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Why Ironman?

Posted May 22 2013 6:28pm

From my very first tri experience at 300 lbs, a relay team at the Austin Danskin more than 10 years ago, I fell hard for the camaraderie of the sport.  165 lbs. later, when I became a strong enough athlete to race individually, that feeling of crossing the Finish was simply satisfying.  I chose a goal, planned, prepared, executed and succeeded.  How can that not feel good?

Every time you do something you know is good, it makes you feel better about yourself. 

But sometimes you have to choose goals so big that they scare the snot out you, and that in it of itself keeps you focused.  I had never done a sprint before!  You can bet I was training.  First Olympic? Trained my butt off for it.  First 70.3 -- training was a religion for me!  Through all that training I stayed focused on a goal and my body and mind reaped the benefits.  Because for me, it is far more exciting to train for a triathlon, than head to 24 Hour Fitness for a "body pump" class every Saturday morning.  No offense body pumpers!  It's just not for me.

So there's that... I just love the idea of multisport, like others love fishing or baseball. 

In later years though, as I seek some inner-healing, I see Triathlon as a practice in vulnerability and see how it builds courage.  Each training session, each race, I push myself to see how far I can go.  How deep I can really dig.  Yet, I've never really let-go enough to really push my limits. I worked hard of course, but fear always made me hold something back. I never raced with reckless abandon or like no one was watching me.

Hello Fear,
Nice to meet you.
I will prove you are a liar.
Love,
Donna

It does take the vulnerability to go out there lycra-clad when I feel shame that my body is so imperfect. I would worry I am so slow to finish that even the cold pizza is gone when I cross the line.  Maybe I possibly feel like a hypocrite, because after all that I've been through, my body is still not at a healthy weight.  I felt as if onlookers were being repulsed by my body, snickering, wondering why I am even bothering with race?  Or worse, do they feel sorry for me?

In the past, when I received encouragement on the course, it used to fill me with anger.  I was not even capable to receive the joy that should come when someone says, 'Great job, Girl!"  I would sometimes get angry, because how dare they they assume they know my story?  "I know I'm going to finish... I always finish -- they don't have to tell me!"  "They don't know my story!" I used to think.

With every race though, I get better.  Better and better and accepting encouragement for it's  priceless value.  Racing today is definitely more joyful, now that I am better at appreciating the fact I have the choice to  do this!  If I were stuck in a wheel chair or didn't have legs it would be an even greater challenge.  I am healthy and can move on my own will and for that I am truly grateful.  Being grateful is necessary to experience joy.

So it seems the last few years have been lesson in understanding myself, receiving receiving joy and appreciating encouragement  and accepting positive words from others.  It's made everything a richer experience.  I have a small village to thank for this part, in particular, all of my coaches, past and present, who treated me like every other athlete out there, and while I wasn't the best, they see the desire in me. 

It was not until this last year though that I had a break-through.  This will seem trivial to some, but I never did the run in a tri without a running skirt.  I wore a skirt to hide my pannus (that hanging abdominal flap I just had removed).  I did it once, then twice last year, and then again at my most recent race... even after I knew I put on 15 pounds over the Winter!  Vulnerability completely exposed.  I owned my story.  No one even noticed.  Shame erased.  Courage tick marked on the board.

Shame can't prevail when you own your story and overcome your vulnerability.  Courage is built.

I am very happy it happened prior to my skin removal. 

I have so many recordings in my head from childhood about everything I couldn't do because of my weight.  Can't dance, can't sing, can't play sports, won't find a job. You shouldn't do that because..

And hey, I know they were just advising me out of love and educating me as to the harsh realities of the real world, but who knew 35 years later these recordings would still be clamoring through my head, limiting me in various facets of life.  

Though I am slightly better today, there is still much shame inside me about my body.  What I've done to myself, what's been done to me, what it's kept me from doing in my life.  And despite doing some pretty amazing things, I've never totally exposed myself. It's as if I've "gotten away" with something in the game of life.  I don't want to "get away" with stuff any longer. I want to live BIG!

Ironman is such a BFG (big F'n Goal) that I will have no choice;  I will be vulnerable to what comes that day. I won't be able to escape it. I won't be able to get away with anything to get through it.  On race day it's just me and the BFG facing off.  I want to learn I can be vulnerable without it meaning weakness, and from that vulnerability, grow the courage to no longer believe those recordings in my head -- because frankly, if only 1% of the nation finishes Ironman, that data proves enough to me. :)

I want to own and know that space between pushing my limits and cratering.  I want to know what I'm capable of; if I prove it to myself, I will never allow anyone to make me feel otherwise.  The moment I cross that Finish, that space becomes clean for me.  Sacred.  I will know and own my story and defend myself proudly.

What if I don't finish?  I can't even visualize that happening.  Seriously, I can't, even if I try. 

Coach said something a long time ago which stuck with me about how athletes who dive into training head-over-heels and lose their sights for anything else in life are running away from something. 
I've often thought about it; why do I want to do 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running?  I mean, I'm not even a big fan of running!

I realize that for me, I am actually running towards something. Something good.  I've chosen a goal so big that it will force me to become more of who I want to be and expose who I already am.

I know I did not choose this path. As sure as I love my Husband and Daughter, I know I am being led down this path, and it would be ridiculous to dispute the order of events in my life over the last two years. Because really... who *chooses* Ironman?

I've been training for Ironman since that relay at Danskin.  It's been a long and bumpy road with many obstacles, but I am still on the path.  This accomplishment will prove what I what I have been trying to teach myself to believe -- I am enough.
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