Why I Ironman
There is a movement within Women for Tri with the hashtag #whyItri and in it people share their stories of why they do triathlon. They are great, inspirational and just fabulous stories.
I’ve never been able to come up with a story for why I tri. That has frustrated me since I love Ironman triathlon so much.
I just kind of pushed it aside and said to myself, I just like triathlon, it’s fun. Those things are true. I do really love triathlon and Ironman.
This past month I’ve been recovering from Ironman Boulder – a race that did NOT go the way I wanted. I guess I’ve had some time to just sort of think about it. With a little help from my friend John (who didn’t even realize it) I have realized I do have a why. So, without further ado here’s my why. But not just why I tri but why I do Ironman tri.
The way back story
When I was in college I studied photojournalism. My favorite thing to photograph was sports. As a part of getting the degree I did some internships and had jobs with newspapers as a photojournalist in training. I was young, confident and full of myself as we all are when we’re 20.
In one of my last jobs I had a boss tell me that I’d never make it as a sports photographer because I was a woman. His exact words were, “you’ll never do anything more than high school basketball in a dark gymnasium.”
I was pretty sure he was a jerk. And I’m pretty sure I said as much when I told my dad the story when we talked on the phone.
My parents were feminists. My mom always told me that she was a teacher because that was one of the only jobs open to women. That was her limiting belief – there are many women her age with other jobs. One is running for president now. My parents intentionally filled my young head with the idea that being a woman was not a hardship and that I could do what I wanted with my life. My dad was always my biggest cheerleader and my whole life told me I could do anything I wanted. But not this time. This time he told me that it would be hard and it might be an uphill battle. I remember he asked me if I really wanted this to be my battle.
It was crushing.
I wish this story had a different end. I wish I could say I hung up the phone and resolved to be the best sports photographer that ever lived. That I rushed out and got a job working for Sports Illustrated. But I didn’t. That’s somebody else’s story because there are now many successful women in sports journalism. I got my degree and then told myself that the journalism industry was collapsing and the pay wasn’t good and I never even tried to be a professional sports photographer. It’s one of my very few regrets.
The less far back story
When I was about 35 and had just started triathlon with my brother. One night we were watching the World Championships on TV. My daughter would have been about 6 years old.
At this point Ironman was nowhere on my mind. Not even remotely something I thought about ever even attempting. A sprint was still a massive achievement.
But my daughter said to me something like, “wow mom you could never do that.”
She meant nothing by it. She was six. We all laughed because she was really cute. But I remember I said, “yes, I could. If I decided I wanted to I could do Ironman.”
Probably there was more laughter then because at the time 400 yards was a huge swim for me and we didn’t know a single person who had even attempted an Ironman. But looking back I think this settled into my head and stuck there.
People ask me all the time why I decided to do my Ironman and never once had I remembered this moment until later.
Of course, now I’ve done 5 Ironman races. So I can say, I did do it. I signed up, I hired a coach and I figured out how to do an Ironman.
I have learned that I love Ironman triathlon. My best friends are those that I train with. Some of my best memories are about races and training. It’s a part of the fabric of my life today and it’s hard to imagine my life without it.
How I put it together
These past few weeks I’m recovering from this bad race. I’m enjoying not having workouts to do in the morning and I’ve been wondering if I want to do Ironman again. I know I do but then I wonder and I remember how much this race hurt. That’s the first time in years that I’ve wondered “if”. Perhaps that is why these memories came together. Because I’ve been doing a little hunting for my purpose.
My friend John wrote on his Facebook page about being told that he “couldn’t” and “shouldn’t” do things. John has dwarfism and what he overcomes is more obvious than some of the things that the rest of us overcome. He is currently in the process of shattering barriers and about to attempt Ironman Maryland.
When I first read his post it struck a chord with me. It was playing back in my mind as I went to sleep and then all of a sudden these memories sort of tumbled together in my mind and I realized that I did have a why. That without even realizing it I was doing Ironman to show my daughter that just because somebody says you can’t do something doesn’t make it true.
If you want to do something you can.
I get to decide if I can do something like Ironman. I can. I did. And I’ll do it again.
Why I Ironman
I do Ironman triathlon because I love it. I do Ironman triathlon because once in my life somebody told me I couldn’t do something and I regret that I listened and let that be true. I do Ironman because I have learned that only I can decide what I can and can’t do. I do Ironman triathlon to show anybody who’s watching that anything is possible.