Here at Career Girl Network, we strive to bring you articles and experiences that run the gamut from professional to personal, practical to spiritual. We are delighted to bring you this guest article from a woman we admire. This dear friend impressed us all recently by completing not one, but two triathlons in just a few weeks time. To say we respect this woman is a gross understatement. Her determination, courage and drive are inspiring. Read her story below and we know you’ll apply its wisdom to your own life – for you, it might not be a triathlon, but we all have challenges to overcome in our minds and in our bodies. Enjoy!
Since the onset of puberty, I have waged a war against myself. Bolstered by a society that preaches mind-body duality, I was convinced that my true self resided only in my mind, and my mind preferred to have nothing to do with this body. This body was never good enough. Never thin enough, never strong enough, never fast enough. Because this body was not yet enough, I dictated many challenges over the years in an attempt to become enough.
The 2011 challenge: be a triathlete. I imagined a triathlete body to be a thin, muscular machine. I spent much of the last six months trying to bend my body into that imagined triathlete form.
Every week I ran twice, I biked twice, and I swam twice. Neither the run nor the bike intimidated me, but swimming was the ultimate frustration. My first time in the pool, I could not swim a single lap. Breathing while swimming was a task I simply could not teach myself. I sought help by taking several swim lessons and eventually learned proper stroke technique. I slowly built endurance and confidence in the pool.
In the last few months of training, I did “brick” workouts where two sports are practiced back-to-back. Often I biked to the lake, swam, and then biked home. Sometimes I added a few miles after running after biking and swimming. While I had a sense of accomplishment after atough brick workout, I never learned to enjoy the sensation of running with cement blocks for feet.
My body did not appear to change during these months of triathlon training. If anything I was constantly hungry, ate more, and gained a few pounds. While my body responded to training volume with increased endurance, it did not whittle away into the muscular machine I imagined. I arrived at race day ready to complete the distance, but not nearly as proud of my body as I had hoped.
On August 14, I participated in the YWCA of Minneapolis Women’s Triathlon. I swam 500 yards, biked 15.5 miles, and ran 3.1 miles with 972 women between the ages of 14 and 74. Each of these women have earned the distinction of calling themselves a triathlete, yet they raced in bodies of allages, shapes, sizes, and colors imaginable.
My idea of what constituted a triathlete body was shattered. Sure, there were a few women who fit into my preconceived tritahlete mold, but the vast majority were racing in whatever body they had that day. The young and the mature, the new mother, the cancer survivor, and the sister team each had their own reasons for racing this triathlon. I imagine many of their reasons were not as vain and insecure as my own: the body that I had failed to obtain.
The race itself is actually a blur, but I do recall being passed by a woman twice my age and by woman twice mysize. As I gasped for breath through tears of relief at the end, the announcer cheered on a 70-year-old woman approaching the finish line in celebration of her 70th birthday. I was floored. Her body was more than enough; her body was strong and amazing. And so were the bodies of the mother and daughter racing duo standing next to me. I had pride for each and every one of the women I raced alongside and dug deep to find a piece of it for myself.
Perhaps my body was also enough? I had set out a pretty significant challenge, and I succeeded. In fact, I obliterated my time goals and finished in the top half of my age group. The biggest accomplishment, however, was not crossing the finish line, but feeling for at least for a fleeting moment that my body was strong and deserving of praise. I am after all, a triathlete.