Regardless of the Obstacle

Yesterday my daughter Sunshine and I went for a hike. While walking, she noticed this tree:

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If you can’t tell, it appears that a rock was wedged between the branch and the trunk. That really isn’t all that unusual. OK. It kind of is. But, what really caught her eye was that the tree had begun to grow around the rock. The tree had decided to absorb its obstacle rather than allow that obstacle to stop its growth – to impede its forward motion. As we talked about it I said, “kind of a metaphor for life.” My daughter looked at me confused, and instead of explaining right away, I let her sit with it for a minute.

As we continued on our journey, she suddenly stopped and said, “it means that no matter what gets in our way we keep moving forward and growing! Right?” I was very proud of her 10-year-old mind for figuring that out and for seeing that there are going to be obstacles in our lives and that no matter what, we have to keep moving forward…keep growing.

So, what does this have to do with sport? Well, everything. During training or an event, obstacles are thrown in front of athletes (pro and novice) every so often. Sometimes the obstacle is self-made and sometimes the obstacle is completely out of anyone’s control. But what is important about obstacles, whether in life or in sport, is all about how you respond to them.

For me, sometimes that response is immediate and positive. I readjust in the moment, correcting what needs to be corrected and move forward. Sometimes the response is immediate and negative, often resulting in self-deprecation, blaming myself for not being prepared for said obstacle, or telling myself I can’t ever conquer it. But even in those moments of self-doubt, I move forward – slowly (and sometimes while berating myself) but surely, I move forward.

In my sport, one of the things I am proud of is that I don’t quit. I move forward. As I struggled with an obstacle (horrible cramping) during my last half-Ironman, I remember saying to one of the spectators cheering me on, “I may be moving slowly, but I am going in the right direction.”

How I deal with obstacles, in life and sport, continues to grow. I have to say that I think I am getting better with obstacles – even my biggest obstacle…myself. As I continue to grow and “Tri” to make a difference in my life and my daughter’s life, I will channel the strength of that tree that was stronger than its obstacle and absorbed it, making the tree that much stronger.

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Dealing with Disappointment

Disappointment…I have been waiting to be far enough away from my CIM disappointment to write about it, but as the days go by, I realize that there isn’t any amount of time that is going to pass that will make me feel OK with what happened. I have experienced enough loss and disappointment in my life to know what will and what will not easily pass, and what happened on 2 December, unfortunately, is not something that will easily pass by for me.

I have experienced disappointment many times in my life: I was disappointed when my parents got divorced, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to afford the college I wanted to go to, I was disappointed at grades I received in school, I was disappointed at numerous points in my life; including race results. But, a disappointment that I was never faced with, until 2 December 2012 was a Did Not Start. Not being able to begin something I had trained through dealing with injury for, was incomprehensible. I was taught to finish what you started, and to not even begin what I had trained so hard for was just too much for me to deal with – luckily that day I had some magical medication and a great friend to get me through the other side.

Training for the CIM was hard. Not only were the miles hard to get through, but there were injuries along the way as well: I had a bum foot, and a bad back that put me out for three weeks and also hindered some of my subsequent runs as well. But through all the injuries and all the “should I really be doing this” moments, I moved on…I knew that I should be doing it because this is what I did and this is what I wanted to do.
I have read and been told numerous times to focus on the things you can control on race day, so I didn’t worry that the weather forecasted heavy flood-like rain; instead, I made sure I had a baseball hat to wear to keep the rain off my head, a running rain jacket, and a garbage bag to wear before the race. I followed my own advice and hydrated and “carbed” up through the week. When I arrived in Sacramento, I was race ready. What I wasn’t ready for was what happened on the bus to the start line…

When we boarded the bus the wind was blowing and there was a whisper of rain, but it didn’t seem foreboding. I was nervous, but I felt like the day was going to be just fine. I had a plan in my head…I was going to go it easy and run with my friends who were running the relay – as long as I was with “Stacie’s Angels”, everything was going to be just fine. The wind shook the bus as we drove out of Sacramento, but I wasn’t worried. Five minutes into the bus ride I felt a pain in my abdomen, but I ignored it, figuring it was a nervous twinge. However, as the moments ticked by, the pain grew more intense.

I kept the pain to myself, thinking “this can’t be happening” as each surge of pain went by, but knowing all the time what was happening. However, I didn’t want to say anything, thinking that by not saying anything it would make it go away. Sadly, there was no ignoring it….it never passed and it never went away. Instead the pain increased with each moment – a pain I couldn’t ignore and a pain I couldn’t pretend wasn’t happening. Long story short – I didn’t do the marathon.

Telling people I didn’t do the marathon was hard. It was like I had failed at something. Even now, a month later writing about it, I feel like I failed and I don’t like to fail. (This is where I feel like I will never be OK with the disappointment). See, the thing is, is that when I was disappointed in a grade, I knew how to fix it, and when I am disappointed in a race result, I know what I need to work on next time to do better. But not ever starting something because of a physical ailment that I can’t control, I don’t know how to make that better. I don’t know how to make that feeling better because I can’t say, “well, next time that won’t happen” because I don’t know it will never happen again.

Here is what I have realized in the last month: I may not be able to guarantee that it will never happen again, but I have to move on. I can’t allow this disappointment to keep me from moving forward. Yes. It is hard when people ask me how my marathon was, but I tell them what happened with a scrunch of my shoulders and say, “what can I do?” I move on.
I can’t and won’t ever forget about my first, and hopefully only, DNS, but I can move on from it. It has made me be more vigilant to find out what is going on with my body and trying to find out ways to alleviate the issues; it has made me value more the training process than the event and it has helped me to appreciate the things I have in front of me.

Disappointment in life is going to happen, and I don’t have control of many things in this world, but I do have control of my reaction to the disappointments that will occur. My reactions to many of the disappointments in life have shaped the person I am today, and while I saw the DNS at the CIM as negative at first (and even at the start of writing this point) I have since seen the positives of what happened and I look forward to doing it next year, on a very important date in my life – 8 December 2013.

Disappointment happens…it is our reaction to it that defines it and solidifies it into our lives.

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I will let Amy Poehler tell the rest…

For those of you that know me, have read my back story, or whatever, you know that I used to be overweight. I still struggle with my weight – I am not the “number” on the scale that I want to be, and sometimes, instead of being happy with what my body is and what my body can do, I focus on not being that number.

Here is what you may not know…I was a rather small kid, but I also hit puberty in sixth grade, and literally had boobs and hips overnight. I cried when my mom told me I had to wear a bra, but what made me cry the most was the name the kids in my school came up with. Mind you, I wasn’t overweight. I just suddenly weighed more, but to them I became “oil tanker”. I am 37 years old and this still follows me – I still think about it.

I believe that had someone sat me down and taught me the lessons I now teach as a Girls on the Run coach, or what Amy Poehler says in the linked video, I wouldn’t have struggled with my weight my entire life. I wouldn’t have lived in the vicious circle that I still feel trapped in at times.

But, every once in awhile, a video or something comes up that pulls me out of that vicious circle of not being good enough, skinny enough, whatever enough and it all comes swirling back into perspective. I am filled with SO MUCH gratitude for the body I have – not just how I physically look (I have great hair), but for my brain, for my ability to ride, run and swim and my ability to love – not only the people around me, but myself.

So, thank you Amy Poehler for the wonderful reminder.

 

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The Difference Between Me

I knew before I even walked out the door…I just had that feeling I shouldn’t go. I didn’t sleep well last night. My pants just weren’t fitting right. The top of my water bottle was leaking and I was getting electrolyte drink all over my hand. Todd was being a pain in the ass, feeling it necessary to stop every five steps to smell or mark his spot to let everyone know he once passed by that particular spot. I just didn’t want to run.

That all happened within the first half mile of my 7-mile run this morning. The 7-mile run that just so happened to be the WORST run I have had in a very, very long time. But here is the difference…I didn’t turn back. I did my 7-mile run.

Every once in awhile I get a glimpse at how far I have come in my thinking. I get a glimpse of the difference in me and my thinking. The old me would have never started. The old me would have turned around. The old me would have cut the miles short. The old me would have berated myself for having a bad run.

The me I am now didn’t quit and the me I am now realizes that bad runs happen. Bad runs don’t necessarily translate into being a bad runner, or what I used to tell myself, a bad person. Yeah, I can be that hard on myself and tell myself that my inability (and by inability I mean having a bad day) to run, ride or swim translates into who I am as a person. (Talk about Feeding the Monster, right Carrie?!)

Now I see bad runs like this as almost a blessing…Every runner I know has a bad run. It is almost inevitable that you will just have a day when things just don’t feel right, and that is OK. All I can say is that I would rather have a bad run today than on race day.

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Cancer Never Sleeps

I participated in Relay for Life last weekend. There are parts that are already such a blur, but there is one thing that has really stuck with me…Cancer really never sleeps.

That is the whole idea of Relay. We have to have someone from our team on the track the entire night to symbolize that idea. I got it. I really did. But it wasn’t until 3:30 in the morning that I really got what that meant.

As some of you know, my goal was to do a marathon in the 24-hour period. I have done marathons before, but for some reason, doing it in stops and starts was a bit harder. At 3:30 in the morning we were about to start our next shift on the track (my friend and teammate Julie came along for my crazy ride)…I was tired, my body was beat, my feet hurt, my legs felt like lead. The last thing I wanted to do was get up and walk. Another teammate, Ceilin, said, “I will walk for you if you want to sleep.” It was a sweet offer, but it was in that moment that I really felt the symbolism of the whole event.

Chemo doesn’t stop just because you don’t want to do it. Radiation doesn’t go away because you have a lunch date with a friend that you just don’t want to miss. Cancer doesn’t care that your granddaughter is getting married soon. Cancer doesn’t care that you are five years old and want to play with your friends instead of sitting in a hospital room looking out at the world. Cancer just doesn’t quit, and neither could I.

It really didn’t matter that I had blisters on my feet, or that my heel was hurting, or that I was tired…I was out there for a reason. I was out there to honor the memories of the people I love and lost, I was out there to honor the people I love and who still battle, and I was out there to honor those who have won their battle. So, I got up, didn’t complain about my feet or my legs or whatever I could have complained about and walked.

Cancer never sleeps, and neither did I. I realize it was only a small gesture, but the experience has left a lasting impression.

Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone who donated to me. Because of your generosity, Windsor Relay for Life met and surpassed our goal of $75,000. That money will go so that one day the people we love won’t have to hear the words, “You have cancer.”

Peace and love,

Stacie

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In the Moment

I had this epiphany in the water the other day. I went to the pool knowing my plan for the day. I was going to swim 100 laps. (Because my focus in 2012 is on sprint triathlons, I haven’t been swimming distance, and I kind of missed it. As the days draw closer to Barb’s Race, I am feeling nostalgic about my half Ironman training and kind of wish I was doing it again this year.) ANYWAY, I was on lap five and as I approached the wall to turn around I thought (with a little dread), “five down…95 more to go.” And, with this one tiny thought…by simply uttering these six words, I felt myself slow down. Suddenly the water felt harder to swim through and there was this feeling of dread about the distance I had left to swim – as though I was never going to get to that 100th lap.

This feeling of “I have so far to still go” lasted for about two laps and then I realized I was weighing myself down – not in body, but in mind. As Carrie Cheadle would say, I was “feeding the monster”. I was letting the monster weigh upon my back, making me doubt my ability to finish the swim, making me forget how much I now enjoy swimming and how much I was looking forward to that swim. And, once I made this realization, and let the negative feeling go, I could feel myself become more buoyant; I could feel my stroke and kick become stronger; I could feel myself smiling in the water…I had fought off the monster and the next thing I knew, I was thinking to myself, “95 down…five more to go.”

This moment made me think of all the other times in my life that I focused on the end rather than just let myself be in the moment. This moment also made me think of something I sent to my friend before her Ironman triathlon: “Remember to enjoy and cherish every moment. Any pain you feel will be temporary, but your memories of that day will last a lifetime!” I try to remind my athletes of this at the beginning of any event, and what is funny, is that I remember this whenever I am competing. However, I forget that training – the runs, rides and swims that lead to said event matter just as much, if not more. I should cherish every pedal stroke, every lap and every mile my feet carry me because they are just as an important part of my journey as an athlete as the actual event, and maybe even more.

When reading I take it one chapter at a time and am never concerned about the length of the book. In Weight Watchers I try to take it one meal at a time – one day at a time – one moment at a time. Sometimes I let the monster take over and I feel a little bit of discontent with where I am in my journey – “This book is taking so long.” “I can’t believe I STILL have weight to lose.” Whatever it may be…I forget to look at where my journey began, how far I have come and what I can do today.

I realize how cliche it is to say “life is about the journey that the destination” but I think that it often needs repeating. We move through life looking at the end gain and often forget to just stop and take in the moment. Yes, finishing a 13 mile run is invigorating and satisfying, but it can really weigh a person down if all they do during the run is tick off the miles LEFT to go, rather than looking at how far they have come, but also where they are right at that moment because it is that moment that matters, not the finish line.

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We Can

The other day, I heard this song that made me think of doubt – the doubt I sometimes have in myself, but also the doubt others have in me (or I think they might have in me). I have doubted myself so many times…as a friend, parent, wife, coach, student, teacher and athlete.

There are probably people in my life who have doubted me in each and every one of those roles as well.

Every time we step out of our comfort zone, we risk feeling doubt or having our abilities doubted by others. It is getting passed this feeling of doubt that matters.

People meet me and they think I am a confident, self-assured person. If you have read any  of the posts on this blog, you can see that I am not. Every time I take on a new challenge, or even a challenge I have done and conquered before, I am filled with self-doubt. I don’t like to fail. But, I also don’t want to fail before even trying. Every time I step to the starting line, or walk through the classroom door for a new semester, I move beyond those feelings of doubt.

My point is, if you ever doubt yourself, it is normal…but, move passed that doubt to belief in yourself. As Jesse Ruben sings, “We Can”…We Can do anything we set our minds to. It might not always be pretty, but it can be done.

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