Holding on. Letting go.

One of the most gratifying experiences I've had happened just a few months ago when I did my first sprint triathlon. I might even go so far as to say life changing, because that is truly how I felt in my heart that day. If you know any of my background, I have NEVER been an athlete. For most of my life I've been overweight and not fit. The first time I joined a gym in my life was about 3 years ago. And I've definitely never been an endurance athlete. But, I was looking to take on a new challenge, a goal, something that would get me out of the world of focusing on how I could transform my body, but on performance. So I looked into some different things, took some suggestions and, crazily, signed up for a sprint triathlon. Now, over the weeks that followed, I bought a road bike, I bought a fresh pair of running shoes & a training suit.

Now, I've ran and biked before, so I could imagine being okay with that. But the swim? I knew little to nothing besides watching my kids at their swimming lessons and the YouTube videos I watched and articles I read. But I started. It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. I could swim to the end of the 25 yard pool at the gym, stop and have to rest because my heart rate was so high & then start again to the other end. All with my head above the water. Because I had something that kept me from putting my face in the water, being able to breathe and not panic. I know there is nothing to be afraid of, but I just couldn't get past it. I was able to get some help at a weekend away at a triathlon clinic, thankfully, which helped immensely. But I still struggled in the weeks leading up to the race. I know now, most of it was in my head. 

The Friday before the race, I traveled to the location in the afternoon, registered, got my packet and then went to check out the lake where we'd be swimming 500 yards the next day. When I walked out to the lake, I think I said "oh shit, that's a lot of water". I know, genius. Immediate doubt that I could do this went to my head. But, I'm also stubborn, and wanted to prove to myself that I could do this from the start. So I tried that self talk that I'd done over and over since I started training as I drove back to the hotel. 

When Saturday morning came, I was nervous, excited and just READY to do it. I still had doubts, but I was determined. As the time came to travel to set up my transitions and to the swim course, I felt calm. I mean, I was doing this, as crazy as it seemed. My husband and my daughter Lydia were there to watch and cheer me on. As I lined up with the {slowest} group of swimmers to get ready to jump in, two by two, I again started with my internal dialogue of encouragement to myself. Walking onto the dock, to the end and hearing my daughter yell a few times "go mom!" and jumping in. The water was deep and warm. It took a bit for me to get my bearings without being able to touch anything around me or my feet to the bottom. And I started swimming. Tried putting my face in the water and swimming. And panicked. And started swimming with my face out of the water. My heart rate increasing way to quickly, tried to calm myself and put my face in the water again to swim. Somehow I just felt I couldn't do it. So I tried to swim again, face out of the water. I was getting tired way to quickly. Then I looked around, saw the first buoy and how far away it still was and panicked again. I was having a hard time controlling my heart rate and my breathing. Basically I just freaked the hell out. So I waved for the support canoe. And yelled. And waved. In succession several times. People from the shore were yelling trying to get there attention. Finally, they made their way to me. They threw me a float, and I rested there for a while. I couldn't grab the boat or get into the boat without getting disqualified, but I can tell you, I thought about getting in that damn boat about a dozen times while catching my breath and trying to talk myself into swimming again. I wanted to quit. So badly. It would have been so easy. But, as I hung on, I just kept thinking of every positive word that had come into my head that week, the day before and that morning. Most of all, I thought of my daughter, watching from the shore. Knowing she was there watching meant so much to me. And I KNEW in my heart I couldn't let her see me quit. Knowing that she'd seen me work so hard to prepare for this and how I was challenging myself, I knew I needed to show her I would push through. I needed that for myself, too. It was the fear, the thoughts taking over that were really pulling me down. Deep down I knew that I had it in me what I needed to continue. 

So, I let go. And I started swimming. It was such a challenge. And hard. I struggled. A lot. But, I kept going. However I needed to swim to get to where I was going. I came to the first buoy, and then the second. All the while trying to repeat positivity in my head, reminding myself that Lydia was watching the entire time. Saying to myself over and over...you have to do this, no matter how I do or how long it takes, I will finish this. And can you believe, eventually, I ran {okay more like walked} out of the water onto the shore and into the first transition. I was the last one out of the water. But I didn't care. Because I was out of the water, finally. And Lydia was there watching and cheering for me again. {I didn't realize until later that there were several of the family members of other athletes that stayed to see me finish as well.}

After that I knew that if I got out of that swim, I was going to finish that whole damn triathlon, no matter what. It was entire new wave of determination and stubbornness. And you know what? I did. The entire f*cking thing. The swim. The bike. The run. And it was AMAZING. And hard. And gratifying. Challenging. And exhilarating mixed with exhausting. One of the best experiences I've ever had. And it was ME who did that. My body, mind and headstrong spirit. The person that would have never pushed herself beyond what's comfortable just 5 years ago. That beautiful spot that I've found where I feel the most "ME". I'm so happy I did. And that Lydia saw me push through it all. And she came across the finish line with me. 

Know that you can do anything. No matter what that looks like to anyone else. Be strong. Be stubborn. Be confident. Be smart. BE YOU. That what's beautiful. Challenge yourself. Because you CAN.