I did a triathlon and all I got was this mildly inappropriate t-shirt:
|That’s a potato or “spud.”
It’s resemblance to male genitalia–I assume–is unintentional.
And an ugly black eye:
|The bruising will get better.
Sadly, the wrinkles can only get worse.
Oh, and a sense of accomplishment. I guess there’s that too. Because swimming 1.5k, then biking 24 miles, then running 6 miles in 2 hours and 57 minutes is hard. Unless you’re the 45 women in my division who did it faster than that. Then it’s even harder.
But my sense of accomplishment doesn’t come from finishing the race. It comes from all the training I did over the last nine months. That’s right. Nine months. And most of that training was basically me trying to learn how to swim.
In this case it took my swim-instructor-extraordinaire friend Bethany to teach me how to blow bubbles out my nose so I could make it across a 25 meter pool and then back again. But I needed to be able to do that 32 times–at least–in order to do the Spudman. Which meant calling in someone much meaner than Bethany who would MAKE me do the impossible.
Enter Ironman extraordinaire Coach Belnap who for five months stood in the pool and shook his head with disappointment every time I attempted to swim. There were many motivational speeches with phrases like, “stop fighting the water!” and “you’re not going to drown!” and “RELAX!” and “do another fifty!” (There may or may not have been much cursing on my part).
Until finally one day I heard the words I’d been working so hard to hear. “Now you look like a swimmer!” Coach Belnap smiled, nodded his head, then swam away into the sunset. His work was done; his only reward the satisfaction in having done the impossible. He had taught me how to swim.
Unfortunately, there was still the matter of my wetsuit anxiety. Not to mention my fear of touching squishy river bottoms. Because this was no swim-in-the-pool tri I was training for. This was an open water swim where, by all accounts, I would be getting kicked in the head and whacked all over as hundreds of swimmers tried to get ahead of me.
And sure it was a current assisted swim in a river I grew up on, so if nothing else I could float to the finish in somewhat familiar water. But this is also the same river that once made the whites of my eyes swell up. Not my eyes, THE WHITES OF MY EYES. Can you picture how gross that is? So you can understand that this is not a river I wanted to just hang out in.
Also, I live 1,000 miles away from that river now, so it’s not like I could practice in it beforehand. Instead I took my wetsuit, goggles, swim cap and cheerleaders to the man-made lake four miles from my house where I mortified my eleven year old by wearing a swim cap in public and my cheerleader friends Paula and Heather swam beside me yelling at me to keep my head down and go just a little further. And I almost didn’t freak out. For that we ate ice cream and french fries.
It took me a few more times of swimming in the wetsuit to get past the thought I was being swallowed by a boa constrictor, but I did it. And on the day of the race I did like Dory and told myself “just keep swimming.” Over and over and over. Even when I got kicked in the eye. And sure I did a lot of side stroke and a pretty awesome backstroke that put me horizontal to the finish line, but I didn’t stop and I didn’t freak out. Mission accomplished.
Or part of my mission anyway. I still had to bike a pretty long distance. Which I couldn’t have done without my friends Cheri and Tania who took me up and down giant hills in California so that a flat, twenty-four mile course in Idaho didn’t seem so tough. The bike my awesome cousin Dixie loaned me also came in pretty handy for that part of the race.
I wish someone could have loaned me some legs for the run, because mine were pretty shot after the first three miles. I did more walking than I would have liked during mile 4, but I ran the last mile. My friend, Scott, who I hadn’t seen in twenty years cheered me across the finish line where my husband waited for me cheering louder than anyone. And really I couldn’t have done it without him either, since he’s the one who signed me up.
I haven’t even mentioned my younger brother Barrett who made me go on my longest bike ride EVER after I’d had only four hours of sleep and an eight hour drive. It may have been his slowest bike ride ever, but he kept telling me I was going pretty fast. Also, he let me stop at McDonald’s to pee about ten minutes into the ride without too much ridicule.
Anyway, I’m feeling pretty good about doing the Spudman.
I’m feeling even better about my village.
Here’s the thing with villages: they step up. I chose to do something hard and I couldn’t have done it without help. But I am more impressed with people who have hard things thrust upon them than I am with myself. And I love hearing about their villages.
Like my aunt who just found out she has cancer and is in surgery right now. Her Mormon friends have her name on their temple prayer rolls. Her Baptist friends have her name on their prayer rolls. Her Sikh friends are praying to Allah for her and her atheist friends are sending good thoughts out to the Universe on her behalf.
Or my friends from high school whose son died a month ago from a rare disease. People across the country released balloons in his memory and have donated money in hopes of finding a cure for JM so other kids don’t have to face the same hard thing.
Or the twelve year old girl in my city who rallied an entire community to donate items to go in Joy Jars that she gave away to kids suffering from cancer before she died of it herself. She’s gone but her village is still giving away Joy Jars.
I think John Donne said it best. “No man is an island.”
And why would we want to be?
|Shawn, me and Barrett with our Spudman Cheer Squad|