"You swore and said,
'We are not shining stars'
This I know, I never said we are"
Here I sit, two weeks fresh off the Spartan Trifecta weekend in Hawaii two weeks ago. Flanked with my trusty race team and a year of training behind me, I was ready to take this challenge. Three races, two days and roughly 26 miles on the mountain with countless obstacles. We arrived a few days early to acclimate to the climate and time change and were ready to hit the course on Saturday. We would take off for about four miles until we hit the hardest obstacle that we would encounter all weekend. It was a mountain. A steep mountain. No flowery trails like Diamond Head, no steps, just steep rugged terrain for miles upon miles up, not to mention the equally steep miles and miles down. I set out leading with my right leg, as my left leg was the one where I broke my hip five years ago, so leading with the right was always my habit in all things. One horrific step after another, sliding back at times, cramped at times, and frankly shear misery as I began to wonder if I was ever getting off that picturesque mountain in paradise, any confidence I had was gone and I was shaken to my core.
After four or five miles of that I'd like to tell you I wanted to cry, only that was not accurate. To be fair, I actually cried. The "I can't's" surely beat out the "I can's" at that point. Certainly not the shining star I set out to be. If it were not for my team, I know in my heart of hearts I would likely not have finished that brutal 15.5 miles in roughly ten hours on Saturday. It was dark by the time I got done and I was physically and mentally exhausted. Later that night, my right quad began shaking so hard, I looked like I was breakdancing. Panic and doubt were setting in as I had a good 9 miles plus the next day. Stretch, hydrate, eat..... did it all, and took off at race number two, only to have my quad fire and fire beginning at 0.3 miles. I could not take myself off the course. I just couldn't. I would ultimately tell my race team to just go on without me. I would finish, but I was holding them back and I could not in good conscious do that.
"If you're lost and alone,
and you're sinking like a stone,
So there I was, trudging along alone in the heat, leg firing, just trying to cover the distance and be done. I stopped at two medical stations along the way. One offered a trip off the mountain, um no. The second a mustard packet, yeah well, that didn't help either. Disappointment reigned supreme. Months and months went into this and I was failing. The question was why.
"I like to think,
I can cheat it all,
To make up for the times I've been cheated on"
In those two very painful miles I had to admit what had happened in recent months. I had completely removed the word,"No" from my vocabulary. Extra shifts, extra tasks, travel, lack of sleep, overwhelming stressors, as regular 8-10 hour days gradually turned into 17 hour days as I attempted to conquer it all, somehow believing as long as I was moving I was invincible. The thoughts all came firing at my suddenly very weary brain with the same force as my quad. I finished, not even attempting the short race and truthfully sat and cried for a time until a very welcome friend showed up to help cheer the team on.
"Though I've never been through hell like that,
I've closed enough windows to know you can never look back,"
You may be wondering what has happened in the two weeks since that race. Make no mistake, as anyone on my race team will tell you, the gigantic pity party happened. It just did. They did their best to console me, and I love them for that. Later, I had a heart to heart with my trainer who agreed coming off the course was the right thing to do, as he had been through similar, but the biggest pep talk came from deep down. Let's be fair, I trained daily yes. I ate healthy food, also yes. Could I have done more? Not with 17 hour days and overwhelming lists of shit to get accomplished every day. I had to admit this is how I always do it, do whatever needs to be done no matter what the cost, but so is leading with my right and look what that got me.
"'Cause we are,
We are shining stars,
We are invincible,
We are who we are,
On our darkest day,
When we're miles away,
So we'll come,
We will find our way home"
In the last two weeks since getting back I have stopped leading with my proverbial right, and gone sharply left. I have stepped up my game in the gym and said,"No" to the things that interfere. I have rescheduled meetings and vet appointments to renew my investment in myself that quite honestly got lost in the overwhelming busy. As a result, my running is suddenly better, lifting a little cleaner, and my psyche is beginning to recover right along with my quad. I even had the courage to pull out my medals from Hawaii today. Until now, they represented disappointment and failure. Today, I decided they represent the 22.5 miles where I discovered how to lead with my left and take my life in a new direction. Do I still plan to get my Trifecta this year? Oh yes, Spartan Sprint in Fenway for my 52nd birthday? I'm coming for you, because if there is one thing I know we can learn from failure, there is always a new direction to go in, and only in that space will be be able to see that the best is yet to come.