I can be a bit of a nostalgic pack-rat. While cleaning over the weekend I found a stash of old race bibs, packets, stuff. It made me realize that once I had lost roller derby, I had gained something else.
After I had quit skating I stuck around for a few months to try to help heal a fractured angry league. That effort tapped me out. I was done done with that life. I took a few months to rest and recharge and figure out what’s next? I rediscovered the gym. It being cold out and me being a pansy I started running on the treadmill. I liked the solitude where I could tune out the world and find comfort in the rhythm of my footfalls. I got back to a place where I could enjoy being athletic again. This time without the drama. The weather got nicer and I moved outside and Bryan and I could run together again. And talk over the day while working out frustrations.
We started signing up for local races, generally 5ks, to keep us motivated. While I was still skating, the day after I got my concussion Bryan and I participated in a sprint triathlon as the swim and run legs of a relay. After a few 5ks under our belts we decided to take the plunge and sign up for the sprint tri again, this time as individuals. I don’t like swimming. I used to be a lifeguard and swim instructor but have never liked swimming. Part of me is always a bit panicked and thinks I’m going to drown. We set up a rigorous training schedule incorporating swimming, biking, running, a combo of any/all. I dropped all the weight I had put on post-derby and toned up. Found muscles I had forgotten existed. As the race got closer I got more and more nervous. I found a smaller sprint tri that was women only. I signed up for it as “practice”.
When race day came I realized, I am alone in this. All of the races we do, Bryan and I do them together. We are a team and we do it together. If one of us is having a rough go of it the other one slows down. It’s how we do things. This race, I was alone. Alone in my head to over-analyze, get nervous, stress about my transitions. After what seemed like ages, my wave started. The swimming was so confusing, I had done no open water swimming and the water was murky. Once I started biking and got into my rhythm I was fine.
In the post race endorphin bliss I comprehended what I had actually done, and done alone. I fought a battle within myself and won. In team sports, I was competing against someone else. With this, I’m not a superstar, I’m not competing against other people. I’m competing against myself.
That day I found my strength. And my will.