Life is full of hard. Arguably, it is half negative and half positive. How we perceive it is different for everyone. And yet another reason why we must focus on gaining self awareness rather than control.
We need to strive for knowledge of who we are and seek out a FULL life— with the ability to accept and appreciate all feelings. If we strive for easy or we will live a life of boredom and constant disappointment.
When you perceive life to be “easy” it is not suddenly without obstacles or hardships. It is that you have accepted and adapted to handling your current flavors of hard. They are more palatable— like eating quinoa over liver and onions. Both can be hard to swallow, but many of us tolerate quinoa rather than signing up to eat a stinky animal internal organ. (I know, I know- some of you love quinoa and some of you really love liver and onions… insert your own options if needed).
Take some time to consider the hardest things you can think of, have done, or will do. One of the hardest things for me was losing my Grandma Wood. Grief is hard. It is arguably the most unpalatable flavor- more like eating manure than any kind of food. It is painful, uncertain, and isolating. And it is different for everyone. But, we still can go on and eventually thrive while still experiencing grief. We can acknowledge it, own it, and live with it alongside daily gratitude and joy. (Speaking for those who do not suffer from mental or emotional illness). We can stomach this flavor of hard and live full, amazing lives.
I live a privileged life. My flavors of hard are very different than others in this country and world. As a US citizen in the suburban midwest I don’t have to fear the government or for the lives of my children. I don’t worry about my next meal, where I will sleep, access to clean water, or whether or not I will be profiled or harmed due to my race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
I sincerely want to use my voice and influence to inspire others to see not only your own flavors of hard in life, but to truly see and seek to understand those of others. Not only to gain perspective, but to demand and stand up for change. I choose to challenge my body and my spheres of influence through the sport of triathlon. To invite the hard in order to grow. To be stronger and to reach more people with the message of love, peace, compassion, and understanding for all humans.
Triathlon has not always been hard for me. I used to coach athletes in a way that made it easier for me. My approach was more guilt driven, even though it was still coming from a sincere desire to help them reach their goals. I needed to learn. To gain more experience in the sport and in life. And now I invite hard conflict in if I believe it can help them grow. I guide and lead with more compassion and understanding. It is still often hard, but it benefits them more.
I also used to race in a way that made it easier for me. I would back off in the swim just enough to stay moderately uncomfortable, bike at moderate “plus” rather than all in, and then walk more on the run. I would sometimes train and race with others to deflect from my personal goals (and other times sincerely to encourage them!) I realized that by doing this I couldn’t sincerely inspire others. I was living 85% authentically. I needed to seek out my flavors of hard and to swallow them all in order to fully reach my goals and in turn truly help others.
When I race now, I don’t look for the easy. I make it HARD and I focus on accepting it, living with it, and focusing on my goal. There are many things that are out of my control that influence the flavor- the heat, a kick in the face during the swim, rain, an equipment malfunction, pollen, faster competitors.
Sometimes we cannot anticipate all of the flavors of hard. And this is when we get to use all of the tools in our box.
Our weekend “adventure” to Lubbock Texas started off with some rough travel. Plane issues on both flights that led to longer time sitting in a cramped seat, stress of almost missing our connection, luggage not making it to Lubbock, and nutrition and sleep disruptions. Traveling by air to a race is a relatively new experience for me so I tried to take these all in stride and learn how to plan better for the future.
The forecast had pendulum swung from 100+ degrees and sun to 75 and storms. I didn’t dwell on it and followed my own advice on not obsessively checking the weather. I felt a little unsteady in a new area with two different transitions. There wasn’t much time or energy for course recon. Lesson learned— arrive to the race destination earlier.
On race morning, I showed up ready to go. The swim was murky and rough and I never got in a good rhythm. Another lesson learned— always wear my wetsuit, even when it is barely legal.
I worked to accept my swim time while out on the bike and was in good spirits on the ride. The roads were smooth. I got off the bike ready to run.
I hadn’t seen Jamie since early on in the bike, but we had discussed him potentially not making it out much due to the difficulty of navigating the out and back course for spectators. When I exited T2 I anticipated seeing his smiling face. The run was 3-loops through the Texas Tech campus with loads of spectators. I smiled and scanned the crowd.
Still no Jamie. As I came around each corner I would think “I know I will see him now” and when I didn’t I would start to slide into the what ifs. By the time I completed the first loop I was filled with worry and dread. My husband is reliable, directionally savvy, and resourceful. I became convinced that something was very wrong, and with only the two of us in Texas together, I started to panic.
At mile six I knew I needed to call him. I flagged down an EMT and he let me use his phone. I cannot describe the relief I felt when he answered the phone. He had been and still was stuck in a ditch. The rain had washed out a road and what looked like gravel was Texas clay. He told me to go and keep running. And as I took off the EMT yelled, “he says he loves you.”
I was relieved yet suddenly exhausted. The heightened emotional response of dread followed by the strong relief created a brand new flavor of hard for me while racing. I ran the rest of the race in a constant mental battle of “F*ck it. This place and race is cursed for me. Just walk”… and “This is an opportunity to use your tools. Keep fighting.”
When I finished I was happy but it was weird. I have never finished a big race completely alone. I felt disappointment in my time yet sincerely proud that I never gave up. I won the mental battle at the end, even if my time and placement wasn’t what I knew I was capable of. I looked around and considered all of the reasons I race. I talked to some strangers and smiled. I felt all of the feels.
It still took some food, a nap, and a few more minutes to get past the disappointment. Today I am happy I tasted some new flavors of hard. I am grateful for these opportunities. I am more ready for #17 70.3 in October.