At RaceMania this weekend someone asked the question about when triathlon and running became easy for me. (This is not the first time this has been asked, by the way.)
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. /MovingOn
But I have worked really hard over the past almost-eight 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 at this point, I can say that for ME, I am GREAT at triathlon.
Because when I started this sport, I couldn’t run 10 minutes without BRUISING the bottoms of my feet.
Literally. I was doing one mile jogs at a 16:00-17:00 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 the time it has taken me.
And the cycling?
Falling at every light because I couldn’t work pedals 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.
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 while 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.”
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. But I’m also trying new things this year.)
Like lifting in tutus.
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.
I am not sorry for a day in the life of it. Not one.
And almost-eight 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 years, I have figured out how to do it FOR ME. You have to come to terms on how to do it for you.
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 two years ago, 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, and lifting weights–I am fast–as proved by the shuttle runs in CrossFit. 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. Plus, 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.