I’ve always viewed exercise and sport as a vehicle with various meanings. One is the pure and basic opportunity to challenge oneself, push boundaries and find out what our bodies (and minds) are capable of. Another is that it simply makes you “feel alive”. It’s not always easy to get out the door, but once you do, you find through movement & exertion you begin to think through things in your life if even subconsciously; your perspective changes and once you’re done, you feel a little renewed. As I’ve moved through many years of triathlon and sought to compete at the highest level of the sport, I found myself seeking something else out of my purpose with competing.
I began to long to stand for something more important. More significant than myself and any accomplishments I may achieve; something that really mattered, to me personally but moreso something that can bring others together in positive capacity. I found this through the passion to help promote multiple sclerosis awareness. But more specifically, to help get the message out to those living with MS that staying active can do incredible things for one’s predicament. I cannot speak from experience and I’ll never try to, as I don’t have MS…but I am close to many who do and I’ve seen the challenges they face. I’ve learned through people like Dave Bexfield (founder of ActiveMSers) and Jim Casey (a Dallas-based Ironman triathlete who I’ve had the pleasure of coaching for many years) the many positive benefits staying active has when living with MS.
A few months ago, Jim sent me an email about an idea of his called Project 13. It was a brainchild of Meat Fight, which in short is a Texas barbecue competition benefitting the National MS Society. The premise behind Project 13 is this. Nobody likes to get the #13 in a race. There is a tradition in cycling that if you are unfortunate enough to get 13, you turn it upside down and knock out all the bad luck. Carrying this concept over to life, your life isn’t so much about what is handed to you but defined by what you do about it. In Jim’s words, getting an MS diagnosis sucks. But what matters is what you do about it.
Jim, and the entire Meat Fight village, wanted to give an opportunity for up to 13 people living with MS the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary; a challenge. As he said, adding a little more of the “FU” to “FUMS”. These individuals will train for Texas 70.3 in 2017 and to remove as many obstacles as possible, Project 13 has offered to pay for entry fee and other expenses (bike, training plans, etc); just asking these individuals commit to giving back to the MS community by volunteering at an event in the process.
So here we are, about 3 weeks into their training for the race. I’m honored to be working with about 7 individuals, and I’m excited to get to be there in Galveston and witness their efforts. No doubt their journeys to the start line will all be a little bit different. And just as with any of us who train for an endurance event, there will be tough moments; there will be moments of breakthrough, success and elation. It will be demanding, as it should be. Nothing is guaranteed, but I’m proud to see them digging in, accepting this challenge, and tackling it head on. As with anything in life, it just comes down to believing in yourself, doing the best you can each day, but also not being afraid to step into the unknown and push your limits a bit. Because that is when we truly find out what we’re capable of; and when we realize our limitations may reside only in our minds.