How I met Triathlon

Ok I lied, I’m back! Writing this was the perfect way to get my mind off the race this weekend & to help reflect on my reasons for wanting to become an Ironman at IMTX this Saturday.

Someone once told me that it takes a certain level of madness to be a triathlete. At the time I was ony a runner & never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that I would become a triathlete, much less an Ironman. In fact, 4 years ago I would’ve never imagined I would ever work out as a part of my daily routine. I never worked out a single day before my wedding & my spare time/energy was devoted to friends & partying. That was the life. Good food, good drinks, getting dolled up & strutting around in Jimmy Choo’s to be seen by friends & strangers. That was fun, but it was unfulfilling. The reasons are simple. You don’t build relationships by being drunk all the time, spending money senselessly, & dressing the way you think that other people might define as success. Those were all just empty fillers that seemed necessary to pass the time because I was too busy NOT focusing on the things that matter… the things that would help me grow.

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The yearning for growth brought me to the starting line of my first 5K run. I had just gotten married & suddenly I had so much free time I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was finished with grad school & was working, wedding was over so I had nothing to plan… that’s it? Just work & party & be married? That was all that was left on my plate & I could either live with it or do something about it. Having been someone who was always striving to achieve or learn something, I felt like I reached a point in life where I sort of just hit the wall. It didn’t do much for my self esteem. I decided that I wanted to run. One dreadful mile at a time, but I did it. I recently cleaned out some old papers & found a monthly calendar for the first 3 months I started working out. It’s not easy incorporating workout into the daily routine when it was something I’d never done before. So I wrote down EVERYTHING to motivate myself to keep trying. I laugh now, but back then it meant something. “March 5 – walked 10 mins, ran 5 mins, walked 10 mins, March 8 – took the stairs at work, March 9 – walked 5 mins, ran 10 mins, walked 5 mins.” The 5K was like a marathon to me. I couldn’t do it without my running buddy, Danny Vu, promising to accompany me the entire way. I insisted we carbo load the night before. I did everything by the book & still looked like I was dying in my finisher pics while everyone around me was smiling. We all have to start somewhere right? Something happened in the finish chute that got me hooked. It was a 5K to benefit colon cancer & the race took place in the Texas Medical Center where the very patients who we were running for were watching from their hospital bed windows. That thought gave me the chills. And I had my first well earned endorphin rush as I approached the finish, spectators cheering me on & everything. It was wonderful & I knew that I didn’t want to stop running.

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I wasn’t happy with the marriage situation, but it wasn’t bad either. We were just at a roadblock that was out of my control & only in his control. We both hoped for change & progress. We made decisions based on that hope. I buried myself in the now because I could not make decisions for our uncertain future. Everytime we anticipated that change that we hoped for it got pushed back again and again. And again and again. I kept running because it kept me in the now & left me with no energy to worry about the future. I plowed on & on like this until I believed that this was okay. But one day I realized that no matter how many times I told people that I was happy, I really wasn’t. I wasn’t happy because I needed growth & achievement. Even as the 5K’s turned into 10K’s & half marathons, I needed progress in another department of life. I had placed my happiness in something that I had no control over & when that failed, I needed to take back my happiness & place it under my own control again. People don’t know this, but when I was contemplating divorce, I spent hours looking at Maslow’s Heiarchy of Needs to justify that the marriage was the obstacle preventing me from achieving fulfilment (or what Maslow calls Self Actualization). Everything below the pinnacle of the pyramid are basic needs that a person must have in order to reach Self Actualization & I circled & made notes of everything I was lacking. Who knew it could be so simple! I knew what I had to do but I was scared bc there was so much invested into the marriage already (time, family, friends, money). But the day I realized that I did not want this guy to be the father of my children, I found the courage to do something about it. I told myself that I don’t have to be stuck with a decision that I made years ago. By this point in time I had just run my first marathon (2012 Chevron Marathon). All that increased running volume just to keep my sanity.

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Along the road I had met a couple of girls, Caitlin Lam & Karen Tran. They ran a 30K with me in December 2011 when I was in my darkest time. I remember being afraid that I wouldn’t be able to show up, much less finish the race that day. I was in a storm & although they did not know what was happening in my life, they helped me channel the frustration into my training. We all completed our first marathon together & agreed that we were too A.D.D. to stick to one sport. [I definitely had an overwhelming level of madness that led me to agree to this!] We would train for our first sprint triathlon 2 months following the marathon. And it worked out perfectly as I was spending less time being miserable at home & more time out doing something that was not only a stress reliever but something that grew me as an athlete. Just as I wanted to continue moving forward in my triathlon training, I wanted the same progress in my life (with the divorce, with moving on, with making achievements so that I can celebrate). I needed to be responsible for my own happiness & for my own failures. Once that choice was made I felt like I had unscabbed my wings back to flight. Flying by my own wings. Hence the tattoo I got last year “alis volat propriis” (Latin for “she flies with her own wings”). Triathlon gave me my life back & it has very much become a huge part of my life.

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I wrote this poem a loooong time ago. Maybe about 10 or 11 years ago back when I was an emo teenager. But it truly illustrates the magnitude of what I have overcome this past year:

If Life is an addiction, I forfeit from such affliction. Free me from this conviction, release me from malediction. Raging fires far from fiction. Come nightfall stab my eyes, all immune to my pleading cries. Confiscated chance to compromise, Overwhelm me endless lies. Reveal the truth that Life belies. Alone amidst commotion, drowning in this emotion. Win me over steal promotion, shared with me the rotting portion. Cleansed me not with harmful potion, Innocence plagued by evil notion. Restore my Angel’s strength to fight, Unscab her wings back to flight. Send my prayer for swell of might, that I may make this Life turn right.

My life has turned right 🙂

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