32

I’m turning 32 tomorrow.

Whoa. 32.

Most days, I feel 10, sometimes 20 years, older than that — mainly because I feel like I’ve lived a million lifetimes within the span of those 32 years.

I’ve overcome obstacles and challenges, both physical and emotional, I never thought I’d make it through, and endured pain most people should never have to experience.

Yes, there’s been an abundance of pain and heartbreak. (This IS life, after all. No one is exempt from it.)

But, I’ve also been fortunate enough to travel the world, see and experience spectacular beauty, do work that I’m incredibly passionate about, and find my forever soulmate within my daughter, Lauren.

Over the past six years, she’s challenged and pushed me and forced me to mold myself into the best person I can possibly become. Every day that I wake up, I just want to be better…for her.  

Through it all, I’ve always done my best to love myself through the ups and downs of life and run into the future and new possibilities and let everything that hurt me seemingly burn behind me.

In the past, I would never really allow myself to focus on the bad for too long because I felt like it distracted from the good…. and here and now.

31 felt like a sucker-punch though. Just one giant blow. It was not easy in so many unfathomable and unconscionable ways. It was heavy.  

Without giving too much away, 31 brought a big life change. A separation and a new chapter.

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t bursting at the seams with my glass half-full demeanor.  I wasn’t on autopilot, either. I didn’t skip over the emotions and fast-forward to a happy ending.

I let myself feel. I let myself grieve. I let myself experience every emotion I was feeling, and do whatever I possibly needed to process all of life’s changes and challenges. I fell apart, so I could take the necessary steps to put myself back together again.

Over the past six months, I’ve found out so much about the people in my life. I’ve been able to see what and who is real and what wasn’t.

In the darkest moments, I was able to find my light. My home team. My no-matter-what people who were willing to walk through fire with me. The ones who willingly showed up whenever and wherever needed, no questions asked.

I always joke that people should go through life-altering events every couple of years to reevaluate who is currently in their life and who is worthy of remaining there. It’s essentially like panning for gold. You have to sift through the fakes to find the real ones.

I’ve not only been able to find my true friends throughout this new chapter of my life, but myself too.

For starters, I‘ve found that I’m emotionally resilient.

I have not allowed myself to become bitter, despite what has happened. Instead, I’ve let it transform me into a stronger, more forgiving and loving person.

Overall, I feel like all the grief has softened me, the heartache has made me wiser, and all the suffering has strengthened me beyond comprehension.

Tomorrow, I get to finally put 31 to bed.

I’ll be 32, and I already feel so much lighter — as if I’ve finally come home to myself.

I already know the next year will be chock-full of goodness: new experiences, growth, peace…. but most importantly, and above else, happiness.

 

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Recalibrating + Hitting the Reset Button

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After I finished Ironman Wisconsin in September, I was on an absolute high. I had finally accomplished the ‘Holy Grail’ of dreams – the one that I had fantasized about for nearly six years, and had once deemed impossible. It was done and dusted, and it felt indescribable.

It essentially felt like I was riding a giant endorphin wave afterward, and I was 100% ready to dive headfirst into training for another Ironman in 2017.

It appeared as if I had temporarily blacked out and forgotten how many sacrifices were made, and how much work –the two-a-days, long, endless bike rides on Saturdays, and 4:30 AM alarms, as well as the hundreds of training hours it had taken me to get to the start line of my first Ironman. In my endorphin-filled mind, the work and sacrifices clearly didn’t matter, only the end result did.

I was hungry for more.

I talked to my coach, Teresa and told her about my (not-so-surprising) dreams of qualifying for Kona (the Ironman World Championships), and she told me what it would essentially take to achieve that goal.

My eyes got noticeably wider, and my throat got dry as she was explaining to me what the girls who were qualifying for Kona were typically doing on a weekly basis. They were biking more than I was swimming, biking and running combined. They were doing this, and that, and it was just insane to try and even wrap my head around it.

Teresa, who is incredibly optimistic and always seems to know the perfect thing to say to calm my worried mind, said that I was a very strong athlete, and I do have a good chance to qualify for Kona, someday.

However, she also pointed out an incredibly valid point: I trained as much as I possibly could last year to get to the finish line, and I didn’t do much beyond that. Why? Well, I have a full-time job, a 6-year-old, and a husband who works 100+ hours a week. It’s also incredibly important to me to be an attentive and loving mom and wife, and dependable, reliable and hard-working employee.

Riding my bike for 15-20 hours per week is just not feasible for me, nor is training for 30 hours.

Triathlon is my hobby. Plain and simple, and I couldn’t honestly fathom spending MORE time away from my family than I already did last year.

I mulled over our conversation for about a week before I e-mailed Teresa back and said, “Forget it. I can’t chase Kona. I can’t even do another Ironman next year. I need to hit the reset button and re-calibrate.”

(Disclaimer: I’m not saying that my Ironman-racing and Kona-qualifying dreaming days are completely over. They’re just going to be put on the highest shelf until further notice. Spending time with Miss Lauren while she’s still young is much more valuable than a KQ, and I know it’s a decision I’ll never regret.)

Anyway, making the decision to not do another Ironman this year has honestly been the decision I could have ever made.

For the past 4 years, I’ve chased this goal – PRs, podiums, or that goal – Age Group Nationals, 70.3 World Championships, and Kona, and it’s totally sucked all the fun out of the journey.

If I placed 5th and made the podium, I was upset because I didn’t win and I’d write the whole thing off as a failure. I’d average a 7:20 mile in a 10K and PR, but I’d be upset because it wasn’t closer to 7-minutes flat. I’d make progress but it was never fast enough.

None of it was ever enough.

Having goals is a truly wonderful thing. They keep you focused and on track. But, it also can be a dangerous, slippery slope when you’re so Type-A, like me. You start to have tunnel vision, and you only focus on the goal in front of you. You don’t let anything get in the way of it, and it practically becomes an obsession.

When you do accomplish the goal, you find yourself not even celebrating it because you’re already focused on the next one.

I was constantly trying to one-up myself. But, I guess after Ironman Wisconsin, I just sort of snapped out of it. After 4 years, I was physically exhausted and mentally drained beyond comprehension. I forgot all the reasons why I was even training or what exactly I was chasing, so I knew it was definitely time to reassess.

Therefore, I’ve decided to do things completely differently this year – because, honestly – nothing is ever going to change if I don’t change behavior patterns, the decisions I make, and how I approach certain situations.

So, here’s my new plan for 2017 —

  • I don’t have a set, clear race schedule.
  • I’m focusing on my ‘happy place,’ which is riding and racing my bike.
  • I don’t have an ‘A,’ ‘B’ or ‘C’ race.
  • I don’t hope or wish to qualify for any particular championships races.
  • I made a list of 2017 goals, and they only include new experiences (My first gravel road race and riding a Mountain bike for the first time!) and HAVING FUN!

I’ve finally realized that the big goal is not to achieve something over here or the journey over there, but the fun you have along the way.

So, here we go! 2017, I promise to fill you with adventure, smiles, FUN, new experiences, as well as love and appreciation for every up and down you bring my way.

xoxo

2016 race season recap.

It’s been over six weeks since Ironman Wisconsin, and I’ve finally sat down to jot down my thoughts on the race as well as my entire race season.

I typically produce a lengthy, detailed race report rather quickly, which features everything I was feeling and experiencing at various times throughout the race.

But, I just haven’t felt like doing that for this race. I feel like everything I want to say has already been said a million times before by a million different people.

I cried, a lot – during the National Anthem, every time I saw my family, at the finish line, etc., I smiled bigger and wider than I ever knew was possible, I made my dreams come true. The crowd support at Ironman Wisconsin is electrifying. Pure magic. Yada, yada, yada….

See? You’ve heard it all before.

I figured it would be more interesting to discuss all the incredible things I learned and gained from this entire race season. Because, man. This year was NOT easy. It was knock-you-to-your-knees, punch-you-in-the-gut, hard.

And it wasn’t just the sheer volume in training that made it difficult. It was all the adversity – disappointments, heartbreak — that I encountered over the past twelve months.

Every season has ups and downs. However, 2016 seemingly had exceptionally more downs than ups. It was full of grit and a rollercoaster of emotions. But, I’m proud to say that the fire in my belly never, ever went away, despite all the misfortune and frustration that was thrown in my general direction.

Every time I got knocked down or pushed back, I had this attitude like, ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ And I’d dust myself off, put back on my goggles, bike or running shoes, and try again.

I was absolutely relentless in my pursuit, and I refused to back down, even though it often broke my heart in the process.

The biggest thing I learned this year is that so much of this sport is left to fate. You can train all you want, but sometimes things happen that are beyond your control – mechanical on bike (which resulted in my first DNF at Grand Rapids 70.3 this year) as well as a partially torn Achilles tendon at mile 9 of a marathon (Ironman Wisconsin).

You can also hit all your workouts, but your legs can decide not to show up for race day (Cherry Roubaix), or you can blow last year’s winning time out of the water but still place fifth THIS year, due to who decided to show up on race day (Michigan Mountain Mayhem).

I also learned that you have to sacrifice some speed to go long (Every single running race I did this year), and the experience is so much more important than the finishing time.

Going into Ironman Wisconsin, I told everyone that I wanted to go sub-12 and place top 10 in my age group. Secretly, I wanted more though. I wanted to podium. I wanted that highly coveted Kona slot. I wanted to go sub-11:30. I wanted it all.

The reality though is that I placed 20th in my age group. I went 12:17.

I was nowhere near any of my goals.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting – to put it all out there – my goals, training, etc. – to have so many people whispering in my ear that I would achieve this and do that – and fall short on all of it.

I’d also be lying if I didn’t say the knife has been turned several times since the race – as I’ve had to sit back and watch so many others have the race that I so desperately wanted – the race that I spent twelve months dreaming about – and watched slowly slip away on September 11.

But, whenever I find myself spiraling and focusing on the negative, I do my best to reel myself back in and keep things in perspective.

Because Ironman Wisconsin was a totally surreal, send-shivers-down-your-spine experience. Every single nano-second of it.

And when it all comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if I placed 20th, 15th, or 5th or what the clock said when I crossed the finish line – what truly matters is that I finished – that while I was doing the race, my daughter, Lauren looked at me the entire day like I was a damn superhero. And now that the race is over, she will go up to random strangers, without any rhyme or reason, and proudly announce that her mom is an Ironman.

What matters is that I made her proud. 

As mentioned earlier, this past year was all about adversity. I’ve learned that setbacks are not bad. It’s all part of the journey. They just redirect you. Give a higher purpose. Provide you with a new perspective and more opportunity to grow.

Taking a step back, I’ve learned that all of the challenges this past year have allowed me to grow as a person, to learn about the type of person I am, and to see what I am truly made of – which is a strong mind & heart as well as a relentless spirit.

At the end of the day, there’s truly nothing more beautiful than when you prove to yourself just how strong you truly are.

So, I’ll happily walk away from this season equipped with new life lessons, and a new sense of self, which is so much brighter and more beautiful than any trophy that could ever be placed on my mantel.