Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Tears

I am not a happy crier. Believe me, in my lifetime I have cried many tears, but there was only one time that I was so overwhelmed with joy and happiness that tears actually rolled out of my eyes, down my face and onto the gravel underneath my footsteps. The date was November 23, 2008. After 11 hours and 40 minutes of exercising that day, and 140 miles of swimming, biking and running behind me, I realized I was about to cross the finish line of an Ironman Triathlon.

Everyone athlete has their reason for being out there, but sometimes people get so caught up in the game, with their eye on a prize that one company has made so popular, that they forget the real reason they began triathlon and the underlying reason of why they continue to train and race today. I was reminded of this phenomenon at the SOMA half Ironman triathlon in Tempe October 25, a race not sanctioned by IRONMAN, when after the race my fiancĂ© told me, “someone asked me what I race for if it’s not for Kona.”

After hearing those words, many thoughts started circulating in my head. Maybe it was because I was exhausted from racing, but a million memories immediately began to flow through my mind, and then I was just plain old mad.

For me, racing is about a battle against myself. I am proving to myself and to the world that I CAN. I can do anything I set my mind to, and I can do it well and I can finish it strong. When I race, sure I want to win my age group, sure I want to qualify for World Championships, heck sometimes I even win the entire race (small ones haha), but underneath all that winning and qualifying mentality is that battle against myself, a strong passion for simply being alive, and a thankful attitude that my body is healthy enough to do what I love. After my 7 month injury this year, the realization of how amazing it is my body can do this is emotionally unexplainable.

At age 19 I found running, and I fell in love fast and hard. Without anyone else in my group of friends or family that shared my passion, I ran by myself. I set my own goals, motivated myself to train and built a determination that I am proud to stay has stuck with me since. I ran to feel the air in my lungs. I ran to feel the ground underneath my feet. I ran to escape the world. I ran for health. I ran because I could, and I ran because no one could stop me.

After completing three marathons and a couple halves, I met Brian, my fiancĂ©, who introduced me to triathlon. It was not until then, three years after I found running, that I made friends that shared my passion. Until then I thought endurance sporting events were a casual and fun way that everyone got together to exercise. I was completely unaware of the intense racing going on ahead of me by the pros and competitive age groupers. These new found friends introduced me to the world of “racing.” A little over a year later November 23, 2008 rolled around and I became an Ironman.

I didn’t qualify for Kona in my first Ironman, and neither did 2,000 other athletes, but I did come in sixth in my age group and I had the best (and probably most expensive) day of my life. I also was first in line to sign up for 2009.

Now, just under two weeks before Ironman Arizona, my second 140.6 race, I am trained and as ready as can be. Five months ago I was battling an IT Band injury that would not let me run longer than just a few minutes. I put my heart and soul into recovering. I spent hours each week at physical therapy, have spent a lot (ok most) of money on massage, became obsessive compulsive with stretching and incorporating core/strength training and found a remarkable practice that put the icing on the cake of my recovery: chiropractic, not to mention the average of 20 hours a week of training the past couple months. I may be carrying a few more pounds this year than I would like due to my injury and the emotional stress it brought me, but this in a miniscule obstacle I will deal with on race day. Overall, I can’t wait to get into that water and let my body do what I know I am meant to do, what makes me who I am, and what makes every other worry in my life disappear: swim, bike and run 140.6 miles.

When was the last time you cried happy tears?