Call me crazy. Call me courageous. Either way, I did something I never ever thought I would do. I trained for and completed a triathlon. It was hard, and I wanted to quit so many times. The fact that I had the guts to sign up and train with an awesome group of women is beyond what I thought I was capable of.
Why you may ask? I had a milestone birthday. I turned 60, and I declared that this was the beginning of doing things that scare me and move me way out of my comfort zone. I also do not want to have any life regrets. The kind of shoulda’, coulda’, woulda’ regrets. Additionally, I wanted to do something to honor my mother who died too young at the age of 55.
I cried and complained a lot during training. I didn’t know how to swim, and I was afraid of deep water. I hadn’t been on a bike in over five years. I had stopped riding when I was diagnosed with cervical stenosis and arthritis. I was told cycling was not good for someone with my condition. I am happy to say that is completely false. I am also not a runner, but walking I can do. Yes, call me crazy and courageous!
I did not stop my training. I did not give up, and I did it. Now I am a triathlete! I have a new found confidence. I have always been confident but having started and completed this journey has brought me a refreshed sense of resiliency, self-worth and vibrancy.
So here is what I learned along the way.
Let’s start with the clothes. When you are training for a triathlon for the first time, you get to wear clothes that can best be described as Spanx on steroids. At first, you think I can’t wear this in public and how the hell do you breathe in it? I asked others ‘can you see through this in the tush?’ When you and the suit are wet, you need to be double jointed to get it back on. You pray you don’t have to use the bathroom after you swim! In the end, wearing a tri suit is one’s badge of courage as it demonstrates strength and resiliency.
Both the water and the road were great teachers during triathlon training. I found my way forward while facing my fears and insecurities during each practice, and on the day of the race. In the end, my fears were unfounded. I was able to rewrite my ‘old’ script, which said I was too old and not strong enough to do this.
The pool showed me how to move through with graceful persistence. I cried during many practices, and it didn’t stop me from learning. I cried a lot and cursed a lot at first because I felt embarrassed. I found wisdom and freedom in admitting to others that I didn’t know how to swim. I gave myself permission to be vulnerable without fear of ridicule. This opened myself up for new learning experiences to emerge. I now love being in the pool!
“You cannot keep running away from your fears. At some point in life you will have to build up the courage to face and overcome them.” ~Unknown
The hilly roads showed me how to be ok with tension and fake flats (roads that appear flat but are a slight continuous upgrade in terrain). Learning how to use my bicycle gears correctly was essential. Going uphill or downhill without the proper use of the gears is a disaster, and a waste of energy. The long slow and deliberate climbs tested my patience. I wanted to hurry up and get done with these slow climbs. Each time I went out to train I was amazed. Amazed at my abilities and amazed at my determination to not quit.
My entry into the world of triathlons came later in my life, and has shown me that when you dig deep, sometimes you discover more grit and guts than you ever thought possible. You keep digging and discover another level of courage you didn’t know existed. When you cross the finish line, you realize you’ve got the guts and determination to do whatever you want!
The triathlon experience is a reflection of hard work, emotional roller coasters, patience and self-acceptance. Accepting this challenge was one of the biggest gifts I could give myself. It gave me the opportunity to dispel my personal myths and assumptions. I continually asked if I have more determination? If I have more, am I willing to give more of myself? It is ultimately me versus myself. As they say, your race, your pace.
So here are my triathlon takeaways:
- Being uncomfortable and feeling vulnerable are pathways to learning and freedom from doubt and insecurities.
- Cultivating patience and persistence are both virtues, and there are no shortcuts. Don’t let the fake flats of life fool you into complacency.
- Living life without regrets has so much joy and fulfillment than holding yourself back because of fear.
- Learning to live without judgments about yourself or others promotes friendships and connections, because many of us don’t feel our best in a bathing suit.
- Don’t give up as the final push to the finish line is filled with more raw emotions that one can imagine. I smiled and laughed all the way through and I had no idea the magnitude of emotions that I would experience at the finish.
- Knowing that it is ok to be afraid, and learning how to get out of your own way leads to greater engagement and joy. Do not let your doubts and fears rob you of your potential, but use it as fuel to move you forward.
- There is so much to learn when you are in the role of student, at any age, as it reawakens your confidence and inner wisdom.
Now I have a great call to personal action: to protect my health and wellness to continue to face my fears and insecurities in order to leave a legacy of resilience, contribution and engagement.
You can do it! Simply ask yourself, ‘what do I not want to regret when I look back on my life?’ I read this recently – we’ve been indoctrinated by fear, we hesitate when we have the opportunity to learn something new on our way to becoming the person we seek to be. We promise ourselves that we will sign up later. The ones who leapt are transformed.
I know because I leapt!
What are YOU waiting for? Take the initiative. Remember we are all afraid of something. We all feel awkward or embarrassed. You can choose not to let it stop you. You can retire your outdated life script, and write a new one because you can.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” –Viktor E. Frankl