Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pinch me

It was a regular evening. Mr. Tea and I were hanging out.

I don't know why, but I picked up my phone and thought I should check my email.....which I NEVER do in the evening.

An email caught my eye. It was from USA Triathlon, but not a generic USA Triathlon. It was from a PERSON at USA Triathlon.

I read it again.

I started shaking.

I made some weird noise, and Mr. Tea turned around quickly and asked, "What's wrong"?

I had tears in my eyes. I handed him my phone.

I stared at him, waiting for him to tell me that I misread the email.

Slowly, he said, "Oh my god. YOU DID IT"!

I just sat there crying and shaking.

I started triathlon in 2006. From 2006 to 2010, I couldn't commit to it. It was more of a hobby, a way of exercising. I had two sons, Mr. Tea, and we had started a company. In 2010, this were settling down. I decided that in 2011, I was going to really commit to triathlon. I had a dream. I wanted to race as part of Team USA. I didn't tell anyone. At the time, I was a back of the pack triathlete. I'd never even qualified for the National Championship.

To qualify for Team USA there are two layers of qualifications:
1.) You have to qualify for the National Championship.
2.) At the National Championship, you can qualify for Team USA.

I never put on any airs about my abilities. I knew exactly who I was. I always believed, and I've said here so many times.....I always believed I was faster than what my times showed. 

I didn't know how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.

For the next couple of years, I worked my ass off with no significant gains. I was still a middle pack triathlete with big dreams. That's all I was. 

I listened to people insult my running.  I listened to "well meaning" advice.

People made jokes about my abilities. There was a group of people who called me the "one legged runner" because I ran so slowly. 

At masters, there was a group of gossipy stay at home moms who were out to make my life miserable. I routinely walked in on their conversations about me.

 I had a friend (at the time) that I thought I could trust. I found out that person didn't respect me as an athlete.

Even now, just typing this hurts.

I listened to it all. I smiled, nodded my head and tucked it away. When I trained, I remembered those comments. When I ran on the treadmill, I visualized racing at the World Championship. I experienced the emotions of being part of the parade. I sometimes ran with tears running down my face because I wanted it so badly.

Every morning, I got up and went to work again. 

In December 2013, I left my old coach. I left the masters team. I cut out every single toxic person in my life. At the same time, a brick hit me when I lost my best friend. All of a sudden, the person I would text several times a day was gone. For months afterward, first thing in the morning, I would reach for my phone.....and then it would hit me. 

I was at rock bottom. I felt alone and lost.

That's when I found Liz.

I was truly starting from scratch.  I started working with Coach Elizabeth Waterstraat. I joined a new masters and found a wonderful swim coach. Over time, I met new athletes. 

Liz had her hands full with me. I was an emotional mess. She took me back to square one. We started with very basic workouts. She explained why my old workouts didn't work for me. She explained how we were going to change how I trained. She taught me what it means to be an athlete at the top of your game and also be a class act. She taught me how to race. She coaches newbies, middle packers, pro's and top age groupers, and she treats every single person like they are the most important athlete she has.   That year, 2014, 6 months after starting with her, I got my first 1st place age group. Two months later, I found out that I qualified for Nationals. 

For the first time, I was with a Coach who wanted to help me develop into the athlete I always believed I could be. 

I started seeing that those crazy dreams could become a reality.

I had a plan to get to Nationals in 5 years.  

In my first year with Liz, I qualified for Nationals at every race I did. I stood atop the podium, most of the time, in shock.

You'd be surprised at how success starts to bring out the worst in people. I had cut out all the toxic people in my life. Yet, here we were again:

You're obsessed. You're too hard on yourself. You could be so much more if you just fixed your running. That podium doesn't mean anything. It's all about who shows up on race day. The list goes on and on.

By now, I was used to it. I realized that people will always try to tear you down in order to build themselves up.

What they didn't realize is that confidence comes from reaching your goals. And I was knocking my goals out of the ball park. 

"When voices inside are quiet. The voices outside can do you no harm".

And I went back to work. Liz pushed me harder than she's ever pushed me. She demanded my best, and I did everything I could to be my best. 

Mr. Tea and I built this company together. We've been through very tough times and very good times. We've had the most heated arguments about the company or steps we need to take. It's because we have a passion for what we do. Arguments come out of passion. At the end of the argument, the company and "we" are better for it.

Coaching/athlete relationships are the same way. I think there's a misunderstanding that your relationship with your coach has to be sunshine and roses. It's not. Liz and I have disagreed. Liz and I have been frustrated with each other. It's because we are passionate about what we do. At the end of the day, I'm a better athlete for it.

Last year, I decided to share most of my big goals with Liz. We set on a plan to achieve those goals.

So yesterday, when I read the email, all those horrible things people said and did to me came rushing back. All those years of feeling like I wasn't respected as an athlete....they came rushing back to me.


I sat on the couch and cried. I hugged Mr. Tea, and I cried more. I emailed Liz. I texted JMan and Googs. I texted the people closest to me. I realized that my circle was far bigger than I realized. I took to Facebook to thank everyone.

This was the first of my really big goals. The people who have been there for me and who have never once questioned me or ability were the ones I wanted to celebrate with.

There are a number of you, who have been with me for so many years. We've had our own share of disagreement and "passionate" discussions. I think that's why we've made it so long together.  There are some of you, who I've only known a short time, but you've managed to touch me in some way or another. There's no possible way for me to reach out to you all individually. 

I continue to be humbled by this sport. I'm incredibly proud to be able to represent the USA, but I'm humbled by the sheer number of athletes out there in the world. Working for years on a goal, only to accomplish it....it's overwhelming. I still feel like an underdog when I show up to race. I don't think that will ever go away. I don't think I want it to either.

I want you to know, you are an important part of this journey.

And, we're only just getting started.