“I will break you,” whispered Doubt to Me.
“I'll prove you wrong,” said the Best of Me. – The Gladiator Within™
The Santa Rosa Island Triathlon
04 October 2014
I believe in pushing myself, going beyond my self-imposed limits. It makes me a better person. With that in mind, I decided to do the Santa Rosa Island Triathlon. One motivation was to meet my long-time Facebook friend, Andrea Moore; another was to see if I could complete the challenge.
In 2013, I flew to FL and as I finished checking in to the hotel, the manager told employees to inform hotel guests that the tri had just been canceled due to tropical storm Karen's threat of becoming a hurricane. (Are you joking?) Anyway, I spent a little time with Andrea and flew home to Dallas.
In 2014, I went back. Andrea had just completed the Half Iron Man in Augusta, GA the week before. Injuries, pain, and a little blood didn’t stop her from a finishing time that was under her goal. Gladiator extraordinaire.
04 October 2014, the morning of the tri, was beautiful. All three events – swim, bike, and run – take place in or against the beach and the setting is glorious. There are about 1,200 participants in this event and many of them are hardcore athletes with serious accomplishments under their belts. I was not one of those people but what I lack in speed, I make up for in determination. It is a satisfying trade-off for me.
The swim was first. The water was warm and inviting. The winds weren't. Early in the swim, I had a full-blown asthma attack and had to stop several times to catch my breath - literally. Not many people know I have severe asthma. It came on with a vengeance a few years ago and I have to take daily medication for it. It is a nuisance to me more than anything but sometimes, it can be a real health challenge. This was one of those moments. One of the event lifeguards asked if I wanted to get out. I did not hesitate in my response: “No way. I will finish this. I just need to catch my breath.” He then said, “I know you will finish.” We were both right.
It took me a while to make it out of the water. A 1/3-mile swim is nothing unless you can’t breath. When that happens, a beautiful ocean swim turns into “Water World.” Eventually, I made it. Dry land felt great under my toes and I knew I had completed the hardest part for me. A guy Andrea had introduced to the day before yelled, “Way to go, Dallas!” and it made me smile when I heard it - people care much more than we realize sometimes.
The 18-mile bike ride was a breeze, especially after that swim. I took a couple of puffs of my inhaler before I started pedaling. I did not coast but I rode at a calming pace that filled me with gratitude and joy. I smiled the entire ride. People stopped having to say, “On your left” to me about 10 miles in for obvious reasons (most people passed me); but, I didn’t care. I was having the time of my life. When I was heading into the transition area for the run, the signs warning us to “slow down” made me laugh. Like that as a problem for me.
I changed into my running shoes, took two more puffs on my inhaler, and started running. Those 3.1 miles were easy. I was definitely in the end of the pack but I didn’t care. This triathlon was difficult for me but I did it. I felt fantastic. I offered it up for other people and it gave me strength. This triathlon was for my incredible husband, Steve; my children, Katarina and Stefan; and several friends who are going through or have been through some challenges themselves. I thought about so many people during the tri and each and everyone one of them was a puzzle piece that comprised my inspiration to finish.
Coming into the home stretch, I saw that some of the orange race cones has already been loaded onto a truck and were being hauled away. I laughed. So what if I am close to last? I don’t care. I said to myself, “ I am out here. I am pushing myself. I am doing this for me and for people about whom I care. I am a Gladiator.”
I crossed the finish line and received my “Finisher’s Medal.” When the race volunteer gave it to me and I put it around my neck, I was aware of its weight but it did not weigh me down. In that moment, I was overcome with emotion for people I love and for the people for whom I did this. I burst into unexpected tears and said a prayer for so many people. I thanked them for all they have done to help me complete this.
It was very tough for me to finish this triathlon. It tested my spirit, my determination, and my almost-53-year-old body. But, you know, the human condition is about the hard stuff. It gives us an opportunity to help others and push ourselves beyond self-imposed limits. That is one way we discover our Gladiator Within™ greatness that we can use for the “Greater Good.”
The people for whom I took on this event inspired and motivated me more than they know. Hearing about others' challenges gives me strength to get through my own. Those people are My Gladiators. They helped me call upon my Gladiator Within™ to finish this race with gratitude, love, grace, strength, determination, and compassion.
I competed against myself and I won. I just want you to know that The Gladiator Within™ me is alive and well and kicking ass.