In the past twelve months, I have unknowingly become a different person. I didn’t start out trying to change who I am, but part of the process of becoming an elite endurance athlete involves becoming someone very different from who you thought you were. Along this journey, there have been several moments that shifted my trajectory to who I am today, or revealed to me just how much I had changed. These are the moments and decisions that impacted me the most in my first year of Two Years to Kona.
[bctt tweet=”Part of the process of becoming an elite endurance athlete involves becoming someone very different from who you thought you were”]
Number 5: When I made the tough decision to give up teaching spin classes.
Everyone hears that big achievements take big sacrifices, but no one really understands the extent of what it will take until they realize that they are either willing to make the sacrifice or have to give up on their dream. That was certainly the case with me: I knew it would take dedication and sacrifice, but I didn’t understand what that would actually feel like.
Driving home one night, having left the house at 5:15am for my swim workout and full day of work, with bites of food between meetings and only just getting home from spin class at 9pm, I struck me that the classes I had enjoyed teaching for almost 5 years were becoming just too much to juggle. I thought it over for another couple of weeks to make sure I was comfortable with the decision, then told the studio that I was quitting.
It might seem like giving up a second job isn’t much of a sacrifice, but this is something I really love doing and something that makes a difference in other people’s lives. But this moment was also about more than just spin classes; it’s a microcosm of the other decisions I have had to make in order to commit my life to training for Kona. Nights I had to cancel plans with friends or turn them down altogether, weekends I didn’t spend with my family because I was training, and the luxury of a clean house with laundry put away…even the decision to delay starting a family while I pursue Kona. Whenever I want to quit, I think of my future children and how much I want to tell them about what it’s like to achieve your dreams.
Everything that doesn’t get me closer has been left behind.
Number 4: When I ran 18km in an hour and a half (on a treadmill).
A big turning point in my training came on a cold and snowy day last February, when I had to email Paolina because I thought she had a typo in my training: 18km at a 5:00/km pace for my long run? I didn’t run that fast then…outside of a 1:43 half marathon, I had rarely held that pace for more than five or maybe ten kilometers. She assured me that it wasn’t a typo, and told me that she thought I could do it.
I decided to run indoors as it was slippery outside and I didn’t need anything making this run more difficult. I calculated how fast I needed to run in mph, and loaded up some good music on my iPhone. As I ran, I kept expecting it to get really difficult at some point, where I would realize I just couldn’t do it and quit, but that time never came. In fact, I figured out what turned out to be two critical lessons that resulted in huge running gains over the next six months:
- How to relax muscles individually, so I could keep my upper body relaxed while keeping my core and lower body engaged. On subsequent runs I couldn’t find that relaxed-engaged feeling right away, but the more I practiced the sooner it came, and now I just settle in naturally.
- Confidence that I could run faster than I thought for longer than I thought. Now I run harder in many of my training runs than I have in actual races.
This “aha” moment kicked off a fantastic season of running, which saw my long run pace drop from 6:00+/km to a peak of about 5:05/km before Ironman Muskoka, and which resulted in taking nearly an hour of my Ironman marathon time. I would describe it as the 2015 turning point in my running.
Number 3: When my sister told me she’s proud of me.
My sister and I have become a lot closer this year, but for much of our lives we were more focused on our differences and our relationship had more friction than not. Fortunately we have started spending a lot of time together, and I have been able to watch my sister grow into an inspirational person who has taken on her own challenges, and continues to radiate justice and gratitude as she moves forward in her life.
I am so proud of my sister and admire her relentless positivity, which made it all the more meaningful when she said that she’s proud of me too, and admires my dedication to triathlon. Hearing those words on the eve of my second Ironman race and again at the finish line made my heart sing.
Number 2: When I finished on the podium at my second Ironman.
The motivation to pursue Kona came from a lifetime of feeling unathletic, and blaming it on my lack of talent rather than my lack of hard work. I started out not even thinking I was capable of running 10km, but after racing sprints for about 8 years and then finishing my first Ironman, I wanted to see if I could do more than just finish; I wanted to qualify for the world championships and finally feel like I was a real, competitive athlete.
I guess you could say that goal has already been achieved, but not for the reasons you might be thinking. To be sure, finishing third in my age group with a time of 11:43 at my second Ironman seems like a pretty good candidate for achieving that goal, but I had already achieved it before I even started the race. I realized along the way that being an athlete isn’t about how fast you are; it’s a mindset that comes from exercising discipline, commitment and dedication to a goal and doing anything it takes to get closer every day. I had already become what I used to believe was a “real” athlete, just by completing the training.
That being said, the podium finish was a nice concrete way of making me feel like all that dedication was worth it!
Number 1: When Hector asked me to marry him.
How could this NOT be number one in my year?! We have grown so much together since meeting two and a half years ago at a friend’s post-triathlon BBQ, and starting a relationship 2 days after Hector got back from his first Ironman in Cozumel (and after we spent hours chatting by text message, while he sat in a local cafe with Wi-Fi). We both signed up for Ironman Canada before we’d even started dating, and have since completed a total of six Ironmans and spent countless hours training together towards our shared goal of qualifying for Kona.
It was only fitting that Hector proposed in Louisville, Kentucky, three days before his last Ironman of 2015. I was absolutely ecstatic to follow him throughout the race, getting yelled at for riding my bike on the run course (oops), and frantically asking every volunteer I could find for Vaseline when Hector got a blister at 20km. And of course I couldn’t take my eyes off that gorgeous ring (I still can’t).
We had to pick races before picking a wedding date, but finally settled on June 26: about 5 weeks after I race Ironman Texas, and four months before Hector races Louisville again (or I race Kona, depending on whether I qualify at Texas). We’re having a small wedding at the cottage with just our immediate families, then holding receptions with the multitudes of other people with whom we want to celebrate!
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