Monday, June 1, 2020

Racing, Stripped Down

"It's amazing when you strip it all down. You don't need much. You don't need big crazy events, just crazy passionate people with wild big goals, all supporting and motivating each other to be amazing."
- Lynn Harris (my athlete, who rode longer, farther, and higher than she's ever ridden)

Before yesterday, there was a slowly widening hole in my heart. I sign up for race after race, year after year because Ironman has been the most easily accessible medium for cultivating self worth. Reminding myself a few times per year that I am a limitless human being spreads through the fibers of everything I do and everything I believe in.

I was also missing the personal growth I get to witness in my athletes. I love that they've all been open-minded and dedicated to challenging themselves in different ways throughout COVID, but it gets increasingly more difficult to stay motivated without an opportunity to put it all on the line. Sure PR's are exciting, getting faster is cool, but what I live for as a coach is giving my athletes a platform to shed layers of doubt so that they can realize potential that they might not have even known existed.

Everesting was never about the numbers for most of us. It was about our own personal Everests. I wanted to shoot for the whole 29,029 because I wouldn't have been as motivated by a lesser goal. Realistically, I knew that on a TT bike with limited gearing, I wasn't completely set up for success. I'm a strong athlete with a shit ton of willpower but I'm not that strong. I would have had a better shot with a road bike, on a steeper hill that allowed for less total mileage. But my TT bike wouldn't have made it up a steeper hill for as long and I loved that the grade of this hill made the challenge more accessible for more people.

At the end of the day, I rode about 150 miles in 13 hours, totaling just over 20k feet of elevation gain, the longest and farthest I've ever exercised for (including all my Ironmans). 20k feet was the most I've ever climbed by over 8k feet. As it became increasingly more inevitable that I would be done before 29,029, my goal evolved into just continuing to pedal until I couldn't anymore. If I was going to DNF, I wanted to make sure that it wasn't because I gave up, it would be because just for today, that was my limit.

My top 5 favorite things about our Everesting Challenge:

  1. Being out on the same hill with the Colorado team. Living and breathing in real time with like-minded souls who share the same passion for chasing dreams.
  2. Coming together and organizing this challenge with 2 other coaches (Julie & Alison) who also believe in walking the walk. 
  3. That indescribably fulfilling feeling of completely emptying the tank.
  4. Getting to share my Iron-team with others. I have never been on a solo mission. Ryan (my husband) and Gina (my sister) are part of my endurance journey, and I'm so glad that a few other people got to experience the lift you get when they're behind you. 
  5. My amazing team of athletes who all surpassed milestones yesterday. At the beginning of the day, I asked them all to get to the point that they wanted to quit, at least once, and to keep going from there. Even if they didn't make it much further, I wanted them to all experience the feeling of breaking down a wall. And they did. 

The final 2 climbs were wobbly and it had started to rain. The rest of the CO team had gone home so there were no other bikers left on the road, but I had my support crew (Ryan, Gina, and my dogs) driving up and down the mountain with me. I didn't stop because of my legs, and to be honest, I've had a hard time dealing with the fact that I quit before my legs were tapped out. It hit me when I woke up Sunday morning and my legs felt like they could probably get back on the bike and go again. I stopped because I was starting to lose it mentally. My brain was getting foggy and I was starting to lose focus for short periods, and that was a little scary. I've pushed myself beyond that point before and I promised Ryan I would never put him through that again.

I wrote a blog on January first about needing to put myself in situations to fail more. Technically I failed my Everest attempt, and even though I know that I stretched my limits and did things I've never done before, it still doesn't sit well. I know that the path to success is lined with failure, but I have a lot left to learn about how to deal with it.

I'm endlessly grateful for my sport and the community that we've created. Endurance teaches me so much about what I value, who I am, and what I stand for. I believe in the relentless pursuit of better, and I've found myself in the middle of community who shares this drive with me.

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