Derick and I took a Wilderness Survival Course a week after Hawaii. It was a great change of pace to our Saturday; almost ‘like a normal couple’, doing something cool, unique and together. We drove 1 hour north of the Austin sprawl into the quiet countryside of Bertram, Texas. We spent 7 hours in a rustic little cabin with 10 others learning the basics of wilderness survival; how to be prepared for an emergency scenario, immediate human needs in case one is stranded and alone, how to make fire, how to find water. It made us both want to go camping again. It made me want to go camping and impress my friends with 6 different ways to start a fire. We finished our course with a quick lesson on compass reading, and we were taught about how ‘magnetic north’ varies from ‘true north’. Our instructor left us with the simple yet resonating message. “Go and find your own true north.”
I’ve always aimed to live my life being very true to myself. If ever I have a reoccurring inner message, it is ‘be true to yourself’. I try to listen to my gut instinct and follow it. That is what led me to racing as a professional triathlete for the past 14 years. I followed a passion right out of college and I made it work. I didn’t know where it would lead, but I knew that there was challenge, there was passion and while maybe there wasn’t a lot of money, and it wasn’t always easy, there was satisfaction. I grabbed opportunity when it was presented. At the time, it was the chance to move to Colorado Springs and live at the Olympic Training Center at the ripe age of 24 to train full-time. I followed my heart when it told me to take a different path in the sport, leave the training center and continue racing in a different capacity. Maybe on paper it wasn’t the most logical, but it felt right to me. It took time and patience, but after many years, it led me in the right direction and I found success on this path.
I followed my heart when I decided to return to Kona for the fifth time. I knew it would be a challenge, and I knew there were some ‘safer’ routes I could take; but instinct told me to go, to seize the opportunity having qualified (which is only getting more difficult). Opportunity doesn’t always knock when we want it to but sometimes when it’s meant to. I went all in, with enthusiasm, with adequate preparation, with belief, with no excuses; healthy, strong and prepared to lay it all out. I was more eager than in years past to tackle the tough swells and the nasty winds on the bike. I was ready to take risks, knowing that is where we find big reward. I fell short. I fell far short of my goals. I don’t take that lightly; it sucks, it’s frustrating, and it’s easy to wonder why; what went wrong; where did I misstep. We want to believe if we do it all right, take care of all the small things, work hard, stay positive, then success will ensue. Unfortunately life isn’t that calculated and honestly if it were, it would be pretty boring. Human nature left me feeling like I had let myself down, I’d let my sponsors down, my husband, and all those who were pulling for me. However, I’ve had enough highs and lows in my life to know this thinking is illogical and unproductive.
Rather than walk away from Kona hanging my head and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to think more about what ‘success’ is; because it’s in how I choose to define it that determines how I view the end result. On brilliant days, success may be winning. Crossing the line first, busting out a personal best, or exceeding your own wildest expectations. However in this game called life, I want to define success as being true to who you are. Staying on this path no matter the circumstance. Asking yourself the sometimes hard questions, and staring back with honest answers. Knowing you may have been scared as hell but you weren’t afraid to lay it all on the line. My true north is living my life doing things that make me feel alive. Using the gifts I’ve been given. Following passion and stepping into the unknown. Always trying to be authentically myself. Seizing opportunity and tackling fear. Embracing challenges. I did all of these things in Hawaii. When it got tough, I kept digging. When I exited the bike so far back, I put my head down and ran my ass off. I never considered giving up. I kept pushing my body until I saw the finish line in sight. Running down Ali’I Drive, I was not satisfied with my result; but I smiled, high-fived people, and relished in the fact that I was out there; strong, alive, and embracing opportunity.
On these terms, I’d say it was a success.
A massive thank you to my sponsors who have supported me this season; and in Kona, notably Felt, SRAM and Zipp for going above and beyond to assure that my bike was in perfect condition. Thank you to my incredible support team: Zoot, Ironman Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute, Hops & Grain, Road ID, Rudy Project, Felt, Recovery Pump, Profile Design, ISM, Nulo, Durata Training, Bicycle World, Quarq, SRAM, Zipp, Tao Health Clinic, and Endurance Shield.
I’ll wrap it up by saying precisely what I said the day before the race: When it’s tough, be grateful for opportunity. When it hurts, smile. This is a gift. Mucho Aloha.
Photo Credits: (1) Michellie Jones, (2) and (4) Clint Lien