I often wondered how I would know when it was the end of my career as a professional triathlete. No one shows up and discusses your retirement age, your benefits package or throws you a retirement party. Those of us who had been in it awhile discussed it at times. What would it feel like to know you were done? Would we just fizzle out and fade off the scene? Would it be better to go out in some blaze of glory after having the season of your life, or would that just make you want more?
About 10 seconds before the gun and smiling away. I deep in my heart, I knew this was the last one as a pro!
GO!!! I will NOT miss these swim starts. Not one bit!
For years, I knew I was sniffing around the end, but I didn’t know exactly when the fat lady would actually sing. The deeper I got into this year, the more I knew what I was not only asking of my family, but asking of myself, was unsustainable, plain and simple. There were so many wonderful things about getting another shot at the starting line. Part of me felt like I had never left since before having Emma. However, the rest of me and our family was very aware of the differences post-baby that made it difficult to maintain the same level of commitment and mental tenacity that comes with being at the top of your game. I’ve always been an athlete who is pretty much all in or all out. I don’t function well in the gray area. Ask Kyle, my contingency plan is pretty much non-existent. I plan on a race, I do it. Done. End of story. What I found as I actually started training with all of the other balls in the air was that I enjoyed many parts of it, but the other parts were just a grind. Being away from Emma for a six-hour bike ride - grind city. I wanted the races badly enough that we bent our life around them and made them work, but at times it was ugly with a capital U.
Crusing on the QR. It's been a great run with a fabulous bike!!
When I look back at my career, I can honestly say that I was looking at a field of stones and there were only one or two left unturned. I had trained with the best, traveled the world, coached so I could focus on training, maintained 11% body fat, all while still running a viable business that I loved in Fuel Your Passion. I never lost sight of the fact that I was a better athlete because I had more in my life than just the race itself. I truly believe that might have been my greatest accomplishment, balancing life as a business woman and professional athlete. It gave me credibility and experience that remains invaluable to me today.
I only have one regret, and it’s not holding the actual banner, because I did everything within my physical and mental capacity to make that happen. Maybe the reason I didn’t has served some greater purpose within my character building that could not be achieved any other way. However, my regret remains that I never got to publicly thank those that made this journey possible. It was truly a culmination of years of mentors, friends, bloggers, family, teammates, coaches and of course, my husband, Kyle, that I owe every part of my career. So here it is, if I would have had the chance to give it. I hoped each of you would have heard the words that let you know just how I felt about you.
“4536 days, 13 hours, 52 minutes and 17 seconds. That’s how long it’s taken me to fulfill a dream of mine to be standing before all of you today. Exactly that long ago, I started this crazy sport that has brought me from the depths of disappointment to flying on cloud nine, also known as “today”. If you would have told me after breast-stroking that swim, flying around curves on that borrowed bike or killing myself on that final 5k that all of this was in the cards, I would have told you that you were most certainly high. Things like this don’t happen to a small town girl who graduated with 70 people and taught herself to swim at age 25, but then again, I do believe all things are possible with a belief in yourself, the drive to accomplish it and quite a bit of divine intervention.
Most of you have learned the same lessons that I have out on a quiet road with just the sound of your breath and the beating of your heart. I literally grew up in triathlon over these last twelve years and the teachers were everyone from my coaches and friends, to my husband, who refused to let me give up on myself, even when I was convinced that was the only option. I’ll never be able to give back to the sport what it has given me. It has made me who I am and showed me what I stand for. I have uttered the words “If I can race 140.6 miles, I can do THIS!” at least a hundred times when faced with unforeseen challenges. I have found places so deep and so painful while training and racing that I wasn't sure I could take one more pedal stroke or one more step, and yet, I always did. There was no other way to find my limits, or lack thereof. In my mind, that’s worth more than a degree from Harvard.
When it comes right down to it, when I see my career, I see a myriad of faces flash before my eyes. From Jim Birch who was 71 when I met him at St. Croix 70.3 and who still emails me today, to my soul-mates in the tri world, Beth Shutt and Linsey Corbin, who I truly don’t think I can live without for even one day.
I see my early coaches and my “Ambassador of Quan,” Jesse Kropelnicki, who believed in me, supported me and gave more to my career than I could have ever asked of him. He “gets me” on a level that most people never did or probably ever will and for that, I am forever grateful.
I see my family, who as crazy as they thought I was, always took the time to write a post, send a note or check in with my mom while I was racing. Mom, I know triathlon probably wasn’t your first choice for my endeavors, but I think, in the end, you made peace with the fact that it brought some amazing things into my life and taught us both good lessons to be used for a lifetime.
I see my fellow pro women, not just standing up here with me as competitors, but as true friends who are a band of sisters. When one of us falls, without hesitation, we surround each other and lend a hand. Getting to know these women and being inspired by them has been one of my all-time favorite things that I will never forget. The respect I have for them is truly incredible. There are too many to name, so let’s just say “you know who you are and will always be in my heart”.
I see my friends, who made cards, rode bikes with me on my long runs (Sam and Alyssa!) and understood when I needed to run 15 miles before their wedding showers, baby showers and birthday parties.
It’s not easy being friends with a triathlete, but they did it and they only gave me a hard time some of the time. Last, but not at all least, I see my husband, who had no idea on that June day after registering for wedding gifts, that he was about to go on the wildest ride of his life with me - that he would give me talk after talk about “if I really wanted to become a pro, it would happen” or how he would deal with his wife who was apparently crying because she couldn’t decide if she was too tired or too hungry to do TRX before the family picnic. Despite broken collarbones and her need to race half-way around the world in places like Taiwan and Australia, he gave his unbridled support and love to make sure that my dreams became a reality. Thanking him is futile. He deserves a million dollars, but he’ll have to settled for a million hugs, or something else sappy like that.
I also see all of you. The people I’ve met along the way. The homestays, the fellow competitors cheering me on when I’d run by with a “good job” whether we are both having our best days or our toughest. I see the smiles we’ve brought to the finish lines and the arms raised over head that show in that one single moment, WE are champions. It’s a special feeling that no one will ever really understand unless they’ve been there. And frankly, that’s just fine with me. Being a part of this club was one of the best gifts of my life and the highest honor of my life. Thank you for allowing me that privilege.
Thank you to my sponsors who also saw me through the tough years, the good years and the baby year. You gave me the support to make my training and racing my focus. Thank you, Ultragrain, Quintana Roo, Coeur Sports, Rudy Project, QT2 Systems, ROKA, NormaTec Recovery, Field Work Nutrition Primo Smoothie Meal and Brooks for everything. I can’t thank you enough.
One of my favorite quotes is “I have found that if you love life, life will love you back” by Arthur Rubinstein. Triathlon has allowed me to do just that. I won’t be gone forever, but for now, it’s a love affair that I will look back on fondly and be grateful that I let someone talk me into the Moraine State Park Sprint so many moons ago. Dreams are powerful, so don’t ever give up on them. I’m definitely living proof. Thank you all!”
So that’s it. I’ve got a baby to raise, a Fuel Your Passion team of amazing athletes to coach, students to teach, a PhD to get and friends that have been putting up with my ass doing hours on the trainer or driving to the pool for years. I’m excited about this next chapter. It’s been a long time coming and it’s finally here. Thanks for reading!
The early days! When we wore one piece suits! Columbia Tri 2009
Lis showing off the family T-shirts Kona 2010
Erin and I at Rev 3 Florida 2012
Ironman World Champs 2008
Who the heck knows when. Kinetic Half 2007?
Ironman Taiwan 2015
Ironman Mont Tremblant 2013
Ironman Chattanooga 2015
Ironman Texas 2013
My awesome athletes! This is old, but I still like to see their faces!
Camp crew 2014
Krista and I at some sprint triathlon circa 2009???
Matt, Billy and I!
Home stretch of Ironman Chattanooga 2015
QT2 Camp somewhere around 2013! I still have this sports bra. Just packed it!
Ironman Melbourne, Australia 2014
Family, all that really matters!