Finding my why.

It’s easy to get caught up in things going on around you.  Before you realize what’s happening, you’ve changed directions and are heading somewhere completely different than you were aiming for.

Sometimes, this is a good thing – and sometimes, it’s not.

When I started doing multi-sport events, it just kind of happened.  I was a swimmer and a runner and a friend of mine suggested I try a triathlon someday.  I smiled politely, but didn’t actually give it much thought for a couple more years.  When I finally felt ready, I decided to go for it, and signed up for my first race.

It was in June and it was a sprint distance.  I had no idea how to train for it, I had no local friends that did triathlon, and I had never been to the beach where I would be swimming.  Still, I figured I’d give it a shot.

It was a fantastic experience, and I was hooked. For the next few years, I was perfectly content doing three triathlons each summer, one each month, all sprint distances.

(Dan’s first Tri, 2004)

Then, I met my husband, we got married, and we started having children.  I missed my first ever triathlon season while I was carrying our first child.  It was hard to go to the races and watch Dan have all of the fun, but in the summer heat and being in my last trimester, it was an athletic endeavor just to walk to and from the car.

The next season came around, and I got in 1 race, but had just found out that I was pregnant with #2.  Again, I was on the sidelines cheering. Sigh.

I was chomping at the bit by the time the next season rolled around, but could only squeak out 1 race because of my two little people that needed a lot of attention.  Still, I think back to those days where I was still able to swim, bike, and run on a regular basis and feel that self satisfaction that I was still out there, doing what I loved, even if I wasn’t racing.

I raced another season while pregnant with #3, albeit I would use the term “race” rather loosely.  Toward the end of that pregnancy, I was day dreaming of the next season.  I stumbled upon a book, “Triathlon for Every Woman” by Meredith Atwood (aka Swim Bike Mom).  I was totally taken by this book for so many reasons.  It added fuel to my fire for the sport of triathlon.  I couldn’t wait to be back out there.

(After #3)

Let me pause here and talk about my lack of competitiveness.  I don’t “race” to win or even be in the top 3 or 6 or 10.  I like to test my body to see what it can do, and to enjoy the fact that I can even be out there doing it at all.  I like to be moving….moving feels good. I love triathlon for the many benefits offered:  most importantly, injury prevention and decreased likelihood of burnout. I don’t have a fancy bike. I don’t have a fancy Garmin. I don’t have a power meter or any bells and whistles. I just don’t feel like I need it.

After our third child, my beautiful daughter, was born, I tried an olympic distance for the first time. I was exhausted with the training demands, but I was able to push through and get it done. After that, I went back to the sprint distance.  I enjoyed being able to fit the training in with 3 kids and a job.

A few years later, I tried a 1/3 Ironman, and then a year later, a 1/2 Ironman.  This was after the birth of our 4th beautiful baby.

(And after #4)

One word…exhausted.

I was working, had 4 children, and trying to fit in whatever I could, whenever I could.  Why?  To push my limits, to do “what was next”.  But, was I happy? I don’t know.  I think I was too tired to care.

If you’ve been following my blogs, you know how my current season has been going. In a nutshell, I have been frustrated, much like I was last year at this time. I needed more time than I had and was always tired, short tempered, and so frustrated with my bike.  Not much has changed.

I started to think about the good old days, when I wasn’t so unhappy and tired…..what was my secret back then? This was something I needed to address, to reflect on, and to pin down for my own peace of mind.

Today, it clicked.

Today, I was leading a clinic for women who are new to triathlon.  I wrote up a quick outline of bullet points to help explain the jargon – what the heck is a “brick”, what does T1 mean – and to discuss some do’s and don’ts when entering into your first race.  The answer just kind of came to me as I was talking to the group, and even more so on the way home.

I had decided to bike to the beach, since I live fairly close.  I had to ride my commuter bike (I lovingly call it my “old lady bike”) because my other road bike is still in time out and without a rear wheel.

As I biked there, I remembered how I used to like biking to and from work on my regular bike. I got to the beach and began my talk with the athletes and found myself telling them all of the great things about triathlon, why it’s so fun, the community that you become a part of, the sense of accomplishment and empowerment, how you can be a mom and find time to train and love this sport.

I realized that I had simply lost sight of all of the good things that triathlon represented for me.  I had been trying too hard.  I had been focusing on all of the wrong things. I had been over-shooting and my happiness wasn’t where it could have been. I missed the sprint distance. I missed the fun part.  I wanted it back.

We all swam together in the lake. We laughed, we swam, we learned from one another. But, most of all, we connected.  It was so wonderful to see these women learning to swim in open water for the first time, to see them so excited when they realized that they CAN DO IT.

THIS. This is why I love this sport.

We practiced sighting and starting from the beach for a while, then got out to do a short run together.  It was hot, but we didn’t care. I pointed out where transition would be for our race, we ran on the actual run course, and I congratulated them when we had finished.  “You can do this race! You already did the swim and the run!”

The smiles.  All of the smiles.

I got back on my bike to head home.  And, I remembered all of my why’s.  It was just like when I first started this sport almost 20 years ago. I was enjoying just being out there, swimming, biking, and running my way through my Saturday morning.

Because I like to be always moving forward.

Because triathlon empowers people.

Because I love this sport.

I was talking with my husband when I got back.  I couldn’t figure out how to put all of these feelings into words.  How do I explain what’s going through my head? I feel more like my old self than I have in a good, long while.  I could only think of two things to say that he would understand.  “I’m going back to the sprint.”  And, “I need to blog today.”

Enough said. He smiled because he knew. That’s why I love my Dan.

Swim, Bike, and Run happy. Swim, Bike, and Run long.


Amy is an ultramarathoner and triathlete, a coach, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and a Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also an ultramarathoner and triathlete), and kids in Ohio.


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