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Part 4: The finish line

3 Aug

And you know, that really is what I like the best about running. There’s nothing else involved. You can just run. I still have a love/hate relationship with it, but how does the saying go? Better the devil you know than the one you don’t? I’m most comfortable with running so it was a huge relief to reach that leg of the tri.

Even more encouraging was the fact that the run was 2.9 miles, not 3.1. That’s a small difference that makes a big difference, at least in my mind. Usually at some point during a 5K my mind is fixated on the deep desire to not be running anymore. But that never happened the day of the triathlon. I honestly think I was so happy to be in the moment I was in, that I didn’t want to rush it. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want it to last forever or anything. But I wanted to appreciate every step for what it was.

As I rounded the second-to-last corner, I started to get a little teary-eyed. It was the first moment I allowed myself to get overwhelmed, and I quickly stopped. I knew I couldn’t get emotional yet, I wasn’t done, and until I crossed the finish line I wouldn’t allow myself to get distracted.

It was only a minute or so later until I was crossing the finish line but the tears that had started to well up in my eyes were long gone. Crossing the finish line. I don’t know how to describe that feeling. Relief that it was over, that I did it. Pride in the fact that I was able to accomplish something that was so outside of my normal self. Happiness as I met up with the family and friends who had come to cheer me along, waving bumblebees and signs and cheering for me the whole way.

And I was also very humbled…to be surrounded by so many women whose goals were probably quite similar to mine, and to be surrounded by the people who have been so supportive and encouraging of me these past few months, who would get up early and stand around all morning just to see me for a few seconds here and there in order to see me cross the finish line.

It was also somehow humbling to realize I had done exactly what I set out to do. In the beginning I said: “For whatever reason and accumulation of circumstances, I want to complete a triathlon. So I will. I will use my energy to focus, concentrate, work hard, step outside the box. Actually, I will swim, bike and run outside the box. Why not?” And I did. And standing on the other side of that finish line, I knew there really isn’t anything I can’t do.

Now here’s the other thing I’ve truly learned that I hope I never forget. Life is crazy. It doesn’t happen how you expect it to. It doesn’t happen when you expect it to. But if you hang on for the ride, follow your heart and keep your head up no matter how rocky your path gets, the good things in life will prevail. There will be something to catch you before you fall. When you least expect it, something so good can happen.

When I set this goal for myself, it was a big deal to me. I said “I decided to change everything”, and I completely meant that. But never did I imagine how big it would get. Never did I imagine that when the goal was achieved, I would be so at peace with myself, with my life. That I would have everything, and want nothing. That I would be so entirely transformed, mentally and physically.

I never imagined that I could ask myself “What’s next?” and realize that I’m okay with the fact that I don’t really know for sure. But I’m incredibly excited to find out.

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Part 3: Liking Biking

3 Aug

So, I was still pretty psyched by the time I reached my bike (which I was able to find thanks to the giant bumble bee balloon tied to my place on the bike rack, that my mom bought for the occasion). I mean, at least with the bike if something goes wrong you can stop and figure it out. Swimming doesn’t quite allow you that advantage. But to be honest, even before I reached my bike any negative feelings about the swim were gone. I had already mentally moved on to the next thing, which was getting to the transition area. Drying my feet, putting my socks on, putting my shoes on, putting my helmet on, grabbing my bike, and going. But I was calm. I took my time. I can’t quite explain the cool, composed focus I had going on. I wasn’t worried about time, I wasn’t concerned with anything other than doing the next thing I needed to do. My mind was completely clear of anything extraneous, I was completely in the moment.

So many people had told me, don’t forget to acknowledge the moment when you’re in it. Don’t forget to look around, take it in, really feel it as it’s happening. And I am so thankful I was able to do that. I enjoyed the scenery during the bike ride, the people on their front lawns cheering everyone on, the homemade signs dotting the race course. I got off my bike and walked up most of the two painfully steep hills when I found I couldn’t quite make it up. Ordinarily I would scold myself for doing such a thing. But this time I didn’t care. I was just in a zone….happy for the women who were speeding by me and glad to see there were women like me, huffing and puffing and barely moving up the hill until they got off and walked the rest of the way. I put zero pressure on myself. It was fine either way. That’s not to say I wasn’t trying or putting in an effort. Of course I was. But it was a relaxed, sane, happy effort.

Before long, I rounded a corner and a volunteer called out that we had 5 miles left. Ok, I thought to myself, that means I’ve done 7 miles already. So I’m more than halfway through. And I feel great. So this will be a breeze….And I just continued to enjoy it.

And then it was over. Before I knew it, I was hopping off my bike and heading back into the transition area to drop my bike, grab an energy gel and pick up my race belt, thinking: This is the part I know. This is the part I have already overcome. This is the best part- just me, running.

Part 2: Swim Lessons

30 Jul

And then suddenly I wasn’t standing on the edge anymore. I was swimming.

And just as suddenly, I inhaled a huge mouthful of lake water and any ease I felt about my strength as a swimmer disappeared. I was choking. And trying to swim. With 30 other people. And they were all around me. And I was still choking. And I was tired. More than a little freaked out. And only 15 seconds into the 1/2 mile swim. Oh God.

I flipped over onto my back to get my face out of the water. I couldn’t stop coughing on the water I had swallowed. Why hadn’t I practiced swimming more? Twice?! In a calm, clear, seaweed-free pool?! Was I kidding myself thinking that was enough? I was suddenly so shaken and could feel exhaustion creep into my body. I looked up, saw that the first buoy I had to swim to was still incredibly far away, and realized that I needed to get. it. together. Or I would never make it. So I calmed myself down and just focused on doing what needed to be done. Which was mainly: a) staying afloat and b) moving closer to the finish.

It was ridiculously tiring. I felt like part of the time I was swimming, but mostly I was surviving. I think I invented some pretty nifty swim strokes in my effort to simply make it through. That was the longest half mile of my life. When I was finally done, I was so happy to be out of the water that despite how tired I was, I ripped off my swim cap and goggles and ran up the beach with renewed energy, waving enthusiastically to my mom when I spotted her on the sidelines. I was just so happy to be alive and on dry land, and to have the hardest part of the tri behind me that I felt like doing cartwheels. After the swim, the bike seemed like it would be an absolute breeze.

Part 1: I did it!

30 Jul

I did it! The triathlon is over. I kicked its ass.

Friday and Saturday I was buzzing with nervous energy. I was so anxious, not nervous, but anxious, that I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the tri was Sunday….it seemed so surreal. I had been preparing for so long for that day that I almost forgot the day would actually come. But suddenly, there it was. And I could barely breathe.

But once Audrey picked me up on Saturday to head to orientation and registration, the calm that I had been hoping for started to settle over me. I knew I had prepared for this, mentally and physically, every day since I made the decision to do it. I knew I was ready, not just by the fact that I now owned a triathlon suit, bike helmet and race number belt, but by the fact that I had not a shadow of a doubt that I would accomplish exactly what I set out to do.

This calmness carried throughout Saturday into Sunday. It was exactly what I was hoping I would feel. I slept well the night before, I woke up without butterflies in my stomach. I was amped up, thats for sure, but in a very determined, even-keeled way. I wasn’t nervous at all. I was just ready to go. Bring it on, triathlon!

We left the hotel and headed to the race site to set up our transition areas. The number of bikes lining the rows was pretty incredible. There were so many people, and we had so much time to kill before our swim waves started. Normally these would be anxiety-inducing factors. Yet somehow I still wasn’t nervous. Just ready.

At 8:15, I entered the (freezing cold!) water with my swim wave. 30 or so girls in yellow swim caps, all about my age, all about to do what I was about to do. I can’t tell you what their journeys were to get to that moment. I only know mine. And I made myself think of it as I stood there waiting for the horn to blow. This is it, I thought. Here it is. You are standing on the edge of your moment.

2 Days

24 Jul

I’ve been trying to write a post. I really have. And I really want to. I just don’t know what to say.

This has been such a long journey with so many great moments, so many accomplishments and so much change. So much of it unexpected. So much of it beyond what I imagined. And the goal, the culmination of all my hard work, dedication and unwavering focus, is two days away. It’s an overwhelming feeling. It’s exciting. And I’m a big ball of nervous energy right now.

I know two things in this moment.

One. I did everything I set out to do and so, so much more. I couldn’t be more amazed at how different every single thing in my life is.

And two. On Sunday I will become a triathlete.

Thank you.

9 Jul

It’s impossible to get through life without the help of those around you. Not necessarily because you couldn’t, but because you just don’t. Help comes, sometimes unspoken, in hundreds of large and small ways, all the time.

Maybe it’s only me that takes each step when I go for a run- no one is physically helping me move my legs. Maybe my motivation comes from something inside me- no one tells me what to do. Maybe this whole thing is about me- my idea, my plan, my goal. After all, didn’t I say that the whole reason I chose this goal was that it had nothing to do with anyone else, only me?

But that does not mean that no one is helping me. Each and every step I’ve taken– both literally and figuratively– has been backed by the support of so many wonderful people. Could I have done it without them? Yes. But did they help me do it? Absolutely. I could have done it without them, but it wouldn’t have been the same. Sometimes getting help seems like a bad thing- like you can’t do something on your own. But that’s not true. When people want to help you and support you not because you asked for it, or even because you need it…it’s a wonderful thing.

So. I moved my own feet. And here’s to some of the people who made that possible.

Amelia. I have no idea how I have not mentioned you here before, because without you no one would not be reading these words. You’re the one who put the blog bug in my head, and I am so thankful. Besides that, you’ve been one of my most positive supporters, and have listened to my crazy thoughts more times than I can count. Thank you so, so much.

Audrey, your seemingly crazy idea to do a 5K before the tri has changed my life tremendously. Thanks for patiently re-teaching me how to swim and for always having the sweetest most encouraging things to say. Thank you. Because of you, I will not drown.

Callie and Wayne, I don’t care if you hate your blog names. I love you. Thank you for running with me. And thank you for always being truly happy for me, and for believing in me and in every aspect of my future.

Lola. I cannot imagine what the past few months would have been like without you. I would have definitely puked before the first 5K (and it might have been my last), maybe even cut out of the gym early some days and would not have given myself over to the idea of dating as easily. And I would have had a lot less fun. I don’t know how else to say how happy I am that you came on this journey with me….thanks for being the yin to my yang.

James….it’s still beyond words. Thanks for reading this, understanding me, and then doing something amazing. You made me realize that it is possible to do something for yourself that can truly reach other people. And speaking of beyond words– thank you for the bubble.

Piz, you believe in my words with such a conviction that I can really see myself on Oprah someday. I promise I’ll figure out a way to get you on camera too 🙂 Thanks for training with me, for coming to see me run, and oh yeah, for being the best brother in the whole wide world.

Mom & Dad, thank you for… everything. For being there. For believing in me. For laughing when I told you I was going to do a triathlon, because it reminds me how far I’ve come.

I just had to say all these thank you’s now, because I’m hopping on a plane to Mexico in the morning and I know that once I get back they days will fly by and it will suddenly be the day of the triathlon. I wanted to say these thank you’s before then so that when I cross the finish line each of you will know the role you played in getting me there and the gratitude I have for it. Because let’s face it, I’ll probably be so exhausted I won’t be able to breathe or form a coherent thought to thank you then.

I can’t wait! 16 days!

Lucky Charms & Mr. Miyagi

28 Jun

Since I started off this week feeling like the energy had been completely drained from my body, I figured it might be a good thing to give myself a week to take it easy with the exercising and counting points, and have some relaxed, no worries kind of fun.

I am proud to say I was tremendously successful in this endeavor. While I still worked out 4 days this week, it was also a week full of Lucky Charms, an ice cream cone, Coronas and late-night karaoke. So, it’s true that I may not have figured out the balance thing by tipping the scales too far the other way (no pun intended by the way, but that’s obviously a subconscious confession to the fact that I am not looking forward to stepping on the scale on Tuesday). But that’s okay with me because I had a blast while I was doing it. Might as well get a little break in now, because the next month (28 days to be precise) is surely to be one in which I push myself the hardest. Might as well go into it with a re-energized state of mind.

Given that we were both not up for another killer bike ride like the one we took last week (which honestly left me exhausted for 3 days), my brother and I decided to take a quick bike ride and run. I already knew that my energy level was low so there was no real goals for this time, just to ride. Except, my brother did remind me again that I need to stop braking down hills, because I need to take advantage of the speed. Yes, I brake when I go down hills. I get scared! I don’t really know why I’m such a wimp. But yesterday I did manage to not break down one big hill, so despite having low energy levels we did manage to accomplish something!

In a moment that will remind us all of how clutzy and athletically-impaired I can be, when biking up a hill earlier, the capri pants I was wearing got caught in my bike and ripped.

Thank goodness that I managed to get out of my toe cages and off my bike, because I could have just as easily tipped right over. That would not have been any fun at all. I tore off the piece of my pants that was hanging in shreds so it wouldn’t get caught again, and being the resourceful guy he is, my brother fashioned it into a totally awesome sweatband a la the Karate Kid.

You see the resemblance, right?

Except he’s more like Mr. Miyagi, because he’s my teacher, reminding me what I need to learn, teaching me how and challenging me even without meaning to, in my effort to keep up with him. And as it turns out, the real Mr. Miyagi also has some lessons I could use:

Miyagi: What matter?
Daniel: I’m just scared. The tournament and everything.
Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Daniel: Yeah.
Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?