Since I got sucked into the triathlon vortex I’ve thought daily about two things:
1. Why am I doing this?
This is a tremendous amount of time and energy to spend on an “extracurricular” activity. Not to mention a lot of money.
2. How am I so head over heels in love with this? Why does all of this feel not crazy, but rather, like home? I feel like this is how things should have been all along.
After writing that out I’ll admit I’ve actually thought about two five things on such a regular basis: The above, plus: 3. What’s my workout today? 4. What am I eating today? and 5. When do I get to go to sleep today? But these additional questions aren’t a far departure from typical, so I won’t bore anyone with full results of my food dreams. I exercise a lot, so I’m hungry a lot. Investigation unnecessary.
I’ve put a significant amount of thought into these questions however, and have tried to pinpoint answers without being overly emotional and sentimental. In the end, It seems it’s a sort of emotional topic for me so I’m not sure how effectively I can communicate without some sap. But along with the sap comes answers, and answers that I feel proud of, at peace with, and ones that I know are strong enough to keep me here.
So why does this feel like home? Why is this second nature? Why am I so in love with this? Rewind to 9 year old – 15 year old me.
A typical day required me to wake up, pack my gym bag, pack lunch, go to school, change in the bathroom, hop in my mom’s car, do homework on the 30-45 min drive, practice for 4-5 hours, more homework on the drive home, eat dinner, finish homework, and go to bed. Rinse. Repeat. But I loved it so. I loved the blood, sweat, and tears. I loved the battle wounds. I loved the ups and the downs and the stories of the human capacity that the sport produced. I loved that the hardest workers to rose to the top.
My parents enabled me by driving me back and forth to practice, but there was no pressure from their direction. As long as I got good grades my parents likely felt glad that I was motivated and productive, knowing there were much more harmful things a 13 year old could care about. The only pressure to get stronger and better was internal.
I intensely remember being asked on a regular basis if my dream was to go to the Olympics, and vividly recall being caught off guard each time. Silly stupid adults. I didn’t want to go to the Olympics and knew I wasn’t competitive enough. Why would they be so condescending and not understand that’s not what it’s about? It was about so much more than which skills were performed how well. There was a romance for me in the routine, rhythm, and mental demands of enduring and growing within the sport. There was beauty in learning what your body and mind could truly do without limits, as well as a beauty in learning how to remove said limits. There was confidence to be built, torn down, and reconstructed. Friends to be made. Trust to be gained amongst others, and yourself. Discipline to be learned. And lots of hard work. 13 years later my body has not retained the skills necessary to throw a tumbling pass, but my mind can feel the tempo and cadence of each discipline. I wouldn’t dare try, but I can feel the bars, beam, floor and vault in my heart, body, and soul.
At 16, with rampant injury, I cut my losses and experienced high school. Then I went to college, and learned, made friends, and had fun. I got my first job and worked as hard as I played. All along I was happy and thriving and having a ball, but I wasn’t the same me, and knew it. Then I met the man who would, in the future, become my husband, and as our relationship grew his love and support naturally enabled me to re-find myself. There wasn’t a search party assigned or any crises that triggered it, but feeling loved and secure and happy resupplied the tools I didn’t know I had lost.
There are many differences between the sports, as well as my life then and now, but more is similar than not. I really don’t know what it’s like to not completely and entirely devote yourself to whatever you are passionate about. I took a break in my late teens and early twenties, but that break wasn’t from aspiration; I simply didn’t have anything inspiring me to take action. Triathlon crawled into my heart and mind and now resides in the same spot that gymnastics owned, and I feel home. I am constantly eager for the physical work and
emotional battle, every single day.
So, why am I doing this?
Simple. Because I can. I love working hard. I thrive on the physical and mental challenge. I want to know how good I can be.
I don’t have an awe-inspiring story of overcoming illness, raising money for medical research, or building awareness for a cause. Maybe I should look into that, but raising money would never be enough incentive for me to swim 2.4mi, bike 112mi, and run 26.2mi all in one day. If we’re being honest, it really wouldn’t actually be enough motivation for me to do even one of those things in one day. Call me selfish, but I can only get it together to kick my own ass when it’s over something that I want. Conveniently, I want this a lot and my ass is ready for kicking.
The majority of the time, that is truly enough for me. I want it, so I’ll do it. And on those occasions when I need more I have a great fan club of friends, family and fellow triathletes to remind me that every single day in this journey counts.