Full of a bit too much Tex-Mex goodness from lunch with Mark and cloistered inside with a sore heel and howling cold winds it was the perfect opportunity to reflect on my 2010. Maybe it was the grayness of the day, or the hearty serving of vegetable burritos, but upon looking at where I started 2010 and where it’s ending, a smile crossed my face and a warm feeling of joy brought me an calming sense of peace.
No. For real.
It started with my second journey to Florida for the Miami Half Marathon with my friends Sue and Herm. The actual race? Not so good. The humidity was oppressive — even to native Floridians — and running fast, well, it just wasn’t going to be part of the day. But the important learning of the trip wasn’t so much anything about actual running (although learning how humidity affects the body was certainly an important lesson) it was about relationships.
Sue and Herm were there to support me as I grieved the bad race, perhaps the worst race of my brief athletic career. They gave me perspective as we ate gelato, trekked through a nasty rain storm and took in a lounge act and daiquiris at a hotel bar on Miami Beach.
It was at this race where I ended my two-year relationship with one coach and switched to working with Peter Pimm. While my work with Peter has been exciting and enjoyable, leaving a relationship of any kind is difficult. And I learned that part of grieving the bad race was also grieving the end of a coach-athlete relationship, even though it was the right thing for me to do. People change and our needs and wants change. And that’s OK.
As a bit of foreshadowing for the spring, it was also from this event were Mark and I started to develop a friendship. Nothing spells bonding like a mutually excruciating race experience.
You know the saying when one door closes, somewhere a window opens? I didn’t see the window at the time, but luckily for me, I moved toward it anyway.
Early spring was spent concentrating on some running races, including my second participation in the annual Shamrock Run 8K through South Buffalo and then the Spring Forward 15K in Rochester. My friendship with Mark evolved into dating. For the record, our second date was a 12-mile run and our third date was a 25-mile bike ride. He also took me curling for the first time. What’s that they say about surrounding yourself with positive people who support you, your ambitions and your goals? Never underestimate that power.
In April I tackled my second 70.3 race — the Memorial Hermann 70.3 Ironman in Galveston, Texas with my friend Walker. After a bit of paranoia about my bike making it down to Texas things seemed to be going well. Until … I took a practice swim in the salt water, landed awkwardly upon jumping into the water and strained all the muscles on the top of my foot causing my ankle and foot to swell. Would I be able to race? Walker and our friend Theo tried to cheer me up, bringing me trashy magazines after procuring some pain killers from a local drug store. Nothing, after all, can seem so bad after trying to figure out why popular culture cares about the Kardashians.
My pre-race nerves were strong for this race and I suddenly had huge fear of not making the swim cut-off along with concern for how my swollen lower limb would hold up on the 13.1-mile run.
My decision — to keep going as long as I could. If the pain was really bad, I would deal with it.
The result — my best 70.3 race to date and the joy of sharing it with one of my best friends.
Late spring brought two new experiences both with Mark (who earned Best Boyfriend title by this point) — the Bay to Breakers 12K in San Francisco, which is more Mardi Gras than road race, and the Fly By Night Duathlon at Watkins Glen International, my first duathlon and first race on my actual birthday, complete with a cake after the race.
Aside from racing, spring brought another chance to write about post-season women’s basketball as St. Bonaventure had its second straight 20-win season and advanced to the WNIT. They win ugly yet do it with style. They do the unglamorous work of playing defense. They are gritty and tenacious and methodical. Most of all, they believe in their own ability and the abilities of their teammates. What I learned from the Bonnies: Be who you are. Success (conventional or otherwise) follows that.
It was a busy race summer, but one with a goal in mind as my races were meant as preparation for my first Iron Distance race. Preparation began with the Welland Triathlon, where I felt oddly at ease and strong, particularly on the bike. I followed that up with my third 70.3 race, the Musselman in Geneva, N.Y. Nerves again? You bet. But this time the swim went much better, a bit smoother, and the bike was rather adequate. The run, however, was a nightmare as the heat and the hilly course got the best of me. I missed my PR by about 1:45, but finished drained — pleased that I put forth the best effort I could.
The Cazenvoia Triathlon in August gave me a decent swim, a really good run but a sub-par bike. Granted, I did a four-hour training bike ride the day before the race — a perspective Mark offered — but the haze of disappointment took some time to work through.
Perhaps that’s the beauty of racing — learning that this is always another race, another challenge, another chance to try to do better, or try something new all together.
And trying new things included taking some interesting hikes with Mark. We went off the trail (onto the “white road” for those who have read Raising The Bar by Gary Erickson) and out of my comfort zone. I learned that if I kept focused on what was in front of me and trusted those around me (who, by the way, were deserving of my trust) there was no need to let fear keep me from enjoying the moment. In fact, the white road kept me in the moment, something I learned to do more and more throughout 2010. And something which I learned brings me much joy.
I become an Ironwoman.
The Esprit in Montreal was in part the culmination of nearly three years of training. This was where my experimentation in triathlon had led — to 140.6 miles of challenge. But in reality, the Iron Distance wasn’t the end of the journey; it was the beginning.
While the swim felt like it took forever, the day flew by. Really. Who knew 14 hours could go by so quickly, especially when a large portion of it was spent doing 41 laps on your bike.
The experience was incredible and frankly difficult to put into words. Months after completing it, I sometimes downplay the accomplishment. After all, I just showed up to my training every day. I followed the plan Peter laid out for me. I showed up to the race, put my head down (at times literally) and kept moving forward. What’s so special about that?
It is special. And it’s ordinary. Life is about contradiction. For instance, while this is a goal I had been working toward, the end of the race was not the end of the journey. In many ways, it was just the beginning, the start of understanding and embracing my own power and positivity, the start of learning to ride the waves of life and not get sidetracked by the highs and lows. Life is about showing up. If you do that, whether it’s at the track, the pool, your kitchen or your computer screen, amazing things happen. Without you even thinking about it.
That, of course, doesn’t mean that hard work isn’t part of the process. I watched Mark put in miles and more miles and few more miles preparing to run the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, N.Y. He qualified for the Boston Marathon (and was able to register) but what was most impressive was the manner in which he pursued his goal — with knowledge and focus. He faced the challenge, ran as best as he possibly could, and let the time fall where it may.
Focus on what you can control; good things flow from doing the best with what you have.
Joy resides in the moment.
The best people in your life are those who talk you down from ledges, celebrate with you in triumph and make all the times in between interesting and funny.
One can get sick of Fig Newtons.
When all else fails, just keep moving forward.
All you really need to do is show up. Each day. Show up. The result will take care of itself.