It is without a doubt the best picture of me running ever taken. This is the bonus of having a friend who is a professional photographer and thinks nothing of having you do an impromptu photo shoot a trail after your tempo run.
But the bigger bonus for me wasn’t just in Tara’s photographic skills. It was in her friendship and her willingness to call me on my bullshit.
“Here’s what I don’t understand,” she said to me as we were driving through the Adirondack region in its autumnal glory. “Why don’t you have confidence after doing an Ironman? You should believe you can do absolutely anything now.”
Thus began a personal reflection and an interesting conversation. Tara herself said that it’s just now, a year later, that she fully appreciates what she accomplished by completing her first Ironman. Often we don’t see what we’ve done. We don’t see the road we’ve traveled. We can’t see the proverbial forest through the trees because we are in it, trying to find our way out, or our next great path, or are just sitting and resting in our current view. Sometimes you have to turn around, see the road you just traveled and appreciate the view.
With this conversation fresh in my mind and my soul reveling in confidence of how much I have grown in the past few years, Tara and I set off on my tempo run. We were running one her regular routes near Hannawa Falls but doing my workout for the day, which called for three miles at tempo pace, five minutes of recovery followed by one more mile at tempo pace. Tara forbade me from looking at my watch. She kept the pace. And I just trusted. Whenever my mind started to question if I could hold my tempo pace for three miles, I focused on trust. I focused on what I believed to be true — that this was something I could do, something I would do. It was a challenge, but we hit my paces. It felt great. It felt so great I couldn’t stop talking about how great I felt, about how magnificent that run was.
“I never want to hear you worry about your pace again,” Tara. “You just did it. So, and I say this with love, shut up about it.”
Granted, I will always have moments of doubting myself. There will always be fear gremlins. There will be the gremlins who taunt me. Who do you think you are? The triumph, at least for me, is not in eradicating those gremlins but in no longer believing the stories they tell. Because if I turn around and look back on my journey, I have a dozen other stories to tell, ones that are funny and triumphant. Ones that show my sense of humor and my strength. Ones that are authentically me, and not some lame-ass gremlin version of my life story.
So it’s no wonder that when Tara pulled the car over for an impromptu photo shoot the pictures turned out beautiful. Besides having an amazing photographer behind the camera, I had stepped into the best stories about myself, the ones in which I’m having so much fun, everything else just melts away.