The Beginning is Always the Hardest

“Do not give up; the beginning is always the hardest.” – Unknown

Sometimes people are under the assumption that running, biking, and swimming are all easy for me. It can be discouraging to talk with people who brush off my successes with comments like, “ya, but you’re good at that” or “that’s easy for you.” The truth is, I’m definitely not a naturally talented swimmer. And often I feel that I’m not at all cut out for this triathlon stuff; it’s just that I’m way too stubborn to quit or give up on something that I want to do.

I completed my first triathlon in August of 2010. It was an Olympic distance (1500m swim, 24 mile bike, 10k run) race that I signed up for with my sister. The deal was, if I liked the race, I would sign up with her for Ironman Louisville 2011 the next day when registration opened. 

Unprepared and terrified are two pretty accurate adjectives to describe my condition the night before the race. I was staying in a hotel with my sister, her husband, and her husband’s parents. When my sister and I get together and are nervous about something (namely a race of some type) we get a little slap-happy. Let’s just say I may have thrown out a completely inappropriate “that’s what she said” comment to my sister’s mother-in-law. Yup. That’s what happens when I get nervous. Complete abandonment of sense and reason.

Moving on with the race story…

I. Was. Terrified. Swimming in open water is something that has scared me ever since I was little and my dad used to throw me off the dock in Higgins Lake into “the blue” where we could see pike swimming. I was sure that I’d be eaten alive at any second. Unfortunately, that unrealistic fear has never gone away. So you can see why I was a nervous wreck before the swim. And, if you’ve even done a triathlon and looked at the swim course before the race, you know just how unbelievably far it looks. You’re always sure that it must be marked wrong because it looks way too long. 

Luckily, I did not let the fear stop me from starting the race, and once I was in the water there was no going back. (There was a lot of going right and left and not straight, but not backwards. There’s no line at the bottom of a lake!) I have to admit that the swim was long and hard, and it took me forever. But I was so proud to run out of that water. My heart did sink, however, when I got to the bike racks and saw that my bike was one of the few left still hanging on the rack. I was pretty far behind after my less than speedy swim.

I pedaled my heart out on the bike, but didn’t manage to pass many people and was beginning to feel pretty discouraged and tired. By the time I got to the run I was really worn out. I hadn’t researched the course at all, and I was less than thrilled to find out that most of the run was on trails. Uneven ground is much harder to run on and I was exhausted. The course was a double loop, so there were a lot of people finishing their second loop as I was just beginning my first. Thoughts of doubt were clouding my head. Why did I even sign up for this race? How did I think I was going to do an Ironman when I was having this much trouble with an Olympic? I was really getting discouraged. And then, just when I wanted to quit, I realized that they were already starting to clean up the course. They had taken down signs and I had missed a turn. I had to back track to figure out where I was supposed to be. By the time I finished the race I had been in tears and wanted to quit more than once. It was not the ideal beginning to my triathlon career.

And that brings me back to where I started…

“Do not give up, the beginning is always the hardest.” 

If I had let that experience suck the confidence out of me, I would not be where I am today. Instead, it made me realize how much harder I was going to have to work to reach my goals. I’m not good at not being good at things. And there’s only one way around that; get better. Try harder. Give it all you’ve got.

The next day, my sister and I signed up for Ironman Louisville. And one year later we ran across that finish line and heard those words, “You are an Ironman.” But it wasn’t easy. 


Every End is a New Beginning

Do you know what a teacher’s favorite day is? The last day of school before summer vacation! Today is that day for me. It marks the end of my 10th year as an elementary teacher. But just like every ending, it is the beginning of something new. Each day for the next two months, I get to take care of my own two children instead of 23 children that aren’t mine! That should be so much easier, right? One would think…

So why is it that I enter summer vacation with a small amount of hesitation? The answer: Change is hard! Even if I know that the new “schedule” is going to be amazing, I also know that it will have its challenges. During the school year, I can squeeze in runs after work before I pick the boys up from daycare. I can ride my bike or run to baseball practice. I can multitask with the best of them in order to fit in a workout. But then…I enter the lazy, relaxed days of summer when I am a full time mom and there is no “squeezing in” a workout when the boys aren’t with me. They’re with me every waking moment! Summer months mean that my level of discipline has to reach a new level. 2-3 mornings a week I will be up with the sun, hitting the road for a run, and back home before the house is awake. My new schedule will mean earlier wake ups than during the school year in order to keep up my fitness. (Insert deep breathe.)

We all worry about the new, unknown, and different ventures that our lives bring us. Reluctance to dive in head first into a new beginning is normal. They say children thrive on routine; I don’t think that we as adults are any different. It is easy to keep doing what we’re doing, and what we’ve always done. Change is hard. New is hard. Different is hard. But sometimes we need to reset our thinking. Reset our goals. And come up with a new game plan. 


Tennis Shoes aren’t for Yoga

It is hard to try new things. Coming up with reasons not to try something new is considerably easier. I don’t have time, we’re just too busy with baseball/soccer/hockey/basketball season, I won’t be good at it, I have bad knees, I’m too out of shape. Sometimes, the biggest excuse for not venturing out of our comfort zone is the hardest one to admit. We are SCARED.

Tonight I tried my first yoga class in 10 years. I went once 10 years ago and I hated it. Of course, I can’t remember specifically why I hated it, but I definitely remember something about not being flexible enough, not being able to stay balanced, and not knowing the moves. Now that I am older (and so much more mature) I realize that what I need most to reach my fitness goals are flexibility and core strength. Hence the big, bold idea to try yoga again!

I didn’t even know I was scared to try yoga again until about 2 hours before class. Suddenly it hit me, what am I doing? I don’t have a mat. Am I supposed to wear shoes? Just socks? Do I bring a water bottle? How early should I get there? I don’t want to be the first one. I don’t want to show up late and not get a spot either! Panic! 

Of course, upon arrival, I learned lesson number one of the night: Tennis shoes aren’t for yoga. I walked in to a sea of flip flops and slipped off my Asics and socks. It all went pretty smoothly from there. Here are some of the other things I picked up on:

  • Downward dog looks easy. It’s not.
  • When the instructor says, “Gently welcome your heels to touch the floor” she is talking to me. And there is nothing “gentle” about it.
  • “Quietly hop to the front of your mat” isn’t going to be happening for me.
  • “Gently welcome the child’s pose” will become my favorite phrase and I will wait with baited breathe to hear those words.
  • Waiting with baited breathe will summons a reminder to “welcome a deep breathe.”
  • And finally, I will survive, and realize that it wasn’t even all that scary. And maybe, just maybe, everyone didn’t know I was a first timer. (But they probably did.)
Why do we get so intimidated by things? We let so many thoughts of doubt fill our heads. Do what you want to do. Become the person you want to be. Don’t let the fear of who you aren’t right now get in the way of the person you want to become. 

Deadline vs. Finish Line

“The difference between a goal and a dream, is a deadline.”  -Unknown

This week I had a daunting deadline for work looming over me. It stole hours of my sleep as I worked on it each night after the boys went to bed, and it left me feeling pretty stinkin’ crabby. This “deadline” got me thinking about the difference between a deadline and a finish line.

I LOVE finish lines. They are such a happy place. Even if someone is lying on the ground in agony, or being helped to a chair to sit down because they are in so much pain, or crying uncontrollably; all of those things are still a reason to celebrate. You made it to the finish line. The victory is yours.

I remember when I was preparing for my first Ironman. The fear of something stopping me from making it to that finish line made me lose sleep at night. Numerous dreams filled my head, leading me to question whether or not I could cross that line. Youtube videos of previous Iromman Lousiville races brought me to tears because I wanted to feel that same glory and satisfaction, and I was so scared that I might not reach that goal.

Deadlines are different for me. If someone had told me on Tuesday that I wasn’t going to have to finish that project after all, I would have given them a big hug, and moved on with my week feeling much more cheerful. (And much more rested.) The sense of accomplishment that comes from meeting a deadling doesn’t hold a candle to the pure joy that fills me when I cross a finish line.

Why is that? My answer is that a finish line is for me. A deadline is for someone else. It’s a “goal” that someone else gave me. I didn’t get to pick it out and choose when I would do it. A finish line, on the other hand, is a goal that I have chosen to tackle because I know it will help me be a better me. It will help me be more present in each moment of my life. When I am working towards a finish line, I am a better mom, wife, sister, friend, teacher, aunt, cousin…EVERYTHING. I am a better me.

“The only person I aspire to be is a better me. Making myself a little better every chance I get.” – Unknown

Always Wear Your Invisible Cape

I have a thing for capes. I like them. They make me feel invincible; like I can do anything I put my mind to.

I own more than one cape. Most of them I have borrowed (stolen?) from my two sons. They don’t seem to mind and they actually think it’s pretty cool when mom wears a cape. But the most important one, the one that started all of this cape business, is my “Super Sisters” cape. My sister, Rondi, and I signed up for the Muddy Buddy race (2010) and we left the costume part of it up to our mom. She did an amazing job at designing the perfect capes.

The morning of the race, Rondi and I (one on a bike, the other running beside) dressed in capes and matching outfits made our way through Stony Creek. As we met runners and bikers out for their Saturday morning workouts, we gave an excited wave and a hello. Odd, questioning looks is what we were greeted with in return. It was hilarious and we had a ball. After the race we both agreed that the most fun part of the day was the run over to the park before the race started.

And that, my friends, is why I have a thing for capes. No matter how crabby, sad, defeated, unmotivated, or just plain tired you are, a cape will make it better. Or at least more fun. And that is the goal, isn’t it? Why would you want to keep doing something that isn’t fun?

I remember talking to someone in my triathlon club about my first Ironman race. I was telling him how much fun it was and how much I loved it. He said, “You mean looking back on it, right? You didn’t actually have fun during the race.”  Ummmm…YES I did! Why else would I sign up for something like that?! I love all of it. And when I’m wearing a cape, I love it even more.

So why then is this blog titled “Always Wear Your INVISIBLE Cape?”  Well…even I’m not crazy enough to wear a cape around every day. However, I do try and wear the confidence that a cape gives me around every day.

Be confident. Be awesome. Be fun.