I started Finding Endurance to support other athletes on their journey to discover their potential through endurance sports. It took me awhile to figure out a name. Names are important. I named all my bikes with my daughter's help - Dragon (TT), Artemis (Roadie), and Freya Thunder (Gravel). Names articulate and reinforce our connection to places, people, states of mind. As I thought of a name for my new coaching business, I thought about what my journey through triathlons means to me and I was reminded of who I was before triathlons.
4 years ago I was a newish mom that left my career as Executive Director of an education non-profit to stay home with my daughter. I was thrust into full-time mom life. It was a beautiful and wonderful experience but also incredibly challenging. I never thought I would be a stay at home mom. I had a mixture of an identity crisis, sleep deprivation, joy and confusion. I wasn't really sure what my place was in the world or even in our family. Was I “just” mom and stepmom, just wife now? And if I was, was I ok with that? Did that feel right? And it did feel right for a while, but over the years I began to lose sight of who I was. I stopped listening to that fire inside that says be more, be you. That is when my now Triathlon coach, Marilyn found me.
At that time I was an avid Crossfitter and Olympic Weightlifter. I would run 2.5 miles from my house to the gym, do a Crossfit class, an Olympic Weightlifting session then run home. Completely and totally nuts for a strength athlete to improve. What everyone else saw as crazy, Marilyn saw as an endurance athlete lost on a weightlifting platform. She suggested I give triathlons a shot.
Growing up I was never ever an athlete. I was made fun of for my terrible hand eye coordination, I was not fast, always picked last for teams. I had a gym teacher in high school tell me I was “too feminine to be an athlete.” Whatever that means. The thing is, I always knew a central part to who I am is being a very competitive athlete. And not just any athlete, an athlete that can win. Literally no one in my life saw it or believed it (not my parents, not my friends, clearly not gym teachers). I didn't play sports after grade school, it was too embarrassing. I worked out to stay in shape and "look good" but that was it. I used to joke that I was an olympic athlete, I just haven't found my sport yet.
During my very first triathlon, somewhere around mile 10 of the bike and confirmed when I crossed the finish line in 3rd place, I realized I was right! I always knew inside of me was a door to my athlete identity, but I never had the keys to open it. When I crossed that finish line, I had the keys! When I say Triathlon changed my life, I mean it! I suddenly had a new understanding of myself, my mind, my body and how it all fits together.
The more I trained for triathlons, the more I realized that the longer the distance the more I loved it and the better I was. I did my first 70.3 and eventually my first Ironman. The journey to get there wasn't overnight. No journey worth experiencing ever is. Endurance sports take time. Many, many, many hours training and pushing. It is just you - your body and mind moving forward one day at a time. The path is not linear and it is not always empowering. I made so many mistakes when I started. The first flat tire I ever had stranded me on the side of the road when I realized I had no idea how to actually change a tire. I pushed too hard on easy days and "dieted" when I should have fueled. When I started, I hadn't ridden a bike outside in about 15 years. Turns out a spin bike is not the same as an actual bike. My swimming knowledge was what my Dad taught me when I was 6. I had to change my running form and SLOW THE DOWN. I slowly increased the miles, gained skills, and became more confident in my abilities. Each day I started to find and build my endurance.
Finding my endurance isn't just about the miles I can swim, bike, and run, it's what I discover about myself and life along the way. While I always knew I was an athlete, I never understood the impact sports can have on the rest of your life. It is in those long rides, the hard 18 mile runs, the long swims staring at a lane line, that I connect the craziness of what's in my head with the movement of my body. I live most of my life in my head. Calculating whats next, what needs to be done to achieve xyz, what should I say, how should I say it and what does it all mean! So many thoughts in my head ALL THE TIME. But when I train. When I breathe and focus on my steps, my pedal strokes, when I feel the water against my body, I come out of my head and into my body, into my emotions. It is in that connection of body and mind that is me. What endurance sports has given me is the gift of experiencing that connection, discovering who I am in there, and then taking that into the rest of my life.
What I found after all those miles and years of connection was my ENDURANCE, my resilience. I didn't know I was capable of withstanding so much physical and mental discomfort finishing an Ironman requires. I didn't know I could meet myself in the dark places you go when you are pushed to your limit and come out the other side. I didn't know I could sit my thoughts for 7 hours long ride after long ride. I didn't know I could make my body push beyond its breaking point only to find it still had so much left. What I learned is I can do hard things, I can make myself do hard things. When shit gets real, I can say bring it on. I can take disappointments and keep moving forward. I can face and solve one problems one after the other. And you know what? I fucking love it! I feel the most alive when everything is hard, when my body is shutting down, when I have to dig deep for that extra effort. That is some of the truest parts of me. It was triathlon that showed me how far I can go.
And I am still going! I am still finding my endurance, I am still exploring who I am and who I want to be through endurance sports. Finding Endurance speaks to my personal journey and I hope it speaks to others who are looking to see who they are when they are their truest selves.