen for that role.

And only YOU know how to unlock the greatness that IS you.

At whatever speed that may be.

#SpeedOfLife

27 Comments

  • Paula

    March 28, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    My takeaway…great insight and advice blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah……..
    THAT HAIR, THOUGH…SO STINKING CUTE!!!
    Just kidding. Yours is the only blog I follow. Looking forward to April SwimBikeFuel!

    Reply
  • Lisa

    March 28, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    This is the 2nd blog post I have read of yours, and it MATCHES IN EXCELLENCE to the first! Awesome. Thanks for being honest, and sharing it all!

    Reply
  • Kelly

    March 28, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Thank you so much for this post – I really love that we need to figure out how best to be ourselves – nobody else can tell/show us how. So powerful. Thank you so much for continuing to share your story and journey – it really does mean a lot to so many, and me in particular.

    Reply
  • Tina

    March 28, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    I love reading your blog. It is exactly what I am thinking and what I need to figure out. How to believe in myself and do this for ME.

    Reply
  • Maura Maher-Farrall

    March 28, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Thank you for reminding me that it is not about what others think of me when I am trying to move forward. I am happy I stumbled on your book and that I had the chance to see you at the “fun run” at NOVA. It really is important to be the best YOU can be at the moment, not compared to others- just the best me in that moment.

    Reply
  • Amanda Watkins

    March 28, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I’ve been dealing with so much emotional crap lately and it all got into my head something terrible. I’m on my way back to what I consider normal and checking off the list of unfinished things and it feels good.

    Reply
  • Tammy

    March 28, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    So happy I found you. I am doing my first tri in April . Your blog has been so helpful. I am so far outside of my comfort zone ( mostly the clothes). I too started at a 16 min mile but after 18 months I average a 12:40. That is not bad for a 55 year old over weight women that has never been athletic. Thank you for giving me permission to be proud of what I have done so far and the courage to face this first race

    Reply
  • Ed C.

    March 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

    Great post! A co-worker of mine, who is very fit and a cyclist, found out that I did an Ironman. He first sorta mentioned that “aren’t most triathletes thin”? To which I admitted I am carrying too much weight but then he went on to admire that I did an Ironman and he felt he never could. He ever complimented me on a 15 hour finish! I am slow at all three sports but that is ok. I am healthier than friends my age, ever with the extra pounds. Thanks for the reminder that me all have our own journey.

    Reply
  • SoAnyway

    March 29, 2016 at 10:07 am

    “It never gets easier, you just get faster”
    ~Greg LeMond

    I’m going to guess that if you think about it, running *is* easier for you now that it was. It’s just that the distances involved in what constitutes a “run” have pushed out dramatically. For example, I bet you feel pretty relaxed heading out for 5K off the bike for a “short” brick. When you started was 5K a relaxing distance? I know it wasn’t for me 🙂

    Also, for the record, “Oh, but you ARE so great!!!” Really.

    Reply
  • Amy

    March 29, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    #truth

    You know how sometimes people will ask you, “what’s the best advice you’ve gotten?” Well I always answer, run your own race.

    For all the reasons you put in this post.

    Sometimes the question isn’t about racing … for those times I quote Mark Twain, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

    Good stuff here.

    Reply
  • Lisa Serrano

    March 29, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    I just love you with all I have inside me. I met you at IMAZ2015 but too briefly. I’m so thrilled to see you at the Endurance House meeting on Sunday and maybe cruising about Oceanside 70.3. Excuse me now if I start bawling when I see you this time. Last time my mouth dropped and I was star struck and thought you were possibly Barbra Streisand’s or Oprah’s sister because I couldn’t believe you were standing in front of me! I really just want to sincerely hold your hand, look into your eyes, and say THANK YOU for being with me always…. yes..there are already tears. I can’t wait.

    Reply
  • Janice

    March 30, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I love this! I am so bummed I was unable to make it out last week to listen to the presentation and meet you in person. I love the metro pic in the background – hopefully you got a chance to see some cherry blossoms if you ventured into DC. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is never easy but I certainly appreciate them.

    Reply
  • Angie

    March 30, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Love this post. I recently read somewhere that an Olympian in track said she started getting faster when she stopped comparing herself to others, and just compared herself to herself. Did it come from one of your old blogs? Probably, but that resonates in my head every time I run now. I am trying to enjoy every day with my kids and family. I just saw that Easter movie with Jennifer Garner, Miracles from Heaven, and what she said in the end is so true. Miracles happen to us every day – in seeing kindness from a stranger, seeing that pretty bird on a run, and hearing the laughter of our children. I am seeing that more and it is making every day better for me. Thanks for the beautiful post.

    Reply
  • Jo

    April 1, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    I am loving reading your posts. My running (because I have been a “runner”) has not been improving. In fact, it’s been going backwards. And as I read through your pages (and I’m now reading the book – which is making my hubby question my sanity due to the regular chuckles that keep escaping).

    Thanks for making me realise that I need to use the power and strength that I have, instead of squandering it.

    And thank you for inspiring me to give the other 2 sports a try. 🙂

    Reply

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