Things have changed.
I knew they would, but I never really thought they would like this.
Five years ago, I stood on the beach to start my first triathlon. I was scared, but ready. I was nervous, but confident.
I had no idea what I was getting into.
I sort of remember standing there looking out into where the blue sky met the dark waters of Lake Erie, which is surprisingly big. I say that, because my friends who have never seen it are always shocked by how big it is. I don't know if they were expecting something a lot smaller, or to see Canada across the other side, or what. It's funny to me that the size of a Great Lake seems to surprise some. But it's big. Trust me.
And I sort of remember standing there, nervously squishing sand in between my toes thinking, "What am I DOING here?"
I knew I could do it. That wasn't the question. But was I ready to do it? Could I deal with whatever happened when I set out to do it?
Was I ready for how it would change me afterward?
Only one way to find out, I guess.
So sooner or later, the gun went off. I dove in.
And I made it through. And it changed me more than I ever could have imagined.
This thing called triathlon is no longer just a sport I do. It has become a pretty big part of who I am. It's so much a part of me that I can not imagine, nor do I ever want to imagine, my life without it.
Sometimes my day and my race flies by as effortless as the waves crashing ashore onto the beach--like the smile I have on my face on the downhill after a hard climb. Sometimes I go so fast down that hill that the wind makes tears form in my eyes, and it makes every second of the climb worth it. I might even let out a little laugh.
But I'm not gonna lie. I've got a long way to go. There is always work to be done.
There's been other days and races where I feel full of doubt. I forget how hard I've worked to get there...I let my head get in the way. But I've come to see each of these stumbles as part of a grand climb up a hill that's simply testing my head and my heart.
In the past five years I've become an entirely different woman.
Five short years, and I've seen everything around me change: my world, my country, and myself. This change has sometimes seemed out of my control, but despite that, this sport has helped me remained grounded in my same values and principles. Essentially, I've been able to deal with the various forces beyond my control, and to grow exponentially from the things a simple sport made up of playground activities has taught me.
And in thirteen days, I'll be standing on another beach in Madison, Wisconsin.
Lake Monona is not as big as the lake I stared at that August day of 2001, but the day itself will be the size of the Atlantic Ocean. And I supposed I'll yawn like I always do when I am nervous--my body's little trick of making me appear to be calm, when I am really terrified. And I don't know what that day is going to bring me.
I can't even begin to imagine what that day is going to bring me.
But I can almost feel the sand between my toes.
And I have a strange sense of calm. Like I've been there before.
I know who I am and I know what I've done to get here.
And I know I will get through this ocean.