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Thursday, October 22, 2015


  As a girl in her middle school years when the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books started coming out, naturally I was drawn to the teenage versions.  For whatever reason lately, I've started to think about a poem in one of them, "After A While (You Learn)".  As the time has progressed and this year has gone on, I've started to become more and more aware that, well, crap, if nothing else, I've learned a heck of a lot this year.  About injuries and coping, but also about myself, my sport, perseverance, and love.  While I believe that I've learned plenty from my successes in life, this year has been one giant failure to meet my goals.  But then again, I'm starting to, well, realize that the lessons I've learned have made it anything other than a failure.  So, after a while (on the sidelines) you learn...

   That the people in this sport are good.  They will support you through your disappointments, and cheer you through your successes.  Notably, I've had multiple fellow pro women reach out to me, and it really, really speaks volumes to me and makes me feel incredibly grateful to be involved in something with so much respect and support between competitors.

   There's a difference between clarity and muddiness, or going through the motions.  I had a lot of periods last year of slogging.  I had plenty of times this year when my motivation waned, and training was nothing more than mindlessly exercising while counting down the minutes to nothing.  Conversely, I've had periods when the fog has cleared, and I've been able to just feel the difference.  When my head's in the right place after a long time of it not quite being there, I know it.  And it's more refreshing than I could have imagined.

   When you go long enough without something, you either discover that you can find more happiness with other stuff, or that thing, whatever it is, has become such an ingrained part of your being that something is missing when it's gone, and nothing will quite take its place.  I'm the latter.  Neither is right or wrong.  I guess this goes with the whole old, "if you love something, set it free" adage.

   Triathlon, and in particular Ironman, seems like a totally selfish endeavor at times.  But, on the other hand, training and competing makes me a better person.  When all is working on that part of my life, I'm far more likely to smile at a stranger, hold a door a little bit longer, and spread more happiness (and less bitterness) around me.  So maybe it's not as selfish as it all seems.

  Perspective is necessary.  Realize when things are temporary; I'm fortunate enough to be able to have the ability to return to being my full self again with everyone I care about with me; I'm clothed and in a house and comfortable and fed.  I need to continue to remember that, even if that day where I'm 100% isn't today or tomorrow or anytime in the next few months.  Sometimes yelling and screaming and throwing things inside is necessary, but once that's past, focus on what can be done, and do it.

  At the same time, it's ok to be not ok.  Sometimes, no amount of perspective could change my feelings.  Sometimes, I just wanted to tell perspective to go eff itself, because I was sad and thinking about how I shouldn't be sad because I had so much to be grateful for just made me sad AND guilty.  One debbie downer day in aquatic therapy, my PT told me what her mom had once told her as a child-"go to your room, and for 20 minutes, cry, throw pity parties, do whatever you want.  But get it out in those 20 minutes, and then come out better."  I took this advice to heart on more than one occasion.  I tried to stop guilt tripping myself for the down times, because, well, I couldn't do something that I loved, so not being thrilled about it here and there was ok.

   It's ok to let others help you when you're not ok.  Don't be afraid to reach out.  People who care truly do want to help, and are more than capable to do so in their own ways.  I've had so many relationships that have been made and deepened throughout this whole time, and that has been fulfilling in and of itself.

   Laugh at the ridiculous.  Sometimes, a dog in a peacock costume (one example here) is all that we've got.  At one point, I unabashedly binge watched whine about it episodes.  Laughter truly is the best medicine.

   Take it all in stride.  I've had ups, I've had downs, even on a day to day basis.  I'm learning to temper my excitement about the ups, and to keep my chin up during the downs.  Everything is a step towards something larger.

   Running is the best.  Especially in the fall.  I don't need to elaborate this one any more.

   Maybe, just maybe, those demons might just be the best thing to ever happen.  Triathlon is hard.  Maximizing potential involves a lot of pain.  More days than not (recovery days are necessary, after all), some sort of physical discomfort will be experienced.  When the pain comes in training and racing, I find that I do better when there's something to overcome, some darkness, some edge inside of me taking away the fear of taking it on.  Triathlon sure as heck isn't rainbows and butterflies.  Having some part of my mind hardened and angry only serves to sharpen the focus at times.  Life had gotten too cushy.  I might have just gotten what I needed all along, which was to (for lack of a better term) to find myself a little bit more effed up in the head, in the best possible way.

  As for my training status right now?  I'm starting to run again.  My hip isn't perfect-the joint feels good, but some of the tendons are trying to figure it out still.  But running is as wonderful as I'd imagined, and I'm doing everything within my power to try to make it work this time around.  I'm biking decently without putting in tons of volume or intensity yet, which is encouraging.  My hip is starting to let me clip in and work, which is hard and wonderful all at once.  Swimming is rough, but I'm finally addressing an issue I've been having with it for ages now (ulnar nerve compression symptoms), and I'll have some more answers on that in a few weeks.  I'm watching the leaves burst into color and the fall world come to life.  I feel cautious still.  Very, very cautious.  But better.

  And for the actual poem?  I found the original, and I might just like that too.


  1. Thank you for your sincerity Jennie! It really encouraged me! I have had left hip issues for years and run through them... too much over compensating and now I have a stress fracture in my right foot. I haven't run in 67 days and consequently have watched my goals for 2015 ebb away... your post however filled me with hope that I am not alone and that we will BOTH race again... faster than before! :) Sara M.

  2. I've been reading your posts for quite some time now, and this one really spoke to me! Just wanted to say thank you. I could relate to so much of what you said, and it really helped me to know that others feel the same way (and that I'm not completely mad!). Onwards and upwards. All the very best to you. Katharine P.