"The journey is the reward." - Chinese proverb
When I started triathlon, I thought that race day was going to unleash some pure magic in me. I envisioned that crossing the finish line would fundamentally change me in some way or push me forward to some new personal level. I crossed the finish line and felt...tired, good, happy, but nothing major shifted. Yet, who I was had changed... it had just done so over months of training. This years journey has taken me from thinking I might be able to finish the Olympic distance Escape From Alcatraz (although I had to conquer my overwhelming fear of sharks and the ocean) to finishing my first Half Iron distance race, Orangeman and finishing 5th in my age group at the Newport Beach Tri (sprint) this past weekend. Every step along the way, every hour training, every pedal stroke, every torturous ascent of Glendora Mountain Road, every swim...it's all been my reward. This lifestyle keeps me happy, every single day. I spend my time outdoors, with the love of my life and a handful of good friends and training partners doing things that bring me joy. I still laugh when I think how all of this started on a whim, and now it's shaped my life in a new direction and given me the courage, confidence and strength to believe that anything is possible for me.
This year I began with a big goal in sight - to complete the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon. Terrified of sharks, terrified of the ocean, and terrified of the seeming insanity that would be required to even deal with this race, I plunged into working on my swim with a vengeance. My swim has developed into something manageable, and even pretty decent in the pool. My open water swim still needs work, as I tend to have difficulty sighting (only on race day) and tend to lack mental focus in the ocean until a 1/4 mile into the swim. A huge chunk of the development in my swim is mental. At the beginning of this year, open water swims were beginning to have a pattern of me getting in the water, swimming for 50 feet, then stopping, trying to calm down, swimming 50 feet, stopping, etc.. until I'd finally march out of the water scared out of my mind and mad at myself for being such a wuss. I cruised through the Alcatraz swim, and my confidence was buoyed. A few months later, I had a bit of a rough experience at CDM in which I had something akin to a panic attack, that I think was more due to ingesting half of the ocean's water along with my wetsuit not being on right. I felt like I couldn't breathe, freaked out and backstroked to shore. I sat on the shore thinking I was fooling myself with my big dreams of swimming in the ocean. A few weeks later, with a little talking-to by Adam, I was back in the water and proved to myself that I can swim. Swimming has certainly been a journey.
My cycling has come a long way. While I've always done alright on the flats, long hills really kicked my ass in the earlier part of the year. After we signed up for Orangeman, I dedicated my summer to riding Glendora Mountain Road. It took me 2 failed attempts to finally get up and over the damn thing, but I did it and it wasn't that bad after all. Along with hilly rides, losing some weight and a awesome bike fit, my average mph increased from 16ish to 19.5mph. I'm finally seeing numbers in the 20-23 mph range and I'm liking it a lot! My pedal stroke is a nightmare and I know I'm not pedaling efficiently, but hopefully a Computrainer will beat that out of me.
Running. Ah running. I have these delusions that one day I'll be some crazy endurance runner. There's something warped in my head that read an article years ago on this Ultra-runner chick and thought, "Yeah, that looks neat self! We should do that!" It's lain dormant through years of damage and...uh...not running. But, it's still there, bopping around my head and it deludes me into making me think I can run. I'm improving. Which is awesome, because I've spent thirty years not able to get below a certain 5K speed and I'm finally chipping away at it. I'm dedicating the winter to actually building mileage up right and avoiding injury by emphasizing a strength program that's running focused and a stretching habit. The only way to get better is to work, and I am ready to do work! The faster I am, the less time I have to spend out there grinding out the miles at the tail end of my triathlons next year =)
I can think of nothing more fitting for this year than the quote I started this post with. It's too easy to focus so far ahead on your goal(s) that you lose sight of the beauty, transformation and magic of right now. I think this concept only really hit home while I was struggling to bang out the half-marathon portion of Orangeman. I was feeling ornery and I thought, "I've had training days better than today!" and it struck me. Hey, wait a minute, here I was doing what I have been working on for so long, and it...really...isn't as awesome as some non-special days I've had during the year. It made me realize that I need to be here, now and to really appreciate the good days and to not let the more difficult days bother me too much. When you're on the right path, doing the right thing, at the right time, with the right person/people, every day is all the reward I need!