The weather has been so brutally frigid this winter that I recently broke down and joined a gym. I don’t typically have a gym membership because I love working out outside, running and walking. I also like a good strength-training workout in the privacy of my own home. Toddler friendly. Presley actually gets surprisingly excited at the start of each video and is beginning to nail down most of the moves (weights-free). She would prefer to utilize the weights, however, I try to defer her from working on her muscle definition for now.
Lately my workouts have been a little pathetic. Sixteen weeks pregnant with twins and jogging has quickly been reduced to walking… slowly. I have even moved on to the elliptical on alternate days. Considering and only considering at this point, my worst enemy, swimming. I hate swimming. Which is weird. Swimming is my one of my mom’s favorite workouts and she’s amazing at it. She swims laps on most mornings. How she does that flip thing when she reaches the pool wall, I don’t know. Better yet, how she even knows she’s reached the wall is beyond me. I know you have goggles on but come on those things are foggy and just constantly full of water. My typical swim attempt consists of moving my arms and legs for a few, popping up above the water due to lack of air, choking a little bit and desperately searching for the pools edge. At this point I find myself in someone else’s lane as another swimmer quickly approaches. It’s like Michael Phelps is coming at me at lighting speed. I quickly doggy paddle / flail my way out of the way back into my lane again. Those days that are extra crowded and there are two people to a lane, there is just no chance. Is there some sort of swim training etiquette program out there that I missed as a child? Crawl? Check! Walk? Check! Swim in straight line? Oops, missed that class.
I will never forget the Danskin Women’s Triathlon. A triathlon that recognizes and supports breast cancer survivors. I did this in 2004 with my mom, Terri, and sister, Laura. (Wow, time flies.) We were celebrating my mom’s four-year anniversary of surviving breast cancer!!! In hindsight, we were actually celebrating her first time survival. Unfortunately, ten years later it struck again. Seriously? F*** cancer! No one deserves that. So we are talking about a two-time survivor here people. Can you say SUPERHERO?
So, let’s get back to our first triathlon together. Training for the bike and run were fine, the run more so than the bike. I will disclose that I also do not excel at biking. If you ask my mom or my sister they will tell you that I am not at the top of their list of people to contact for a bike ride. I do appreciate that. The swim was more of a, just get through, mentality.
Prior the race, my mom brought me to the lake that we would be swimming in so I could see that the water was low, dark and there was the possibility of being grazed by the algae on the lake floor, um, no. Nothing better touch me. I’ll drown. Panic will take over and no one will see my despair and the algae will pull me down and hold me on the bottom of the lake forever. Screw that. So we walked in a few steps and as we did we sunk into the weird quick sand mud and quickly turned back around. It was probably a total of five minutes and that my friends, was our introduction to the lake.
So we finally made it to the day before the race. My mom, Laura and I packed up the pick up truck (Big Blue, don’t tell me you don’t name your cars) and we drove up to our race destination. When we arrived we met up with my Aunt Debbie, registered, picked up our bibbs and began to get acclimated. My Aunt’s job was to take pictures along the route and of course, be our biggest cheerleader. Which, she generally always is anyways. After picking up our race packets we began our usual free sample tour. We walked around the festivities with our bags making sure to hit every free sample stand that we possibly could. No judgment please, we love our free samples. It’s like our pre race-day holiday.
We had dinner that night and after dinner went to our room and tried to relax. Aka, nervously touched our bike chains, tried on our swim caps, packed our triathlon bags and tried to hide our nerves. Although, it was hard to hide the nerves when the four of us were just nervously pacing the room and touching our chains as if they were going to fall off while parked in our room. If we kept touching them maybe it would be the magic secret to not falling off the next day. One could hope.
Anyway, a sleepless night later we were all up and out before sunrise, headed to our race. When we got off the bus we prepped our bike stations and began to line up for the start of the race. The first part of the triathlon was the swim. I was sick to my stomach. There were women everywhere. It was actually a very moving site to see, thousands of women standing around, fidgeting, and awaiting the call of the gun to initiate the start of the race. My mom spoke with one of the women working the race and rigged it up so we could go out in the cancer survivor wave with her. Being surrounded by all of these amazing survivors is an indescribable feeling. Forget the swim, these women went through an unimaginable journey and survived. The swim was obviously just dusty pebbles compared to the mountains these women climbed in order to reach their final destination of kicking cancer’s ass and surviving.
So now there are tears and nerves, it’s really an attractive scene. A bunch of women standing around in tight, uncomfortable sports bathing suits, swim caps and foggy tear filled goggles. Jeez, maybe the run should have been first. Its so much easier to shamelessly cry when not already feeling so exposed. Or maybe that’s the point…
My mom is trying to be enthusiastic, as we get closer and closer to our start. I get taken over by fear and go mute while staring out into nothing. Our wave is quickly approaching the lake and with every step we take my throat is closing and dropping into my stomach. Finally the gun went off for our wave to begin. As the gun sounded and our toes touched the edge of the lake, my mom grabbed my shoulders and jerked me towards her. She looked me square in the face and yelled, “Jess, watch out for the kicking feet and arms!!!!” and she ran off vanishing into the lake. What? “Mom, what do you mean?” I yell as I chase her into the water. But she was gone, off looking professional doing the breaststroke. I gracefully dive into the water. Just kidding, I fell in due to not being able to run anymore because of the pressure of the water against my knees. I quickly learned what she was saying. There were feet and arms kicking everywhere, smack, right in your face. Ironically, it was not the algae touching me that was going to be the death of me.
The first quarter mile was survival of the fittest. After nearly drowning and getting kicked in the head five hundred times I was separated from the herd. All I could think was, “Am I the only person left in this lake? Has everyone moved onto the bike?” It didn’t matter. We were all in this together. Fighting the same fight. No one left behind.
Eventually I completed the swim, casually getting through by doing the doggy paddle, backstroke, crawl… you name it, I probably tried it. Running out of the water felt like I had just been born and was learning how to use my legs for the first time. It was actually a hysterical site of many women submerging from the water (I wasn’t alone! Phew!), and wobbling, wavering, ripping off their swim caps, trying to reach their bikes. My aunt of course got all of these cute moments on film.
Needless to say the race continued. We biked 12 miles, everyone with big grins, cruising the route and then we ran 3 miles. By the time the run came it was smooth sailing. You for sure couldn’t feel your legs at that point. Every muscle had been fatigued. Though, somehow it was the best run ever. Going through the finish line was an emotional and amazing experience. The amount of support that surrounded you was monumental and indescribable. It was one of the most fun days of my life. My sister, my mom and I found each other at the finish line and we hugged. We were so proud and relieved. It was such a great accomplishment. Not just completing the triathlon but for my mom to have fought and survived her battle with breast cancer. It was a very happy and memorable day surrounded by thousands of amazing women that I will never forget.
So when life presents you with a challenge, big or small, or you limit yourself out of fear, remember these amazing women that kick ass and conquer much bigger, life threatening, obstacles everyday.
Grow some balls, or better yet, follow the words of wisdom of Betty White, “Why do people say, “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you really wanna get tough, grow a vagina. Those things take a pounding.”
Anyway, grow something, (Anything!), dive in and make a splash. Kick and flail your way through and never go unnoticed.
Never, never, never give up. ~Winston Churchill
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