We live in a world which rewards success to varying degrees. Aim high, dream big, and achieve it all. It is great to have goals in life; figure out what makes you happy, what makes you tick; create a plan to best achieve what will fulfill you. I’ll support this ideal to no end. If something intrigues you, no matter how daunting it may be; if your heart is in it, go for it. There are few things in life that feel better than accomplishing something we weren’t sure we could after days, months, years of perseverance. I’ve always believed; the longer the journey, the greater obstacles overcome, the sweeter the taste of triumph.
And while all of this is awesome…there is a fine line that I think we must acknowledge where things are positive and somewhat self-destructive. While that may be an extreme term, in that I simply mean – a point whereby we start to measure and judge ourselves; to an unhealthy degree. Against standards of where we’ve once been, where others are, where we feel ‘we should be’. When in reality, what does this all mean? When we begin a journey, we seek to be the best version of ourselves. Our standards are only measured by that which we’ve never done; improvement is ripe, personal bests are found frequently. But the longer we ‘do’, the more competent we become. With this competency comes plateaus; it is only natural, and logical (barring unspecified yet morally disrespected modalities to continue physical improvement without end). But somewhere along the way, it’s easy to lose sight of this and subsequently continue to judge ourselves against an inappropriate standard. When at the end of the day, where did we forget…the start of the journey was to get the best out of myself, and if I’m still doing that; even if the times and places aren’t what I would like; why can’t I still hold my head high and be proud?
I recently did Ironman Arizona. It was my 18th Ironman. I finished 7th among the professional women; with the third best swim of the day, and the second fastest run. It was not necessarily a ‘satisfying’ result for me, as I’ll go into every race with the goal of being in the mix and being competitive at the front end. I wasn’t. But instead of judging myself and critiquing, as is so easy to do – I want to focus on what was good. I went into the race happy. I enjoyed the training going into it, and I was optimistic that I had a good day in me. I felt rested, strong, and happy. My husband Derick and I really enjoyed our few days in Tempe leading up; being total hermits, eating dinner in our room each night, and relaxing. Race morning, I saw a childhood friend of mine, Mindy, before the swim. Mindy and I grew up swimming together; she consistently kicked my ass at meets, but we were great friends through high school in and out of the pool. There was something very relaxing about seeing her and chatting casually prior to the swim. In the big picture, it’s the reminder; this is what matters, the ties that bind; the lifelong relationships. Back to the race itself, I swam strong; I felt good, the day was beautiful; and I ventured onto my bike. I felt like crap. My quads hurt in the aero position, felt weak and unable to produce consistent power, as they have in the past. I was passed by one, then two, then too many to count women. To be honest, my will was weak, and I wanted to quit; I had been through this so many times, and I started to lose the fight. Then I realized the only reason I would quit would be because of ego; because I ‘didn’t think I should be doing’ so poorly. Because it sucked to be losing time, AGAIN. But I countered this with “You are healthy; you have a strong body, you have strong legs, you have a strong mind. Quitting is not an option, for so many who would trade places with you to be here and those who have supported you to get here. Keep pedaling, keep moving forward, and keep smiling (even if only internally). Give your best, on the day; that is why you’re here.”
And that is what I did. I ran strong and confidently, as I love to run. I didn’t want to know how far back I was, because it didn’t matter. I simply wanted to race and finish as I have always done; with every ounce of heart and integrity and effort, because that’s what I’ve done for 16 years of racing; whether that landed me 1st or 10th, what goes on between the start and finish – the process – remains the same. And the process is always what is going to leave a mark on you; for the better, if you let it.
Derick and I are huge music fans. Todd Snider sings, in Ballad of the Kingsmen, referring to the predicament of young kids in modern day society:
“…First grade where they teach the kid pride
They tell him he’ll need to thrive
In a world where only the strong will survive
So he’s taught the art of more
To compare and to keep score Monday thru Friday while he stares at the floor…”
We’re taught to compare, to achieve, to seek more; to be better; from a young age. Not necessarily relative to ourselves, but to others. There is hopefully some positive instilled in us from this mentality; but I hope that, as we move through the years of our lives; we can step back and decipher when the time is to seek more, and when it is to accept today; be proud of who you are, what you’ve done; where you’ve come, and be sure you’re truly living your life in the process. Life is short. Judge yourself less. Seek to be happy and fulfilled. And be proud of your effort; you’re only human after all.