Two years ago today, B and I were probably electric with nerves standing on the shore of Lake Chaunagungamaug (yes, that is a real place, in Webster, MA near the border of CT) before gun time for the Iron Girl Sprint Triathlon. I had never competed in anything in my life, and my co-worker convinced me that racing in a tri was a fantastic idea for my first race ever. I, in turn, convinced B that she had to do it with me so I wouldn’t be alone crossing the finish line in last place. Earlier that year, I had cranked up my gym rat ways, and started going to the gym every morning at 5:30 am like clock work, but I felt I had nothing to show for my efforts. I wanted to validate how strong I was, and prove to myself that I was STRONG, an ATHLETE, I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR. I wanted a specific, concrete benchmark to hold up, point to and say, “See? I did this.”
After months of training, a new Lulu outfit (the dawn of my obsession with Lululemon!), a carefully planned pre-race breakfast and nerves stretched taut like guitar strings, Race Day finally arrived. B and I lined up with hundreds of women, and as the gun sounded, our swimming-capped herd all went splashing into lake. And let me tell you: the race was hard. Harder than I expected. To be honest, I hadn’t trained properly. I fell behind immediately in the swimming portion when someone clocked me upside the head in the water and I totally lost my steel – I wasn’t mentally prepared, and felt completely hopeless when I saw how far behind I was once I recovered. But B was there, waiting for me on the shore, like the best ever best friend that she is, and we did our best to make up lost time in the cycling portion. We FLEW on those bikes. Still sparkling with adrenaline from passing a few of our competitors, we got ready to run the final leg: a 5K. As I got off my bike, I could barely move my legs (J-E-L-L-O, it’s aliiiiiiive). There ended up being a lot more walking than running in that final leg, and we pretty much lost any of the ground we had recovered, and more (As I write this, I almost feel ashamed. Should I tell everyone how poorly I performed? Yes, because it’s honest and it’s part of the reason I became so committed to running – but we will get to that in a minute). The important thing is that we FINISHED. For my first race ever, completing it and not giving up, even though a sizable chunk of my mental conviction and determination sank to the bottom of Lake Chaunagungamaug in the first leg, was HUGE.
My disappointment with my placement in the Iron Girl tri actually served to propel me forward. “Next year, we are going to do this again, and we are going to actually RUN the 5K,” B and I said to each other post-race. We knew we could do it, we were definitely strong enough – but I personally needed to beef up my mental game, in order to overcome the “This is hopeless, I can’t do this” defeatist voice in my head. When the next year came around, we instead decided to do our first half marathon race. Thus, Bubbles and Booyah was born, to share my experience training, eating and freaking out, and the rest is Bloggy History.
It was that 5K at the end of the tri that sparked my desire to become “A Runner.” I say “A Runner” because I always watched with fascination as those elite 4 min per mile cyborgs ran down Mass Ave in short shorts with thighs as big as my head, and thought I could never be one of them. But really, you’re “A Runner” whether you run a 13 minute mile or a 4 minute mile. (Are you running? Yes. Do you like to run more than you hate it? Yes. Then you’re a runner!). Running wasn’t my forte. I was a sprinter, honed by years of Coach C’s Lacrosse Camp, sprinting up and down the field carrying a lax stick. There were times that I would go for short runs in high school, but really nothing serious. Out of the gate I shot like a cannon, tired myself out and then hated life for the rest of it (usually when I was the furthest point from my house). This time around, however, I clamped my teeth into this goal (become “A Runner”!), and wouldn’t let go.
I believe it’s when you really set your sights on something, and hang onto that goal for dear life, keeping it in your cross-hairs at all times, because letting go would mean you were letting yourself down, that a mental shift occurs. It’s the push that gets you through those last few miles on a hard run, the push that forces you out of bed when you alarm goes off at 5 am even though you’ve only had 6 hours of sleep, the push that gets you to forgo collapsing on the couch after work to watch Scandal and instead lace up your sneakers to go for a sunset run.
I’m sure there will be a day in the distant-to-near future that I’ll stand on the starting line for a second sprint triathlon, to once again prove to myself that I’m a beast, and when I set my mind on something and keep my eyes on the prize, I can accomplish something I once thought was impossible. Since this day two years ago, I’ve run in more 5Ks than I care to count, 2 10Ks, 3 half-marathons and have logged hundreds of miles on my own two legs. With each mile, I deposit a little bit of equity into my internal bank of grit, and that deep-seated belief in what I’m capable of swells a little bit more. I can say with complete candor: I am glad that I “failed” at that 5K. It pushed me to test the limits of what I could do physically, and pushed the boundary far outside of my comfort zone. I refused to accept that “failure.” I told myself that I was in charge of writing my own story, that this “failure” was not curtains on my running career. So my feel-good Mr. Rogers thought of the day: it’s okay if you totally eff up/don’t do as well as you wanted/are disappointed in your performance, just don’t let it crush you mentally. Brace yourself following that experience, and use it to as a stepping stone to move forward. Because when it comes down to it, you’re totally in charge of your own story; you get to choose-your-own-adventure to overcome whatever perceived “failure” happens – it is NOT the end. You get up, you get out there, and you try again (not sure if that quote is coming back to me from some old school sports movie, or is a Coach C original from lax camp that I tried to block out). 🙂 🙂 🙂
When did you guys first start running?? Tell me in the comments! I’m dying of curiosity.
Happy Tuesday, everyone!
PS: I hung up the course map of that sprint tri over my desk (basically directly above my computer screen), to remind myself on especially hard days that I did something that I thought was impossible. It’s nice to have those reminders sometimes: you can accomplish great things. ❤