I sound like a broken record. Over and over again I have said that I’m not patient. It’s true. Patience is not my virtue, especially when I’m injured. I went from training anywhere from 10-20+ hours a week for an Ironman to a dead stop. I’m a busy body. I’m an active and physical person. Stillness is not in my vocabulary. For crying out loud, my legs twitch as I sit at my desk at work.
But, with my recent pelvic alignment issues, I have learned that I have to accept the stillness and be patient. Many people have told me to just relax and breathe. How the hell do I do that? I’m the type of person who uses physical exercise to release my stress and anxiety. I often train alone, because it’s my “me” time. I can decompress and let go the stresses of everyday living.
Breath is essential to life. From a science and physiology perspective I understand the importance of breath and its subsequent effect on the body and mind during movement. For the past couple of years I have dappled a bit in yoga periodically, but never really enjoyed it. I always viewed it more of an off-season filler, a change of pace if you will. The various instructors always talk about breath and moving to your own breath throughout your practice. I’ve always just laughed it off a bit and focused more on the actual movements; after all, I’m a more physical person, not some kumbaya hippie (yes, I judged, sue me).
But, there is something to it. I can find stillness in breath, even during movement. I can let go…
A deep breath in, a deep breath out… I can feel the tension and stress of the day leaving my body. My muscles relax and it’s just me and my thoughts. However, my brain still runs at Mach 10 with thoughts. It always does. That will probably never change. But I can slowly release and begin to live in the moment. Just breathe…
Some people are really good at living in the moment. I am not. My brain is always 10 steps ahead of me. I’m a strategic planner, always thinking about the next step and where I’m going from here. What do I need at the grocery store? What is on my to-do list at work tomorrow? When are my student loans due? The list goes on. Since my Mom died almost five years ago my thoughts and attitudes have evolved and grown. Sometimes it takes a life-changing event to change your thought process. Life is short. Cherish the moments.
For the past few weeks I have reflected a bit on moments in my life where I have truly lived in the moment. I think we all have moments in life that we truly feel alive, whether it’s seeing a beautiful sunrise on the beach in Costa Rica, achieving a life goal, or the birth of your child. Each moment is unique to us and our core being.
My expectations going into Ironman Lake Placid were low, but my hopes were high. The night before the race I received some incredible advice from a friend who has raced several Ironmans – you only get one first Ironman, enjoy the moment.
Yes, completing an Ironman is daunting to most people. Who in their right mind would want to swim, bike, run 140.6 miles for up to 17 hours? Throughout my 14:13:33 hour day I experienced pain, frustration, and negative thoughts, but I kept reminding myself to keep moving forward and breathe. Pedaling up the long, slow incline of the Gorge while fighting a headwind under threatening skies, I would look around and see the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains. My body, even though it was broken and fatigued from the day’s effort, was a machine. My breath feeding the fire that burned in my muscles. Just breathe….
Entering the Olympic Circle at Lake Placid is an indescribable feeling. An overwhelming wave of emotion; it hits you like a ton of bricks. At this point I had tears running down my cheek from the excruciating pain in my right knee from when it gave out seven miles before. Every fiber of my body was willing me to run the final half mile. The cheers from the crowd were quieting the pain in my body and pushing me forward. This was the moment. This was MY moment. The tears quickly turned from pain to every emotion imaginable. Happiness. Pain. Fatigue.
THIS was the moment that I had been training for over seven months. I put in countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears. It all culminated in this moment. I thought about my mom and how I carried her photo in my sports bra. I hoped that she was looking down on me with pride. Suddenly, my feet across under the arch and I heard Mike Reilly tell me “I am an Ironman.” The moment was surreal. Almost like an out-of-body experience. Just breathe…
There are days I wish I could rewind time and relive moments that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. But, atlas, we cannot. We can only live in the present and learn to appreciate what we have. Nothing lasts forever.
So next time you’re hiking a mountain, running on the beach, or relaxing on your mat at the end of yoga class, live in the moment. Sometimes it’s the little things that are the most profound in life. Sometimes you have to be patient, try something new, and learn to breathe… and finally, cherish the moment.
~ Happy Training!