About a month ago, I found out I was selected as a Women's Health Magazine Action Hero! I was quite surprised, and super excited. It's been fun connecting with a dynamic and diverse group of women: we are pretty much at all stages of life. Some in their teens, most in their twenties, and a few like me, too. Seasoned veterans. (That sounds a lot better than "older.")
I mean, I did start blogging here in 2005. In the good old days! When internet was one step above dial-up! And I was about to start my Ironman journey! Oh, man. In some ways, that feels like yesterday, and in other ways, it seems like...well, like almost a decade ago.
So much has happened since then.
I was assigned to write my post this week for our Action Hero blog, and I smiled. Perfect timing. I need to stop and reflect anyway, and think about this marathon I'm going to run next Sunday. What can I say about where I've been and what I'm about to attempt?
When I think about where I've been and where I'm about to head next Sunday, it's a little surreal. In 2002, I completed my first marathon in a time of 5:14. I remember it pouring rain on me as I brought up the back of the pack that year. I also remember not caring. I was just so happy to make it to the finish line, even if they were tearing it down. Even if the balloons at the finish had already blown away.
I set a goal, and I made it.
That was 35 pounds heavier. That was before I had two children. Literally--it was almost a lifetime ago.
I was, most assuredly, a different person.
That first marathon made me dream bigger. I set my sights on the MS150 Pedal to the Point the following summer, and although my buddy Peter and I were too tired to even go to Cedar Point that night and instead watched the E! True Hollywood Story of Anna Nicole Smith in a run-down Howard Johnson's in Sandusky (yeah. that's pretty pathetic), we made it. I rode 150+ miles in 2 days.
So then, of course, the next thought that popped in my head was, "hey, I'm just about a 2.4 mile swim away from Ironman."
Because that's totally logical, right?
Since 2002, I've seen a precedent set of dreaming very big. Bigger than I had any reason or really any right to do. I certainly did not look like an Ironman triathlete. But I decided I'd build up toward that. In 2005, I took 56 minutes off my marathon time and finished the Flying Pig Marathon in 4:20.
So could I break 4?
But in between, I focused on Ironman. And what a journey it was. I made some amazing friends and despite having pretty much the worst weather you could have for an Ironman, it was honestly one of the best and most memorable days of my life.
Then, I had a day that topped that, and my little Jackson entered my world and stole my heart.
Training became something different then--it wasn't just about me and my times. It was about justifying my time away. I didn't just want to run aimlessly; I wanted to run with purpose. Every ride, every swim I did had a focus in a way that I didn't quite have before.
And because of this, I got faster.
Every time I had in every distance started to drop. In 2008, I set my best bike/run split at Steelhead 70.3. Then, I broke 4 hours in the marathon at Columbus. That May, I had a great day at the Cleveland Half Marathon, and then I got pregnant with my little bean, Emery Grace.
The joke some of my friends told me really was true: one kid was pretty managable, but two kids made it feel like you had an army. (Major props to anyone with more than 2 kids. You are my heroes, all of you.) Between working full-time and working out, I had to prioritize even more and get even more focused.
And my times dropped again. When Emery was 6 months old, I PR'd the 70.3 distance by 16 minutes.
That's when I really felt like Boston might be within grasp.
So I tried. And failed. And tried again. And almost, just almost made it, and missed it again.
So here I am. One week out from another attempt. I feel stronger than ever and very fit. I know I have put everything I have into this race: every ounce of my focus outside of being a wife, mother, and teaching, has gone into this race.
It is still a reach. There are no guarantees.
But I think about whatever will happen at this finish line and what I'll say to my kids. They are only 6 and 4; they have no idea what Boston is or means or how hard I've worked to get there, since I've done most of the work while they were sleeping. But someday, I will tell them. I'll tell them that Mommy had a dream...a dream that sounded crazy and unreachable, but step by step, finish line by finish line, she inched even closer.
And there were times when she failed, and felt crushed. She got injured and couldn't compete. She felt like all her time and effort was wasted. But then she remembered the words of a teammate, that no race or training cycle is ever "wasted."
I learned quite a bit on this 12-year journey since I crossed that first finish line.
Regardless of what may happen next weekend, I want them to know that you don't ever have to stop trying.
I'm going to line up at that start line next Sunday with a nice healthy appreciation of where I've been. And then, I'm going to take a deep breath, say a little prayer, trust myself, and take that first step.
That's the only way you can get anywhere, anyhow.