Thursday, September 6, 2018

Triathlon, marathon & never giving up

I'm going to share some extremely personal, difficult memories. I hope that it helps whoever needs an encouraging word during a tough time right now.  

During the first year or two of dealing with my illness, after suffering extreme fatigue day in & day out with no answers as to why, I hit a crucial point in my life. 
It was a long road but well worth the fight

I remember vividly. I was sitting at the gas station by my house waiting on traffic so I could pull onto the road to go to a training session. I just couldn’t do this. I couldn’t live like this, so very very fatigued every moment of every day. Pain everywhere, illness often. Weight piling on. “I cannot do this anymore. I can't fight this. I’m going to quit trying to find answers & give in to this illness” I said this to myself with tears in my eyes, too tired to actually cry.

When the words came out, they slapped me - the old me - awake. “You aren’t giving up. That’s not you. You are a fighter and you’re going to be alive one way or the other. Do you want to get deeper into this illness, let it take over everything, or do you want to do what you can in each moment to try and get your health back?

In that moment everything changed, and it has been different ever since. I was still sick. But I AM a fighter. I do not want my illness to define every piece of me. It’s taken too much already & tries to take more every day. So I made the decision that I wasn’t going to give up. I was not going to allow it to make me someone I wasn't.

Let me give you a little perspective about some things, and I'll do it through race history.

I did my first triathlon in 2000. Then in the middle of training for my next one, I got ill. I wasn't able to do my second tri. 

It was six years before I was healthy enough to do that second triathlon. Did you get that? I spent six entire years working on my health before I could reach that second race.

There were a lot of tears during those years. They were dark years with a lot of physical suffering. And, each season realizing my body wasn't strong enough, yet again there was disappointment. But I never forgot that day at the gas station and kept doing what I needed to do to gain back at least some of my health. That goal helped keep me going. Maybe that's why these races are important...
The struggle is real, folks!
But the celebration is great.

During that time I never lost my sights on my goal. I talked about it, had photos hanging I’d printed on local races & kept in my head that I will be healthy enough to do this again. 

Today those times are a distant memory. I've done countless triathlons since including sprints, Olympics & even 70.3 relay! I am not back to my original health but I got well enough to race. The experience is not something I would wish for but it has given me a grateful heart.

It took me at least three attempts over several years to cross the marathon finish line. 

My first try was when we lived in Indiana. I'd chosen my race, the Space Coast Marathon in Florida. Attempt one was a big giant no go. My body wasn’t strong enough to endure so many miles. 

When we moved to Arizona in 2013, I started feeling much healthier so I picked up my marathon goal again pretty quickly after the move. I hit only mile 8 in training before my body said no way. Attempt two was gone. 

The following year I tried it again. My mileage got higher but yet again, I couldn’t stay healthy long enough to train.

I took a couple more years to gain strength before trying again.   

We had since moved to Hawaii and since it was my first year there I decided to run to get to know my new city. I was going to keep going until my body said no or I crossed the finish line of a marathon.

After at least five years and three solid tries I finally crossed the finish line of my first marathon! I'm here to tell you that was a good day.
My happy face after my 1st marathon

The entire training season through race day was one of the greatest experience of my life, definitely the best training season. I felt healthier than I had in as long as I could remember, my body responded wonderfully to the miles & race day was a celebration of the many years of struggle. It was a wonderful gift from God.

I'm a lot better now than those first years. But I still have my chronic illness. It comes & goes as it pleases, and I could have months of feeling bad. There are still tears sometimes. But I always go back to that day at the gas station & keep going. Every race I see as a gift & blessing because even though I don't perform as well as I would like to, I'm able do it! That means so much.

You may be in the tough years right now. I encourage you to take care of yourself FULLY. Get healthy, get things right for yourself and never give up. Your dreams can be goals, something that IS going to happen. Believe that they can happen even if you don't really see how right now. Choose to be the person that fights & struggles & cries & gets help & if the person you ask for help doesn't follow through find someone else. Fight for yourself, trust in the fact that things get bad, really bad, but they get BETTER TOO. 

Keep your vision in front of you & let it be one of the reasons you keep going through the hard times. You may feel things won’t get better. They won’t get better if you give up. They can, and will, if you keep going. So keep going! - coach Emily Collins