This week the blog squad assigned each other topics and mine comes from Erin
What has been the biggest lesson triathlon has taught you, and how have you applied that to your life outside of triathlon?
Ooo good question.
Triathlon has taught me so many things
...how to change my clothes really fast...
...how to be unapologetically myself in a unitard...
…how to willingly do things to make my toenails fall off...
So very many things.
But the biggest lesson that sticks out and follows me around in the rest of my life is that
My choices matter.
Over 10 years ago I did my first ironman. I was young, undertrained and had no idea what I was doing. The swim went well enough, but when I arrived at the bike turnaround/special needs of Ironman Canada (still in Penticton at the time) I decided I couldn’t possibly go on. I was tired and chaffed and knew that whatever I had packed in that stupid plastic bag wasn’t enough to get me through the rest of the event. Dreams crushed. Goal failed. I couldn’t hack it.
I rolled to the nearest volunteer and told her I wanted to stop. She asked if I was okay. I was. She told me a van would come get me. I asked when. She said it could be up to a couple hours – I was low priority, because I was okay. OKAY?! I’m not okay I just got my heart broken by an ironman. Someone should come get me NOW.
I stood there for awhile looking ridiculous with a decision to make. I could wait... Don’t be an ironman. Confirm that it was in fact too hard and too long for me to do.
Keep going. By now I wasn’t winning any medals or age-group spots, but I could probably keep going. It’d probably be awful and I might even hate it but the worst thing that could happen was more of the same I’d already experienced all day.
So I kept going. I hate waiting more than I hate chaffing.
I finished the bike course, still not totally sure that I wanted to continue but those friendly volunteers quickly ushered me out of transition and on to the run course. I guess I’m running now? I walk ran the first 10km. A man beside me said “stick with me Kid (I really was only a kid) and we’ll get this sucker done in 16 hours”
The next pot-a-potty he ducked in I sped up. Sixteen hours was too many hours, even for me…a potential quitter.
When I got to the 9 mile to go mark, it occurred to me that I could run 9 miles on any day of the week, any time of day, not matter what. So I started running, skipping the walk breaks, then I started running faster and faster. Soon I was sprinting the end of a poorly paced ironman, so much so that I negative split the marathon by over an hour and some of my loved ones missed my finish.
I finished. I was an ironman. It certainly wasn’t the glory I was looking for but it was the first running steps and swimming strokes and cycling pedals that started it all. I really wanted to quit and I even tried to but I see that my choice to take the event kilometer by kilometer and my choice to see that the entire thing was my choice (I paid for it after all) and that I also had a choice of how the day’s events occurred to me changed everything.
Ironman has taught me that my choices matter.
What I choose to do and don’t do matters.
How I choose to interpret the events of my life (and triathlons) matters.
And the kicker is that who it matters most to is me. I’m the one that has to answer to my decisions good or bad. Irrational or awesome.
Didn’t someone smart once say “there is no good or bad but thinking makes it so”?
Anyway, in any given circumstance, I see that I have a choice. A choice on what to do and how to see things.
The ever growing list of choices:
- Slow down or speed up
- Stop or keep going
- Hate every moment or find something to be grateful for
- Sleep in or show up
- Freak out at the loss of race nutrition or regroup and figure something out
- Stay in a relationship or job that’s not working or make a change and see what happens
- Idly experience a meeting go by or speak up and make a difference
- Make someone wrong or find a way to allow them to be right
- Give feedback in a way that makes someone feel stupid or find a way to support them
- Say the truth even when it’s hard
- Is training for that event you fully willingly chose to do really a chore?
- Does that meeting that really sucked have to ruin the rest of your day?
- Could that problem be an opportunity?
- Is that annoying person just annoying or someone you could learn from?
- Is the way you do that one thing really better than the way someone else is happily doing it?
- Is that thing that happened really the worst?
Honestly, there’s a million answers to all of those and a simple choice makes it so.