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Just Keep Swimming (and Riding and Running)

Once upon a time on June 16th 2018, covered in bike grease, stinking of sweat on sweat on sweat and wearing a bizarre amount of safety pins, I barged through the doors of a small trailer and tore the head off of a small and bewildered man just trying to do his job. Looking back, I realize I could have probably toned it down a bit, but to this day, I don't think I have ever felt such a surge of determination and self confidence in myself.

It all started when I decided to sign up for my first Half Ironman. It was definitely the biggest thing I had ever trained for, but I was committed right from the start. The training was brutal at times and there were freezing cold February and March mornings when I was heading to the pool at 4:30am that I considered maybe I bit off a little more than I could chew. The imposter syndrome was a daily battle I fought, never quite feeling like I was good enough to do what I was doing. But, I kept going, doing everything I was supposed to, and before I knew it, it was June 16th, race day. All in all, I felt ready. I knew I put in the work, so as far as I was concerned the REALLY hard stuff was done. Race day was my reward, and as intimidated as I still felt, I was determined to at least fake the confidence that it was going to be great!

I headed into the porta john one last time on my way to the start line and as I was zipping up my triathlon suit, the zipper broke. It fell into the deep dark hole, never to be seen again. So there I was, minutes from the start line, with my race suit gaping open from my neck all the way down to well below my belly button. Considering I was a newbie, I didn't even think of bringing a backup shirt or shorts. I felt my nerve slipping away. I almost threw up, but realized I didn't have time for that. So I ran to the registration table, grabbed as many safety pins as I could find, channeled my inner 1994 Elizabeth Hurley and started hurriedly pinning my top together, not even thinking about the fact that I would be racing for HOURS and would definitely be needing to unhook myself to pee. Whatever. I would deal with it later. I made it to the start line and took off on the swim.

A little while later, I was on the bike. I had almost forgot about my wardrobe malfunction when I heard the unmistakable hiss of a popped tire. NO!!!!!!! I pulled over to the side of the road and desperately tried to remember what to do. The friendly man in the YouTube video made it look so easy, but all I managed to do was cover myself in bike grease. I fought back the tears that desperately wanted to fall. And then I looked up and saw a very nice man slow down, get off his bike and offer to help me. I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world...until the nice man told me the frame of the wheel was bent and he could only partly inflate the tire. His face dropped as he told me there would be no way the tire would last the 30 miles I had to go. He was also sad to say the repair truck had already passed us by a while ago. I thanked him and he turned to get on his bike, only to turn around and see me getting on mine as well. He asked if I was crazy. And I not so calmly replied, "Do you see what I look like right now. What do you think?? And just so you are aware, I will carry this bike to that finish line if I have to. Thank you and goodbye." And I pedaled off at a speed I had no business going simply because I was so afraid of what would happen if I stopped. I refused to give up.

Miraculously, I made it the transition station with everyone I passed pointing at the girl riding on her rim! Getting to the 13.1 mile run felt like a true gift and I honestly don't remember anything about my hours running except for the feelings of gratitude. I finally rounded to the corner and saw my family at the finish line cheering for me. I made it! After I crossed the finish line and was hugging my kids and husband and dramatically explaining away my appearance, I looked up and saw my brother's face awkwardly contort and then he broke the news to me: I had been disqualified. Apparently the chip on my ankle never registered as I was leaving on the bike. And then, I LOST IT. I remember yelling at nobody in particular, "OHHHHH I DON'T THINK SO!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and blindly taking off like a bat out of hell to find the keeper of time or mission control or whomever the heck it was that was in charge. And that's when someone pointed me in the direction of a small trailer, to which I barged through the door, looking and smelling like a hot mess and a very small and bewildered man yelled at me that I had no business being there. While he wasn't wrong, I could have politely knocked, the exact words he chose held a much deeper meaning to me than simply calling me out for being rude. I proceeded to rip his head off as I recounted every emotional detail of my entire day and then asked him how he could possibly think I don't belong there after being disqualified for a glitch on his end! And then I refused to leave until he figured out how to get my real times in there. 30 minutes later, I walked out of that trailer a legitimate finisher of The Patriot Half Ironman and wearing my new self confidence like a medal!

There are always going to be obstacles, sometimes challenges you never even could have imagined. That can be really scary and unnerving, but every time you push yourself or are forced out of your comfort zone, you grow. That's why fitness challenges are such a great tool to help you grow and realize your potential. Getting through a physical challenges often ends up having a positive effect on all other areas of your life. NEVER quit. Whatever it is you may want to do, GO FOR IT. Believe in yourself, even if you have to fake it at times and most of all, NEVER let anyone, including your own thoughts, convince you that you can't or your don't belong.

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