On Sunday I will compete in my “A race” of the season; the South Carolina Half Ironman. Coach Orton had wanted me to target a fall Half Iron so that we would have a full training block to prepare for it. However the much bigger race for me this weekend is the one between my ears. Thankfully, a friend of mine is traveling to Charlotte, NC for the weekend and will share the first 5 hours of the drive with me; but after I reunite her and her fiancé, I am on my own until I return to Charlotte Sunday after the race.
From about 1pm on Friday until about 3pm on Sunday I will be alone with my thoughts, with my doubts, with my ambitions and with my fears. I have never before gone into a race without either knowing someone else racing or knowing the course. This time however I will be 7 hours away from my Charlottesville home and countless miles away from those who normally support me on race day. I haven’t yet determined if all that time with my mind will be a good or bad thing. The one thing for sure is I have no excuse to not be mentally prepared come 7:30 Sunday morning.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself. "I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I don’t speak much about my vulnerabilities on this blog and tend to be a fairly private person around those whom I don’t really know. I thought this was a great opportunity to break out of that and state perhaps for the first time I can’t predict the future and do not know what direction this weekend and this race will go in. I have no time predictions, I have no goals, I just want to race smart, enjoy myself and let my time fall where it will. After my poor run performance at my most recent triathlon I thought about walking away from the sport. I felt as if my effort should produce better results and couldn’t understand why my performances have been so lackluster.
Somewhere along the way I had forgotten why I got involved with triathlon in the first place. I had forgotten my goal has always been to inspire others, especially children with chronic illness, to push their physical boundaries and redefine what’s possible. Somehow since IMLP ’08 I lost sight of that, I became determined to get better, I became determined to use time as my goal instead of having my goal be a greater cause.
I’ve noticed a change in the past few weeks of training as I have tried to remind myself of my original goals. I have fought and struggled to get back to who I am, and have tried to find my inner strength to use my disease as a vehicle for inspiration. For too long I felt beaten and dismayed, for too long I felt like my voice wasn’t as loud as it could be. Perhaps this was due to not being as involved with Triabetes as I had wanted or not being able to post times that would qualify me for Team Type 1, I’m not sure. At some point I forgot that the person who struggles the most, who faces the most adversity, who doesn’t post the best time, but who races selflessly can be the greatest inspiration to others.
I had gotten so caught up in trying to get better, that I forgot how much I can enjoy the physical struggle. Perhaps I had been driven by my sometimes obsessive nature to be the best. Perhaps I lost faith in myself that just showing up and struggling through blood sugars was more important than any time I will ever post. Perhaps my dreams became twisted as I lost sight of what is truly important.
“To dream anything that you want to dream. That is the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed.” ~ Bernard Edmonds
I will never be satisfied with just going through the motions; I’m way too competitive for that. At the same time my current struggle is about embracing the challenge in a non-obsessive way. Enjoying those who I train with, not proving that I am the biggest “hammerer,” on the bike. Once I became obsessed about time I could not enjoy just a simple bike ride with a loved one – that is just plain dumb. Enjoy the journey, enjoy the ride, embrace the challenge but remember what’s important; how I lost sight of that last statement I will never know.
The close to 72 hours I spend in Ninety Six, SC will be about remembering what’s important, reminding myself that my goal with triathlon has always been about something bigger than myself. I will remember that I took more joy in receiving an e-mail from a Grandfather of a 3 year old juvenile diabetic that stated knowing the struggle I went through at Placid gave him confidence that his granddaughter could live a tremendous life than I did when I crossed the finish line. My goal on Sunday will not be to race for a time, it will be to race for my cause and to hope I can continue to provide confidence and inspiration for those who haven’t been sure if they can chase their dreams. For my MBA application essays I had stated if I inspired just one child to chase their dream all the blood, sweat and tears of triathlon training would be more than worth it. On Sunday with each swim stroke, with each revolution of my pedals and with each step I run I need to remember that. If that inner passion returns this weekend, everything else will fall into place.