Thursday, November 15, 2012

Keep Moving Forward

I want to write a summary of this year in triathlon, but I don't feel that I would do it justice without writing a little bit about my whole journey thus far, because although this year has been somewhat of a breakthrough year for me, I wanted to share some of the bumps in the road I have encountered over the years. I officially started triathloning around 2006. Throughout high school, I was a volleyball player, until I sliced my hand open - cutting all of my tendons and muscles - diving for a ball my senior year. While I played volleyball, and throughout college, I also ran on my own for mental therapy (I will spare the details of what drove me to run, but I will honestly say that running probably saved my life in some way). My senior year at Edinboro University, a co-worker from the gym where I worked as a trainer, talked me into running cross country - even though it was half way through the season - because they were in desperate need of a seventh woman. I didn't know what that meant because I had never run cross country in my life, but he convinced me by saying that if the team made it to nationals, I would get to go to California. I had always wanted to go to California, so I decided to give it a try! My first ever meet was conferences, where I finished somewhere in the 20-30th place range. My second meet was regionals, where I finished All-Regional, creating a chance to go to both California, and a scholarship for the following year. Over the next year and a half, I juggled grad school, working as a bartender about 20 hours a week, a grad assistantship at the gym 20 hours a week, and traveling for track/cross country. I have worked since I was 14 so I had a good work ethic, but this routine plus my new found drive to be a competitive athlete opened up a door to a part of me that I didn't even know existed, making me a time management fanatic! Unfortunately, student teaching and internship limited spring training trips, and work-out times with the team. So I had to do the workouts with only my coach watching me at some point of the day. I could go on and on about Coach Watts and Edinboro Cross Country, but being a part of this team taught me the most important lessons of my life (still to this day)!  My first ever Nationals track meet was my opportunity to place in the top eight at the 3000M to achieve All-American status. I 100% blame the eventual result on myself, because the only instruction my coach gave me was to NOT go out in the lead. When the gun went off, I somehow found myself leading! I had no clue these girls used different race tactics at this level and  would go out so dang slow! So inevitably, they picked up and I slowed down, finishing 9th, just .2 seconds away from All-American with my worst 3K time of the season. I was heartbroken, but in retrospect, not achieving my goal, that is what kept the fire burning to stay competitive.

The next couple of years, I would say that I dabbled in triathlon, while dealing with one issue or another. My first triathlon goal became finishing a half-ironman in 2006. I signed up for Timberman that year and bought a triathlon bike. My second ever ride on that bike, I was riding a fast downhill when a squirrel ran out in front of me. Since a car was passing me on the left, I went right to avoid the car and the squirrel. Right into a huge pothole. I flipped over my handle bars, broke my collarbone, and had a concussion. That cancelled my plans that year. Then I signed up for IM Louisville in 2008, but came down with pneumonia two weeks prior to the race, so I DNS. 

Cheering Jeremy on from the sidelines at Louisville
So my first official IM was Lake Placid in 2009, where I survived in a respectable time of 11:30, and I knew that I was hooked. After getting one under my belt, my next goal was to try to make it to Kona. The following year, I ramped up my training and finished Lake Placid with a 45 minute PR, grabbing my spot to Hawaii. Three days before Kona, I was on a training ride on Ali'i Drive when a truck made a right hand turn into me. I landed on the hood of the car, and fortunately had only a super swollen knee, and a completely broken bike. Luckily the guys at Quintana Roo were awesome enough to hook me up with a new bike, so I was able to finish that race, but not without major stomach issues (I suspect from all of the ibuprofen that I was taking for my knee).

2011 was probably the most frustrating season I ever experienced. I had chronic sinus issues and was on an antibiotic for every single race I competed in that year. I think the most frustrating thing was that I felt awful almost every single day of the year.
Squeaking by at IMLP!
It turned out that I could not rid myself of infection because of a deviated septum and all kinds of other crap that was going on in my sinuses. I qualified for Hawaii by some freak roll-down to sixth place in Lake Placid. So I went back to Hawaii with sinus issues and some mechanical issues on the bike, but still finished with a run PR, so that made me happy. Immediately after Hawaii, I had sinus surgery to clear up all the junk that was stuck up there, and immediately felt a world of difference. I gained such a perspective of what it feels like to be healthy that now I will never take it for granted again.

As far as triathlon goes, I didn't feel like I was reaching my potential, so I needed a change. I decided to hire my first triathlon coach, Jesse from QT2 Systems. He is the most detailed person I have ever met in my entire life, and he formulated a plan that took all aspects of training into consideration. That brings us to this year. This year started off a little bit rocky with a lost garmin, and a flat tire at my first race of season. But the next 5-6 races, I was finally able to string together some good performances, highlighted with a PR in every distance that I raced. So when I look back upon my journey in triathlon (and in life) a quote really resonates with me. I have it posted around work and home so that I see it often:

The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. - Rocky Balboa

The biggest lesson that I have learned is that things often happen for a reason. I remember being so upset when I messed up my hand in high school, but in all honesty, if I didn't - then I probably would have taken a much different path that probably wouldn't have led me down this road. And I love this road!!!

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