My journey into Triathlon has been one of both immense happiness and sadness. I more or less happened on the sport as a way to mix up my running and cross train more. I purchased my first road bike in April of 2015. After purchasing my bike, I started riding with some girls from the local YMCA. These girls were the real deal! They were serious riders, and most were training for various races: Ironman Arizona 140.6, Beach to Battleship 70.3, and Ironman Muncie 70.3. I was blown away at their strength, courage, and ability to simply endure and keep going. I wanted to be like that and find that type of strength within myself. Each time I conquered a distance as a “first,” these women cheered for me and genuinely felt happy for me. I was hooked on the bike and running. Naturally, according to my tribe of women, I needed to add swimming into the mix. I started dabbling in swimming off and on of that year. I wasn’t ever really serious about it nor did I commit to the pool.
January 2016, I decided to do something I never do. I signed up EARLY for a half marathon that would occur in April. I committed to the training and started working a plan. February 4th, I got a call that would change life. My dad unexpectedly passed away. My training was derailed. I sat out and did nothing for a solid two weeks. Still, I had committed to run the half, and I didn’t want to NOT run. I needed to run to simply help me deal with all my emotions. Throughout this time, I watched my Mom mourn the tremendous loss of my dad. It was hard seeing my best friend go through those emotions. Mom was a teacher, and just as I used running to deal with my sadness, Mom jumped back into work and helping her students. She was scheduled to fly to China with fellow teachers and students at the end of March/beginning of April. I begged her not to go to China, but it was part of what she needed to do to start the healing process.
April 4th, I was on my way home from swimming at the Y, and I got a call from my mother’s school. While on her trip in China, she had gone to sleep, and didn’t wake up. At the age of 49, my mom had passed away in another country. The fight to get her body back into the United States took 9 days.
On April 16th, I was scheduled to run my half marathon, and on that exact day I knew by that night I would finally see my mother. I struggled with whether or not to even run that race. My tribe encouraged me that if I felt up for it, I should. April 16th I ran the Carmel Half Marathon. There were so many tears and a lot of happiness. At the finish line, the girls were waiting for me. Cheering me on, hugging me, laughing with me, and crying. Those two weeks leading up to that race had been the worst in my life. If I could complete a half marathon, I felt a renewed and determined feeling that I could do almost anything.
After sketchy training and running a half marathon during the death of both my parents, I decided that signing up for it earlier in the year was possibly one of the best things for my mental and physical health. Training gave me a break from over thinking everything. It was therapy. Outdoor bike riding was resuming, and my thought was basically “what next?” I didn’t want to wallow. My goal each day was and still is to do something that truly makes me happy and smile. In a valley of life, I simply want to surround myself with people that make me happy and make me feel alive. My tribe got me out the door running and biking. Luckily, outdoor conditions were conducive to biking, and I decided June 9th I would sign up for an Olympic Distance Triathlon. I hadn’t done a single TRI. I knew I could bike 25 miles and run 6.2 miles. My thinking was by signing up, it would force me each day to get up and work out. Maybe not always because I wanted to, but because my sheer fear of failing kept me motivated. The girls got me in open water, ran with me, biked with me, and trained with me. They were there scraping me off the ground when I wrecked my bike. They celebrated life with me and were there when I just needed to vent and cry. I watched them compete in IM Muncie 70.3 once again in July. I’m not sure I had ever been more proud to be surrounded by such strong women especially after having lost my best friend and the strongest woman I had ever known. I was so proud of them and proud to call them friends.
Finally, my race date came- July 31st. My tribe met me early and drove down to Indianapolis with me. They helped me get my bike set up, and all of them walked the almost mile to the swim start. I was NERVOUS. Biking or running a mile??? Piece of cake. Swimming almost a mile. Well, that was a different story. My goal was to finish the race within 3 hrs. and 40 minutes. As we walked to the swim start, I saw my mother’s sign- a butterfly. I felt calm. I knew I could do it. The swim started and I jumped in. Every time I took a breath, I could see my friends walking along the canal and hear them cheering me on. Soon enough, I swam under that butterfly. I simply kept thinking, “Get through the swim, breathe, you’re fine. You got this.” All of a sudden I saw the swim finish! The joy I felt at having completed that swim was unmatched. I knew I had the rest of the race in the bag. The entire time I was on the bike, I smiled. I was happy. I was doing something I loved. I was pushing my body to accomplish something it hadn’t done before. I rode conservatively, and I averaged 17.9 mph on the bike. Coming off the bike I felt great. Slowly but surely I ticked off my miles on the run. Each time I saw my friends during the race, I was smiling. I encouraged other cyclists and runners along the route. I truly soaked up each and every moment of my race. Finally, crossing over the finish, I knew I had completed what I set out to do. I had smashed my goal with a 3 hr. and 12 minute finish. My tribe had surrounded me throughout the entire journey. Despite the tremendous loss I had suffered, I felt supported loved and lucky to have such incredible women and people in my life. I felt genuine happiness.
I have more goals I’m pursuing. Right after my Triathlon, I signed up with my tribe for a half marathon that has a butterfly medal at the finish. I have hopes of riding a century before winter, and I plan on completing my first 70.3 distance next year. The journey into TRI was and is more about getting up everyday and finding happiness. It is about me being thankful for the body I have and the time on Earth I have and celebrating that each day. Mostly the journey of TRI is about surrounding myself with my tribe and healing my heart. It is my effort to have my body endure as much as my spirit and heart has.
Sarah is a Moxie Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!