Thursday, September 26, 2013

Growing Pains

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  - Theodore Roosevelt

My very first mentor, Dr. Jack Barnathan introduced me to the teachings of Theodore Roosevelt with applications to being in the world of fitness and physical accomplishment.  I will forever be grateful for Dr. Jack as he raised the bar for me.  I have blogged about sitting in front of the TV watching Ironman when I was a teenager.  The next piece was sitting in a class that Dr. Jack was teaching and listening a guest speaker talk about her experience in doing a triathlon.  After a weekend of being challenged to rise above conventional wisdom and choose greatness from Dr. Jack, I knew there was no turning back from the Ironman journey.

While not everyone in my circles has understood how and why I train the way I do, I have had many an opportunity to examine what is right for me.  I have been challenged to "dare greatly" in this sport by my coach, friends, team mates, those I coach and those that went before me.  When stepping out to do that, the one thing that can be assured of is the risk and most certainly the stumble.  I have made mistakes along the way.  They were only mistakes when I chose to not glean a lesson the first time and had to do it that way again.  I have stumbled and have been "marred with dust, sweat and blood".  Yet every stumble, every scrape and every break as proven to provide me with a metaphor for sport and life.  When a bone breaks and then repairs, the place where the break once was is now stronger than ever.  I remember that my soul is like a bone, the times that I feel broken are also the times that I am being forged to be even stronger in life and in sport.  It is my belief that those of us that chose to put it all out there risk much and gain even more.

So I am on the road to recovery from my epic flight over handle bars.  After Las Vegas I was to take two whole weeks non weight bearing on my shoulder.  The good news is that there has been obvious physical healing. The uncertainty is that now the structure of the shoulder is much different and the remaining anatomy is getting to learn to operate in a new way.  This is painful.  I am reminded of when my children had growing pains.  Those pains were very real as are those in my shoulder.

I get to let go of where I was in July.  I get to let go of old times and standards.  My path just took a new turn.  I will get to retrain my shoulder.  The learning curve will be what it is and will not be rushed.  That is how the sport is for me.  There are no shortcuts and only processes that demand complete awareness and consciousness.  There is not magic but there are miracles.

So for now... back to some baby steps and growing pains and lots of fun on the way to victory and defeat!  Thank you Dr. Jack for making me Dare Greatly!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Vegas Baby! Shall we Dance?

In June, when we made the call to accept the slot for Vegas I never dreamed that it would be the last race of my season.  Yet the one thing that I have learned through my life as an athlete is that the best laid plans can sometimes go very awry.  In spite of this fact, I have also learned that anything can and will happen especially in the face of adversary.  Two weeks after accepting the slot for Las Vegas 70.3 World Championship, I had an freak bike accident that resulted in my collarbone ending up in five pieces.  Now as a triathlete, we need that little bone for most of our activities.  While our initial goal was to continue on to the Ironman in Louisville we knew it would be questionable as the accident was exactly 6 weeks out from Ironman.  Las Vegas would give us an extra two weeks and we realized that every minute of those additional two weeks would be needed in order to be able to toe the line.

So why not just let it go?  Why not step out of the season and let the bone heal and come back with aspirations for next year?  Experience has taught me that anything can happen and I am an athlete at my core.  Inherently competition defines an athlete so with the support of my coach, Hillary Biscay, Dr. Richard Steffen, Dr. Justin Martindale and Nick Milnor, DC entire team and many amazing friends, I showed up in Sin City.

I knew that this would be my usual reunion time.  I have been in the sport long enough that one of the most favorite parts of racing is getting to see my friends from all over at races.  I have been fortunate enough to train and race with some of the very best age group athletes in both sport as well as spirit.  I'm thankful for social media and email that allows us to develop some very special bonds and I look forward to any chance to reconnect in person.  I knew that I was going to have a blast with many friends on this course and looked forward to it.  My good friend and professional triathlete, Robbie Wade was to be my roomie for the race.  We train together in San Antonio so it was great to spend some time out of the pool talking about our race.  All of this social time proved to distract me from the still moving bones in my left shoulder.

Race morning came with rain showers that made things interesting for 2/3rds of the race.  I had a great time meeting up with everyone in the rain. This ( I kept telling myself) is the essence of triathlon - playing like kids in the rain.  We get to chase each other in the water with a bit of "marco polo", play "king of the hill" on the bike and then have an epic game of chase after the bike.  Clearly I was in my element and thrilled to even be there.  I lined up with one of my favorite competitors, Sue Aquilla.  Sue and I have raced against each other several times and she is just one of the coolest chicks.  Our coaches are besties and that lets us have fun with them as well.

The swim started with a fair amount of questions in my head.  The goal was to swim as hard as I could with the shoulder.  I had about 6 swims under my belt going into the race and knew that I had seen some painful numbers that were close to what I would normally swim but not for the distance.  Again - this is about seeing what is possible on race day and anything is possible.  I was with the front pace of women in my age group but as we swam into the men's group in front of us I decided on caution.  Having played "tag" in the water with the men before I thought it prudent to protect what bone had already developed.

Out on the bike I was ready to settle in.  I have often said that the only flat part of this race is the swim and based on my swim times I  am pretty sure it isn't flat either. The first 25 miles I spent in the mental space of "it's raining stay off the paint and don't crash" to "we are racing".  Shortly after the turn around I saw a jersey that I determined would not gain on me.  That is about the time that the fear turned around.  I determined that if I was going to go down again at least I was going to do it on the biggest stage I could be on at the time.  This was not the time to hold back because I was afraid.  This was the time to look what demons I had and get on with it.  We had a wonderful battle and I am forever grateful for my competitors for without them I would not be given the opportunity to have this experience of myself on the edge.  I just cant get there without them.

As I transitioned to the run - "The Jersey" came into transition.  It was non other than Colleen DeReuck. Now that chick is a running stud with a resume longer than most.  A formidable opponent for sure and I was thrilled to be out there with her in spite of my collarbone.  The run was the giant question mark, but also this was the time I was going to get to see everyone!  I was happy camper most of the time.  It was hard, but getting to watch for high fives from friends kept my mind occupied for 9 miles.  By then I had seen everyone and chased as much as the shoulder would let me. At that time, well it got ugly in the hurt box. This is when I got to decide exactly who I am - yet again.  See I am not nor will I ever be a "wade in the shallow end" type girl.  I have always been a " dive in the deep end, push the limits, drive fast and jump out of airplanes" type girl.  That means that I do this stuff to bump right up against my limits and fears and shake hands with them and then see what kind of dance we do.  Sometimes its a tango and sometimes its a jive - either way we are going to get after it.  Every time I get to learn about myself and every time my fears get to be confronted.  The cool part about that is I am the one that chooses to look that fear square in the face and question the validity of its existence instead of waiting for it to rear its ugly head when I least suspect it.  Don't get me wrong, it has happened (more of late that I care to admit) but I have developed the tools to bob and weave around it through squaring off on my terms as much as possible.

All in all it was a perfect day.  I got to go as hard as I could, see my friends do the same, play in the mud,  ride my bike screaming down hills, play tag, stand up to my inner bully and giggle most of the time and shed a little tear at the end.  On the back side, I can't wait to do it all again!

Thank you so much to everyone that helped get me there - especially Gu Energy, Britton's Bike ShopRudy Project, Vega Nutrition

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.
Muhammad Ali