In 2017 I competed in Ironman Wisconsin for the third time, this year alongside my husband, good friends, and Zone Racing athletes. My “why” for doing this race? I knew my loved ones would be consumed by the training, I would be very involved for work anyway, and I would always have long ride training partners. This proved to be true and the training process was memorable and positive.

I finished the race, a few minutes after my husband Jamie- yes, we are the friendliest of competitors- with an overall personal record (PR), and an astonishing hour PR on the run. I was satisfied and pleasantly exhausted, excited for Jamie and other athletes who had crossed the finish line already. I proudly waited and watched as my amazing friends came in, one by one, with fatigued bodies and elated smiles. My heart burst for joy for each of them, hearing Mike Riley tell them, “You ARE an Ironman” as tears of happiness streamed down my face. At the finish line we hugged and celebrated. I felt so happy for them, but I didn’t feel connected to them through my own racing experience.

In the days immediately following the race I chalked these short bouts of nagging uncertainty up to my narcissistic nature not being fed enough or the fact that as their coach I was in a position of authority and so it was my job to focus on being happier and more excited for them. I justified it all by reminding myself that I had set out to race for them and that should be good enough. And it was good… but I still felt a nudge to examine these feelings further.

I read. I listened to podcasts. I journaled and prayed and practiced hours of self reflection. I sought out answers within myself. I realized I had fallen into a comfort zone of caring for others in order to be less vulnerable. The first issue was that I didn’t fully know myself at the time and therefor didn’t feel a sense of belonging. I hadn’t surrendered fully to my “why,” my reason and purpose for taking on this race. I had made choices in my training and daily life that honored other “whys” along the way. I trained as a divided, untethered, and resistant athlete and therefor missed out on the full experience of successfully completing my goal and enjoy the experience of bonding that was available to me. This reflected a bigger obstacle in my life, one that I was ready to tackle full force.

I wanted to know myself better and to understand my purpose. I wanted to be sure to give 100% to my overall “why” in life, and to smaller ones along the way.

In her book, Untamed, Glennon Doyle states, “After a decade of listening to women, I’m convinced that our deepest fears are: 1. Living without ever finding our purpose. 2. Dying without ever finding true belonging.” (Glennon Doyle, Untamed)

Reaching the pinnacle of physical, emotional, and mental health rely deeply on knowing yourself and believing that you belong. In order to actualize your fullest potential as an athlete it is vital to know and care for yourself well. Often when I tell people this they assume I mean define your life roles and pamper yourself. While these things can be important , they are not what I am referring to for overall wellness.

To know yourself is to understand your strengths and weaknesses, passions and fears, desires and dreams. It means being aware of your likes and dislikes, quirks, and your tolerances and limitations. Knowing yourself means knowing your purpose in life- your “why.”

To care for yourself is to put your needs first so that you are better able to serve others. To seek deep understanding of yourself so that you know you are honoring your choices, your roles, and your relationships. One of the simplest analogies to describe this refers to using oxygen masks in airplanes. You must put yours on first, before trying to help others.

True belonging is not taking up the same space or enjoying the same hobbies. Belonging happens when you know yourself and show up fully as YOU. If you know yourself well you will always know that you belong within you.

Put basically– YOU need to know YOU in order to have the most fulfilling life, fully reach your goals, honor your “whys,” and experience overall wellness. You need to know you in order to know your purpose.

On that day in September in 2017 and the months leading up to it, I didn’t show up fully as me. I didn’t enmesh myself in the roles of wife, friend, and coach. I also didn’t fully dive into my capabilities as an athlete. I have no regrets, as it still was one of the best years and experiences of my life. I am thankful for the lessons that I have learned that can make the present and future even better. I now approach life with a more thoughtful, vulnerable attitude and am a better wife, mom, friend, daughter, sister, coach, and athlete because of it. I am more honest with me.

I know me. I belong.

I encourage you to do the same.