Monday, April 29, 2013

Who are the winners? or What is winning.... ?

"You lose 100% of the races you don't start".... 

The dedication of so many athletes to drive their bodies to get faster, to win races, to the lure of the gold has always fascinated me and once for a brief moment in time I did join their ranks. But more and more as life takes over I am forced to ask myself what is winning?

Many years ago at the Chicago Triathlon, I noticed a group of athletes not the slimmest, walking about post race with trophies. Team Clydesdales, athletes who compete in a weight athletic association, athletes who from 140 lbs upward would only compete against their own, it made sense as I could never beat a runner 3 stone lighter than me.

It would mean that I would race the Olympic Distance triathlon against athletes over 180 lbs.
Excited and delighted, well in excess of 180 lbs, The Clydesdale World Record for Olympic Distance triathlon was well within my time at 3 hrs 30mins. It was the first time in my life I wanted to win. The lure of the gold, I trained and I genuinely wanted to have the first spot. I had no idea who my competition was but when I returned to Chicago to compete in the world games I was focused.

In the forum, many had stories that really brought us into their journey as to why they were athletes.. I felt so shallow when I said those words to a group.. “I just want to be a winner, I want to count"...   

I didn’t have a sad story, well I did but it wasn’t what defined me or my reasons for seeking my moment.

At 4 am in the transition area a lady who was in my category came up to me as I racked my bike and whispered.. “I’m going to whip your ass” My HR went through the roof. 
I immediately wanted to move my bike. Standing at the jump section of the swim, she walked up to me and gave me a hug. I lost my breathing and the swimmers were gone. I had to take my time. Once gathered I powered off, feeling the power of my strokes, so blessed to have my face in the water, allowing the liquid to calm me. 

I was well ahead in the swim; There were only 3 bikes gone from my rack when I jumped on my bike.  I watched her jog out of transition as I racked my bike after the 40km. Never having run a 10km I somehow convinced myself that I was stronger than her. How the mind works. How could I possibly know? But I know that I was stronger than I felt.  I jogged slowly behind her like a great white-watching, calculating, never actually feeling my own pain just living hers. She really wanted to beat me but she didn't know I was right behind her-she would be using energy in the thoughts. At the 4 mile mark still not aware of how I was feeling I jogged alongside. I spoke with her for a few moments, somehow decided I was stronger and ran like I never ran before. I was a machine, when I crossed the line; winning the world championship in my weight category in Olympic Distance Triathlon. it was the most excitement that I had ever experience in the sport. Despite the fact that my friends would have finished 40 minutes faster than me my medal said winner and not finisher.
Finishing 2nd to Anna Carin Nordin

I have been on the podium since and each time I really wanted the trophies, finishing 2nd at Lake Zurich, leaving 4 ladies behind me over 26km was fantastic in tough conditions, I don’t think I would have come 2nd in good conditions but once home their significance pales. 
Then I think of the times when my goggles were filled with tears, when I had to turn from the boat and confront my exhaustion, my nothingness, my insignificance. "Do you want to get out?" words fell from the boat... "That's not going to solve anything.. " so I had to reconcile myself.. Moments when I had to go to a place that some will ever see... Life has brought me there.. 

To me the moments that bring complete utter and total rapture are the moments when I decide that I can finish. Moments when I decide that I am bigger than the challenge-and there have been many moments like that in my life.. not all in swimming or sport but life.. Life imitates sport and adventure and sometime Life prepares you for the moments where winning is all you got.. but not trophies or medals-they are a few euros and you can train your body for the race but your mind… that mind.. the moment you decide that race is yours… even if you’re all alone in the race-is that moment.. when you know you’re a winner.. No one can take that from you.. 
Nothing will ever take away this moment.. 830 miles-56 days... winning was surviving.. 

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