(Almost) Anything is Possible. Even though I consider myself an imaginative dreamer, this statement always needs that one word caveat. Of course “anything” is not possible for me—I will not and never could have been an NBA star or an NFL football player (amongst many other things).
I consider the “anything” in this cliche statement to be those whispered words and ideas that pop into our minds—the ones that we know are likely possible with a commitment to a process or just the sheer fearlessness of coming far out of our comfort zones. Those ideas that we often shut down quickly and shove deep down before anyone else knows that we had them.
Those are the goals that you need to bring to the surface.
Entry into endurance sports started as one of those whispers for me. But rather than shove it down I acknowledged the possibility and set forth with belief in my capabilities. I realized recently that although I talk a lot about my experiences with growing and learning, I have never fully detailed where and how I started on my personal triathlon path.
I was not a high school or college swimmer or runner. I played ball sports… while simultaneously being very good at partying. I liked to drink and smoke cigarettes on the weekends in an oblivion of youthful innocence, ignorance, and impulsiveness. In high school my metabolism, genetics, and commitment to my athletics kept me thin and looking healthy. In college I quickly packed on the freshman fifteen when weekends started on Thursdays and the weeks involved little movement outside of walking to classes. I still looked relatively healthy, but I was not.
(If you want to read all about my thoughts on why I lived such a divided existence for so much of my youth, or dive deeper into how it changed, you will have to wait for my book to come out late this summer.)
For today’s message, the point of quickly baring all is to lay the foundation of truth to the fact that I started endurance sports as an absolute inexperienced, uneducated beginner. Sure, by the time I saw Ironman WI for the first time I had already been a pretty regular gym goer for awhile. As a mom of three kids ages one, two, and three my days of regular partying had long come to a halt. They were instead spent focused on keeping my mental and physical health in check while being the best role model I could be to three sets of always watching eyes.
After witnessing Ironman for the first time I decided I needed to find a way to become a triathlete and eventually cross the finish line of the full distance race. I had never swam a lap in a pool; only had rode hybrid bikes for commuting or pulling our kids on trails; and had never run more than two miles consecutively.
The goal grew solely from the belief in the possibility.
I had no clue what I was doing or getting into. I didn’t know why I wanted to set a goal of this caliber (although I do have some thoughts in hindsight).
I had no idea how much this decision would change my life.
I started with seeking out mentors. I was blessed to live across the street from Chrstina, a long time triathlete veteran and many time Ironman finisher. She encouraged me in my start in the sport and invited me to join her triathlon club. She was also a swim instructor and helped me get signed up for her “Master’s” swim class, where two times a week for several months she dissected my attempt at a freestyle swim stroke. I loathed the feelings of inadequacy and hurt pride that accompanied my inability to quickly apply all that she was teaching me. I cried before and after that class almost every time.
But I kept going.
Christina recommended a methodical, several year approach to taking on Ironman. I trusted her and followed her advice, signing up to race a half marathon and eventually a marathon in the year before starting triathlon. I used a Hal Higdon plan (like most runners do while training for their first races on a budget) and trained for running races while basically learning how to swim. Jamie and I also started intentionally pulling our kids for longer distances on our bikes.
I was fortunate to meet many friends who knew a lot more about bikes than I did through my new triathlon club and other fitness connections. (Keep in mind that this was pre-social media boom!) I was so naive and unsure that when my friend Jason called me and told me to go buy a bike that was a “great deal” I immediately talked it over with Jamie. It was expensive, a huge investment at the time for a stay-at-home mom. But it really was agreat deal so we purchased it without my ever even riding it. I still laugh about the first time I tried to ride it down the sidewalk. I wobbled so much, questioning if I had forgotten how to ride a bike, and considering that I just couldn’t ride anything with such skinny tires. Lucky for me, Jamie later pointed out that both tires were completely flat. After filling them with air (a learning process in itself!), I could stay (mostly) upright. But, I had no idea how to ride a road bike. Fortunately, with the guidance of my many mentors and also a lot of practice, I relearned how to ride a bike.
I could go on and on, as there have been many misadventures in my journey. I could account for many failures and successes that were integral in creating how I look at the world today—as an athlete, as a coach, and as a human.
I hope that this story can encourage and inspire you to dream big as you set goals for the year. Listen to the nudging of your mind and heart that shows you what you really want to try. The actualization of the goal doesn’t have to happen this year, or really ever, for the process to be worth it. Start with cultivating the belief in the possibility. And when you have that you can start a plan. Find mentors. Gather the gear. Be bold and confident in your choice as you fumble your way through the process. Be open to learning along the way while never extinguishing the belief that you can.
I have always wanted to be a writer, so high school and college me would believe that I am writing this blog, and even publishing a book. But if you would’ve told me that I would be an endurance athlete and coach we would have had a pretty good laugh before you held my legs for the next keg stand.
Acknowledge those whispers.