I had my mind made up. I was going to do Ironman Chattanooga. Even if I qualified for Hawaii, it didn’t ‘make sense’. I didn’t feel I had been performing well enough to put in a respectable performance. Financially, I would drop $5k minimum to do Kona; with the pay out 10-deep, it would be tough to make a return. Chattanooga would be less expensive, less travel, and a much larger chance of ‘return on performance’ so to speak. I was absolutely certain this was the plan, and I’ll admit it felt a bit empowering knowing “even if I qualify, I’ll turn it down…it just isn’t the best decision.” As I mulled it over heavily, within 24 hours I had a complete change of heart and I told Derick, “I think I want to do Kona.” (Thankfully, he was completely on board.)
Heart. The one factor that entirely changed my decision.
I have long advocated approaching this sport as a business. Work hard, play your cards right, make smart decisions, and if you are meant to be successful, it will happen. It may take a long time, but what do they say; 10,000 hours to the mastery of anything? Pay your dues, and while there are no guarantees, chances are the gains you are seeking will come to fruition. While I still firmly believe this, I have also come to realize that there are times you use logic and sense to make decisions; and there are times you let your instinct decide and trust this process.
Being a professional athlete is interesting. It starts with talent. There has to be at least a tiny bit of talent that lies within to have this opportunity. I feel fortunate that somehow, despite quite possibly being the clumsiest person on earth, I was born with a little talent. Then you throw in opportunity. It’s a privilege to have the security to spend your time exercising and hope that it someday pays the bills. I’d say I am far from privileged, but I had parents who were wise, hard workers, and very supportive of an energetic young girl with big dreams; their support allowed me to foray from collegiate athletics to a 20-something kid that ventured off to the Olympic Training Center. Without them, I’d never have had the opportunity; and for that I’m grateful every day. On top of talent and opportunity, it takes a hell of a lot of passion. The desire to push your body, day in day out, with nobody watching, nobody really caring but yourself as to how it all turns out. I was told by a good friend a few years back after a rough race, “Kelly, you could quit tomorrow and nobody would give a shit.” Ouch, that hurt. But he was right, you have go to be doing this because you love it. We have all been told by those who love us that they only want us to be happy; they won’t judge us if we win or lose, or quit tomorrow. It takes a deep-seeded hunger for what you are doing. I’ve wondered at times throughout my 14 years holding a pro card if I was burnt out, ready for a change, washed up. There have been days; no, there have been months, where the adversities seemed larger than the gains. But something kept me going; and I think that’s always been an inner belief that I have ‘better in me’, and that drive to achieve more has been so compelling. I’ve been asked a few times through some rough patches, “Kelly, are you having fun? Are you happy?” And honestly, at times; no, it has not all been fun. When my body was not cooperating and I had no idea why; or when I was working my ass off with not only lack of progress, but what felt like regression. But this is life. Not just sport. This. Is. Life. I’m fairly certain any person who is human and honest will admit that, at times, work, and life, has had its hardships. I’ve managed to acknowledge in these times when things absolutely sucked, step back, see a larger picture, and accept the challenges. Figure out how to get through and how to overcome; and there is nothing more satisfying than accomplishing after struggling. And, if you can’t quite conquer the monkey on your back? Well, I’d sure as hell rather have tried and know that I’ve given it my all than walked away because I felt defeated or I failed to believe in myself, to give it just a little more, and to be fearless to failure; because in risking to fail is where the great opportunity lies hidden.
So upon likely far too much contemplation, I opted in for Kona. I figured that I had qualified, without going to extremes to make it happen, and that counts for something. I realized the women who beat me at Ironman Texas are all legit Top 10 contenders; why would I not see myself as such? I’ve spent the vast majority of my career viewing this as a business, making wise decisions financially, logically. But at some point, when you ask yourself the question of ‘Why?’, your answer stems from heart, not logic. You just go with your gut. I never want to look back with regrets; I’d rather have the chance to race the best in the world and get knocked on my ass, but have the opportunity to do something great in the process. And it’s funny. While the victories are so sweet and I am incredibly grateful for them, I absolutely love a good challenge. And looking at years past, Kona has thrown a hell of a challenge at me! But it feels different this time. I’m excited. I’m relaxed. I’m thankful to have another opportunity, but I’m still hungry to achieve more. It just feels like this time, while I may have a grimace on my face when I’m out there racing, I’ll be smiling widely inside.