Archive for April, 2009

It’s All About the Journey

April 10, 2009

About 5 years ago, I went in to have my first mammogram, as you’re supposed to do at age 40. I was feeling great and had no idea anything could possibly be wrong with me. But I was wrong. A day after the mammogram, I got a call from radiology…there was a problem. I had a tumor. Long story short, the biopsy determined it was benign.

Needless to say, I felt very blessed and thankful. It was at that point I decided to live each day as if it were my last and do more things I’d thought about, but had put off because I was young, healthy and had plenty of time. After this experience, I truly realized, the time is now to start doing those things.

With that said, I took up running in October 2006 and ran my first 15k in March 2007. I enjoyed the training and the event very much, but wanted a new challenge. So, I decided to train for and compete in a triathlon. Now this may not seem like a big decision, but keep in mind two things. First, it wasn’t on my “to do” list, but when my friend who is a personal trainer suggested it, it sounded exciting. Second, I didn’t know how to ride a bike when I made this decision. Sure, I rode a bike when I was 6 years old but not since. And the bike I had as a child didn’t have gears…only a banana seat and moustache handlebars. It hardly qualifies. So, the journey began with my decision to take on this new quest.

I think one of the best parts of any journey is the people you meet along the way and what you learn from them. I had the honor and joy of meeting some amazing people. Some became mentors. Some are extraordinary athletes. All are incredible human beings who inspired me and taught me.

First there was my trainer, who had taught me how to train properly to run long distances. A superior athlete, herself, she inspired me. Her work with me when training for the 15k made the difference in my ability to compete in the triathlon.

Then there was the woman I refer to as my “bike mom.” She took me under her wing and helped me get up to speed with bike knowledge and skills…literally and figuratively. She introduced me to a weekly cycling group comprised of some very savvy cyclists who gave me tips and helped me find my way as I struggled with various aspects of cycling including riding with traffic and clipping in and out.

Next there was the owner of the bike shop I got my bike from whose honesty, patience, training tips, encouragement and passion for biking and racing made a huge difference for me. His ability to see my potential truly helped me see and believe it too.

Last, but not least, there were the instructors and women in my triathlon training group who taught us racing bike skills and taught me so much more than that. All of the women in the tri training group are incredible cyclists and true athletes. They were patient and understanding and never made me feel like the slow poke as I tried to keep up when we first started training. Instead they would encourage me, assure me they remembered what it was like to be a new rider and told me it would get better and easier. They were right.

But I think the one thing that really helped put a true perspective on my journey as I struggled through the early learning weeks was something sent to me in an email by one of the women in the weekly cycling group. This woman is a very strong cyclist, and I had shared with her my frustrations of wanting to be at a certain level right now, but knowing it would take time to get there. She sent me a lengthy email talking about her experiences when she first started riding. It was heart felt and encouraging. But what really made me realize it would all work out is the quote she included at the end of her email. A quote that I think is one of the best ones I’ve come across in quite some time and want to share with you.

John Bingham of Runner’s World said, “The miracle was not that I finished. The miracle was that I had the courage to start.”

When I read that, I thought to myself…yes…it really is all about starting. It really is about the journey, what you learn, who you meet and how the experience enriches and changes your life for the better.

Yes, I did finish my first triathlon, and in much less time than I had expected. Yes, it felt great. But in the scheme of things, the journey was my greatest reward. And the finish was a very sweet, but tiny part of the journey.

The journey got me hooked on triathlons and now marathons. I continue to compete in both and continue to cherish the people I meet and the lessons I learn on the road to wherever this incredible journey takes me.

I urge everyone reading this (whether an athlete or not) to find your passion, find your courage and embrace the journey. You won’t be sorry!