Monday, July 10, 2006

The Gift

"And now, I'll stop the storm if it rains,
I'll light a path far from here
I'll make your fear melt away
And the world we know disappear." --The Gift, by Angels & Airwaves

So much is swimming in my head right now that I fear that my fingers can't keep up with the thoughts. So I'll do the best I can to try and describe what I'm thinking but bear with me, as it's not gonna be easy. Wil and Elizabeth have posted some great pics so see them for pictures. I'm just going to ramble about what's in my head.

I haven't been able to sleep much or sit down since I got back. I had a great 9 mile run today--I felt like there's a new spring in my step and I actually went a little farther than I needed to. I didn't realize it was time to turn around--I just kept going.

I was really nervous to go to Wisconsin.

See, I knew it would do one of two things:
1. Make me feel better.
2. Make me feel even more terrified than I was before.

For my husband's sake and my sanity, I really hoped option 1 would be the outcome. I've felt pretty good about this thing and really only had major doubts that first time I rode the GCT course, which was 56 hilly miles. I just kept thinking, I will have to do this twice, after swimming 2.4 miles...and then run a marathon.

I came home and just looked at Matt and said quietly, with tears streaming down, "I don't know if I can do this." He knew I was serious.

I've never not known if I could do something before--something I've thrown my heart and soul into for a year.

So I was nervous to head out there. I was going to be with some pretty serious riders--and they were going to RECORD a lot of this stuff for the entire internet world to hear. If I let things get to me, there was no denying it and no secrets.

Would they leave me behind? I hate feeling like I'm holding people back. To me, nothing is worse on a ride than feeling like I'm holding people back. I hate that. That's why I actually like to do a lot of riding on my own.

Before I knew it, Friday morning was here. I had a choppy open water swim with TriEric and a couple other CTC friends, and then it was go time. Elizabeth was at my house and I had to hit the road.

I kissed Matt goodbye and said, "Hopefully I'll be happy when I see you on Sunday." I tried to laugh and so did he but I think we were both worried about what would come.

Wil is every bit as fun and motivating and thought provoking in person as she is online. I knew she would be. I think the two of us felt like we had known each other for years even though we had never really met.

We had a great dinner the night before, and before I knew it, the wake up call rang at 5:50am. It was time to go.

This is it. It's real. I'm in Madison and I'm going to ride this course and see if I can do it.

I was petrified.

I tried to appear calm.

I can't even tell you how amazing these people we rode with are. All the guys--especially Thomps, Stu, and Robby B--these guys could blow us out of the water and lap us, but they were so considerate and nice and just concerned that we had a good experience. They did everything in their power to make us feel at home on the road, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

We started in Verona where the out and back meets the 40 mile loop. We headed into town to the start line.

When I saw Lake Monona for the first time I felt like I couldn't breathe.

We stood in front of T1 where I'll come out of the water and Jumpy decided to interview me for a sound byte on the Zen podcast and I think I sounded like a rambling idiot because I couldn't even contain my excitement. Pretty much all the podcast stuff was full of me being ridiculously excited, so if I ramble that's why.

We then headed back to Verona and I felt great. 30 miles came and went and it was green and beautiful and rolling and full of cows and horses and new friends.

I think this course is going to be good for me because it looks like home--yeah, I live near the city but a little bit of me is a country girl at heart and I love driving out to ride on the country roads.

For the loop, I was a little nervous. Things seemed to be going too well. We had a great pace that was faster than my race pace will be, and I barely felt winded--I felt like I could push much harder. So I set out with my crew to do this loop and waited for these hills I had nightmares about to crash my day's endorphin high.

They never came.

My mind, essentially, had made mountains out of hills. Now, let me explain: it wasn't EASY. Not at all. But--the dropping to 3.2 miles an hour I had prepared for in my head was not there. Maybe it was because I was with such supportive and caring people. Maybe it was the amazing scenery, my nutrition, the cloudless blue sky. Maybe it was because the hills were long, but not as steep. Whatever it was, I went up them smiling. I knew I could do it.

I started to realize I can do it.

When I teach, I have a standard I have to meet involving timelines. The Ohio Department of Education standards say something like, "Students shall put events in chronological order on a timeline and shall be able to explain the significance of these events."

In my life, I have had several defining moments--"turning points," as history books like to call them. They aren't even the biggest events or ones you think would be on my timeline. High school graduation? Yawn. In the scheme of things, it was pretty insignificant if you ask me.

There are things on my timeline you wouldn't really think would be on there. They are not the obvious mile-markers of life, but they are the ones where things really changed.

I think one of the most significant things I've ever done that I would plot on my timeline--something that changed my life and my attitude about it--would be a little trip I took in August of 2001. It was a secret little trip--not many even know it occured--to figure something out and let something go that I should have let go a long time ago. It was probably the best thing I ever did and opened the door for much happiness to come my way shortly thereafter.

When I finished the 40 mile loop, the moment I got back to the parking lot where we started out 70 miles earlier--that's a moment on my timeline.

I can't explain it. I got this rush--this sense that this day coming 2 months from today will still be the most physically challenging day I've ever had, but it will be one that I can get through.

I started to let go of the fear and doubt and mountains in my head that I should have let go of a long time ago.

I've seen the whole course. I can't stop visualizing it. I can't stop thinking about it.

I still will have to go 42 more miles and do that loop again. It will hurt, and it will be hard. And then I'll have a marathon.

And it's going to be alright. Because I've got the most amazing set of friends and family coming to support me, and now some new ones who are doing this too--who know what this is like to give up a year of your life for this goal--who feel the fear, the anticipation, the excitement, and the doubt.

When I ended my undergraduate years at Miami University, the moment that changed me was not when I got my diploma. It was when I packed my car and said bye to Sam and Mindy--the last people I had to say bye to before I headed home.

I finally got in my car to drive home--wondering where in the world my life would go next, and turned the key in the ignition of the good ol' '92 Sable. I drove away with a weird feeling in my stomach and saw them in my rearview mirror. And that's when I finally cried. I knew at that moment that things would be different forever. It was scary and sad and exciting at the same time.

One of my close friends from college, Steph, gave us girls a collage she made with a great quote on it. I have it in front of me at my computer and it makes so much sense to me about this weekend--

"There must have been a time when you entered a room
and met someone and after a while you understand
that unknown to either of you
there was a reason you had met.
You had changed the other,
or the other had changed you.
By some word or deed or just by your presence,
the errand had been completed.
Then perhaps you were just a little bewildered,
or humbled and grateful,
and it was over.

Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
For some there are more pieces.
For others the puzzle is more difficult to assemble.
And so it goes.
No one has within them all the pieces to their puzzle.
Everyone carries with them at least one and probably many pieces
to someone else's puzzle.
Sometimes they know it. Sometimes they don't.

And when you present your piece to another,
whether you know it or not, whether they know it or not,
you are a messenger from the most high."

My puzzle's not done. It's not even close.

But I got a lot of pieces this weekend. Some I found on my own, and others I got from my new friends.

It'll be quite a while before I sort them all out--hell, I might never sort them all out. But one thing's for sure: things are different now.

I have a lot of work to do. But, I've done a lot to get here. I'm changing, I've changed, and I don't think I can ever go back.

Turning point? Who knows. It usually takes a while for history to sort that out.


Chris said...

Glad to hear that your trip to Madison was such a positive and morale boosting adventure! As you've seen now, the course certainly isn't impossible. But a little patience come race day goes a long way! I'll see you out there! :)

RunBubbaRun said...

Great thoughts on the post. It will be a tough day during race day.. But I'll think back at the IMWI training ride this weekend and smile and remember how much fun I had and all the cool people I met that day..

Eric said...

Thanks for sharing your "gift" and placing a piece into my puzzle.

You will do fine on Ironman will do fine.

Flatman said...

Most awesome post ever!

TTUTri said...

Wow. Great post!!

E-Speed said...

Wow woman. If I can sum up my weekend a 1/10th as well as you did I will be ecstatic.

I cannot express how excited I am for you.

Veeg said...

What an awesome post.

You are going to ROCK that course, girlie!

greyhound said...

I LOVE this sport. Where else do you find an INDIVIDUAL sport in which INDIVIDUAL people meet and overcome the INDIVIDUAL turning points in their lives, and yet depend and share so much with the friends and community that make it all happen. Your post echoes all those themes that make triathlon resonate so profoundly with me.

I just get to be an observer this September, but I cannot wait. If you want to observe a blubbering idiot, just watch for me when you and Wil come screaming down that chute.

Jodi said...

Amazing post! I knew that you would eat up those hills- the GCT course was great practice :)

I'll be at Musselman cheering you guys on this weekend. I'll bring my camera to get some CTC action shots!

Wes said...

I read this blog and Iron Wil's every day. I am not a tri (yet), but I am inspired to greater things. Sometimes the simplest pieces are the hardest to find, especially when they have been inside of you all along.

Chad Austin said...

Post like these are why I keep coming back. Very nice.

trifrog said...

Very inspirational - makes me wonder what I'm missing by not going long - maybe someday.

DaisyDuc said...

Sounds like you weekend was jsut what you needed!

I can't wait for you to overcome this obstacle in WI. I will be in there in spirit cheering for you!!

Robb said...

An emotional post. You've got heart girl...lots of heart. Good for you.

~JDoubleU said...

This is a beautiful post.

Wil said...

Sis, this is amazing. You are truly incredible and have so much of my respect and admiration. I'm so proud to be doing this race with you...

Cliff said...

Great post..

Any gal who wear bike shorts and helmet is hawt....those guys that didn't call u back...u don't need them :)

Scott said...

Thank you Sara. Your posts are treasured gifts.

Pharmie said...

I can't even tell you how many of the same thoughts have been going through my mind the past few months and now, after ridng the course, the past few days. I love to read your posts because you always manage to put into words the things I am feeling but can't get out onto the computer.

Running Rabbit said...

aAhh...never underestimate the power of your mind and believing in yourself!!

Rachel said...

Great post! So inspiring. I read your last few posts and it made me home sick for my alma mater. Biking in Wisconsin is the best. I love the farmland. Congrats on facing and conquering your fears.

TryAthlete said...

You know, you should put some of your thoughts in a podcast for people to listen to on long rides or runs. They are inspiring.

tri-mama said...

I am so happy for you! As I mentioned to Wil, the other cool thing about race day is that there is a crowd of crazies that help you up those hills into Verona. I can't wait to meet you guys out on the course and watch your day progress-even more it's so cool to see how the training for these races bring about so much internal change-keep up all the good work!

Kim said...

What an incredible journey (both physically and mentally)! I love your posts.

Kewl Nitrox said...

YooHoo! What a turn around! Great job!

Fe-lady said...

Hey people from Ohio are the best! Enjoyed your post and Wil's too of your Wisc. adventure!
Someday I will come back for the "Escape from lake Erie" to qualify for Alcatraz! Then we can get together!
For some reason I am unable to scroll down to the bottom of many of your posts to comment. Don't know if anyone else is having this same problem, but just thought I would let you know! Take care!