Monday, January 04, 2010

Looking Ahead

It just occurred to me that we not only rang in a new year but a new decade. These past few weeks, I spent some time looking back. On where I have been in life and sport. You look back so you can then look ahead. It gives you better perspective.

The last time I rang in a new decade was, of course, 1999. And I partied like it. I remember being at my friend Bryan’s house and watching New Years happen across the world. In each country I kept waiting for some earth-shattering event to happen, like all the lights going out, explosions, Y2K mayhem. Instead it was just the usual drunken, party-horn blowing New Years fanfare. Life marched on – and the computers didn’t crash.

Somewhere in the year 2000 I met Chris. My friend Leila gave me some sparkly eye stuff to celebrate the new millennium. Please, I was 24 years old when we met! Anyways, I wore said sparkly eye stuff the first time I went out with Chris. Not because I was trying to impress him but because I figured where else would you wear sparkly eye stuff? When he asked me what was on my eyes, I said it was a gift of millennium sparkles from my friend. He looked at me like I was a crazy woman. I was. And young. But he was too. I learned that if you dare Chris to do a shot of vodka in milk, he will do it. I liked his competitive streak. That year I was also working as a Case Manager at a therapeutic and educational home for children with autism. There I was, 25 years old, trying to manage a staff, the parents of the children, a house and also trying to teach the children how to make sense of the world. I learned more in those 4 years than in any other experience. If you want to learn what the word “hard” means you can do an Ironman. Even better, you can work with challenged children.

In 2001, I finished a masters degree in public health. People often ask me what I planned on doing with it. What do anyone of us do that doesn’t involve our community or our health? I learned about scintillating things like bioethics, epidemiology, nutrition and for the fourth time in my collegiate career, I took research methods. Across 4 different disciplines. Listen, chi-squared is chi-squared no matter what you are studying. This year I also did my first half Ironman. It took me 41 minutes to do the swim and nearly 6 hours to complete the event. By some miracle of maybe no one else showed up, I finished 3rd overall. It was 38 degrees during the event, I had no nutrition plan, no pacing plan yet still ran a 1:37 half marathon. Youth is a blessing.

In 2002, I started racing. I mean, really racing. I had a wonderful coach, his name was Chris Waterstraat. We lived together in some ghetto apartment in Lisle. But it was a big apartment, with one entire room dedicated to our bikes. Chris created a “plan” based on a “plan” that he used in college when racing bikes. I have no idea how he extrapolated it to triathlon. I just remember that we always took Fridays off, did one crazy duathlon brick a week that involved locking our bikes to a horse post at Greene Valley. The beauty of following a plan for the first time is that usually no matter what the plan is, it will work. And it did. I did really well. I also raced every weekend for 8 weekends straight. And that is also how I got my first and only injury – piriformis syndrome (which took 4 months to heal).

In 2003, I didn’t have a good year racing. Because we followed the same plan! You cannot do the same thing every year and expect it to take you somewhere different. But I did have a pretty good year as a real person. I convinced a local museum that they needed to hire me. I worked my way in from volunteer, to part-time whatever you need me to do, to full-time coordinator. I was teaching children and adults how to learn about and care for the natural world. Ironically in school science was my worst subject. Here I was teaching it to children every day. I am still convinced that the majority of people only need to know a second-grade level of anything.

In 2004, I hired Jennifer Harrison as a coach. I still remember our first communication. In it, I told her that I did not have time for more than one brick a week so don’t even try. I still don’t know what exactly I did with my time that I was so busy. I was 29 years old with a 5-minute commute! I also told her that I could swim more but it wouldn’t make me a better swimmer. Hilarious because my all out pace back then is my backstroke pace now. That year we also bought a townhouse and talked everyone into helping us move. A coffee break somehow turned into the girls going out for coffee and coming back with a puppy named Chewie. I also got engaged this year. We got engaged on Ragbrai on a school playground in Marshalltown, Iowa on my birthday. That evening we also ate pie in the town square. There is nothing better in life than pie on Ragbrai.

In 2005, I planned a wedding while also having some of the best races of my life – I won a Powerman, I won some half Ironmans, I won a long course national championship 2 weeks prior to our wedding. Anyone who thinks you cannot plan a wedding and still live a normal life (and compete well) is wrong. It’s just a wedding. And all people remember is the music – so if you spend time and money to perfect anything get a good DJ. Our DJ sucked. Point being that he played Livin’ on a Prayer as the last song of the night. But everyone was so drunk at that point, we thought it rocked. All the other silly stuff that you do at weddings (placecards, favors), I delegated to other people that seemed way more excited to do it than I did. All I did was order invitations and show up on my wedding day. It was glorious. I still don’t have the pictures from it. Well, I do but they are in a giant shoe box in my closet. Chris says I dropped the ball on that one. I say I have excellent technicolor memories of a beautiful day right where I need them – in my head.

In 2006, I was working with a truly synergistic group of people who are still my friends. A year earlier I had been promoted to a managerial position at the museum and now managed a staff of over 50 adults. That experience left me comfortable handling any personality out there. This year I also had an even better year of racing. I went to Buffalo Springs to win. When my bike didn’t show up, Chris flew down to Texas with my road bike. I still went out there to win. I ended up winning my age group and qualifying for Kona. Kona was never the goal – it was the reward for doing what I set out to do. I remember Jerry McNeill asked if I wanted the slot and I looked out into the crowd and saw Natascha Badmann who was the current queen of Kona. I took it. I woke up the middle of the night with that sinking feeling that I just got a bad haircut but remembered that I had just taken the slot to Kona. It was almost the same thing. At the suggestion of some friends, I started a blog of my journey. People actually read it. I also went to duathlon worlds this year and won a silver medal. That fall I went Kona and had the most perfect day there. Everything I envisioned out there came to fruition. That usually happens when you plan and work hard enough.

2007 was a pivotal year. In late July I had the courage to leave a full-time managerial position with a great salary, flexible schedule, 5-minute commute and full benefits to start my own business. Since then I have never looked back. I have also never worked as hard. As soon as I put the word out that I was going to start coaching, it was a moment of “if you build it they will come.” I was overwhelmed by the response. Racing was even more overwhelming. Both Chris and I qualified for Kona. I completed what I thought of as a trifecta of triathlon – I won long course (half IM) nationals overall, placed in the top 10 of my AG at short course nationals and top 10 of my AG at Kona. It was a truly magical year. I still remember seeing Chris in the Energy Lab, his face bright red and looking for a hug. I told him to keep running, there is no hug in Ironman! Plus when you stop in Ironman you lose all of your momentum. Success in Ironman is largely just a matter of keeping the momentum going. I also became an aunt this year to Annabel. She’s a brilliant little person who lives in Seattle with my brother.

In 2008, I turned pro. It was bittersweet. Being at the top feels good – really good. But for me that was not enough. I wanted a new challenge. And oh yes I got one. I made many mistakes in so many ways in that first year. I had no idea how to train, how to recover or how to eat. I underrecovered myself into a hole. I had my first nontechnical DNF. I finished last. None of this was fun. It was just learning. At the end of the day learning doesn’t always feel good. But it is necessary. It is how we grow. And, aside from that I had a growing business – and I was learning that helping others reach their goals was more exciting than anything I could ever do. I learned more in this year of “failure” than I did in any year of success. Success in sport is single-sided. You don’t learn much when everything you do always works. When it fails –and you fail – you learn a lot about the sport, the process and yourself. Embrace your failure. Better yet, learn from it.

2009 I welcomed as a new start. And Chris’ youngest sister welcomed her first daughter, Aubrey Jane. I like this kid. There will be no princess parties for her – she’s all tomboy. I set out with high hopes for sport but my heart wasn’t in it. Something wasn’t clicking. I didn’t know what, or why and I was beyond the point of wanting to find out. I was tired. It didn’t feel like it was giving up – just like I needed to redirect myself, walk away and try again some other time. Instead I binged on my business. All of my energy reserved for my own racing– I just directed that to athletes. I spent so much time training and it never went anywhere – except to start relationships with the IronMoo athletes and other new friends. The best training ever I think. My memories from this year are – in a word – awesome. I finished out the year wishing things had gone better for myself in sport but knowing there is always a reason why. One door closes and another one opens. You just have to be willing to look for that open door and walk through it – trusting it will take you to a different and better place.

2010 is here. It is a new year and a new decade. This year will be unlike any other year before. Because it will move in an entirely different direction. The door opened, I walked. I have selected my race schedule and I am excited to say that in 2010 I will do my hardest event yet. Only one event. You know what they say – go big or go home. This event will be a true test of strength. Some call it the toughest endurance event out there. Harder than Ironman. Harder than the double Ironman. And I am not sure if I will ever be fully prepared. Because on July 28, I will be participating in the Ironmanoflaborandelivery.

I’ll give you a moment to read that again.

Yes, I am nearly 3 months on my way to bringing a new little Waterstraat into this world. I consider the next 7 months as time for the world to prepare. Because if one thing is certain, this kid will come out kicking and flailing.

Which very well might be early swim training.

It is a new year, I am back to blogging and do I have stories for you about all of the wonders of early pregnancy (which involves a lot fatigue, self-inflating boobs and constipation), about how to be an athlete in pregnancy (is it possible? is that what running this slowly is called!?), about how to get ready for the most difficult endurance event of life (will I ever be ready? I have to name this child? Put together a nursery? You mean there is no turning around…?). It’s like the gun went off 3 months ago and I’m still trying to put my face in the water. But mostly I’ve been floundering in one place and peeing a lot.

I am not sure I am ready. But then again I am too old to be scared. I'm also too tired. How can you sleep 10 hours a night and still need a nap? Anyhow, I’m going to just do the best I can. Like signing up for my first Ironman, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with that bad haircut feeling. But then I realize I just have to pee again.

So, my friends, put on your fat pants with me and join me for this adventure. Heck, if you really want to support me, like I’ve told Chris, gain up to 30 lbs with me. He hasn’t taken me up on that. Yet. But he’s still got time. We’ve got time. Though I have a feeling that time will tick by very fast. And soon enough July will be here along with Little Waterstraat.

Happy new year!

50 comments:

Andrea said...

Congratulations!!! Hard work really pays off, doesn't it? ;)

Wes said...

Awwwww... That's just the most wonderful thing!!! Having you coach me for the last two years has been an awesome experience, but I can't believe you have let 3 months go buy without beginning the negotiations for naming rights for that bebe! hahahaha!

Happy New Year, Teh ELF... I hope 2010 is beyond your wildest expectations :-)

Tony Rigdon said...

Congratulations!!! I'm excited for you and Chris, keep working on him to gain that 30lbs, then maybe I can compete with him again! Very well written recap of the past decade, I had a hard time writing my recap of just last year, let alone a decade, good job...

PJ said...

Congratulations!

Kristi said...

Awww...congrats! Wow, 30# and you still won't weigh as much as I do. ;) Perhaps since you're so speedy at swim bike run, the delivery will be speedy too!

Pedergraham said...

congratulations to you both!!!

Lindsay said...

Congrats!! I love reading your blog and feel like I know you so well (though I don't know you at all!). I've been keeping my fingers crossed for you since you mentioned trying to get pregnant, and I'm so glad that it happened for you guys - best of luck!!

Ulyana said...

CONGRATULATIONS!

Iron Jayhawk said...

Congratulations!!!

Shan said...

Congrats Liz - GREAT news!! Can't wait to read all about your adventures :).

H said...

Congrats Liz, I'm sure the ultrasounds will reveal the little one doing fly or freestyle in the womb. I'm sure you will enjoy it as much as you've described loving learning about every other challenge and life event.

Tara said...

Wow Liz! That's so cool! Can't wait to "watch" you throughout your pregnancy with baby Waterstraat.

Let's also hope that it isn't really the ironmanoflaboranddelivery; I would most definitely sign up for the sprint version if at all possible.
Cheers! Tara

Jennifer Harrison said...

HA! Ok, I almost cried. WHY do you do this to MISS DAISY? I can not take it in my fragile age. I just knew you were going to talk about being pregnant. (so glad you did finally, lol).. And, after our NY Eve conversation with Chris, I just moved to your new LABOR AND DELIVERY and pregnancy coach.

I am up for it. HEE

NO really, I know that the next decade will even be bigger and better for you! You are an amazing person and athlete and now will be an amazing mom!

Looking forward to sharing these new life experiences with you - b/c we sure have had a great ride.

xo CONGRATS! :)

Courtney Staton said...

You and me both, sister. I'm due July 25th. Race ya?

Congrats!

Angela and David Kidd said...

Congrats! Get ready to have your world ROCKED.

And I've got all kinds of baby stuff that I just put in storage that you are welcome to. Seriously, let me know. Don't go buy all that crap if you don't need to.

cheryl said...

congratulations!

Melissa said...

WooHoo! Congratulations! I'm just 18 days ahead of you :-) Looking forward to what you share about this journey. I'm so tired of peeing.

Dave said...

Fertility chicken for the win! Congrats, guys. :)

Meredith said...

I have boxes and boxes of baby clothes, both genders. You're welcome to it.

Congratulations.

TriGirl Kate O said...

Oh, Elizabeth! Iam so very happy for you--yey!!! Congratulations.

DB (D1, Mighty B) said...

I am one of your reader lurkers - but had to post a big congrats on the great news!

Molly said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!! Can't wait to hear all the funny stories that go with this. July seems really close to me, better get your stuff ready fast! :)

D said...

So I haven't read the whole post yet because I wanted to get straight to the good stuff, but I am really excited to read the rest and learn more about you :)

Congrats to you guys! Oh boy... Miss Daisy just must have been going crazy all this time!!

Sherry said...

Oh, wow! Congrats to you and Chris, Liz! That's such awesome news! With both you and Melissa scheduled for delivery, there are going to be some powerhouse babies born this coming July! YAY!

Mike Russell said...

Let me add my congrats to the long list of well-wishers! This is just another race with its own challenges!

marit c-l said...

Congratulations Elizabeth!!!! That is WONDERFUL!!! I am so happy for you guys - yea!

Perhaps that trip to Kona was EXACTLY what the doctor ordered ;) Can't wait to follow - good luck with that constipation thing. Seriously - that's no fun. But everything else... hooray!

Tell Chris to get on that 30 pound weight gain pronto.

Dave said...

WHAT GREAT NEWS!!! Congrats to you and Chris!

Kim said...

Awww yay elizabeth! Congrats! Looking forward to reading about this new journey!

Mama Simmons said...

I don't know why, but I was thinking about you while I was swimming this morning and thought, I bet she's pregnant. Ah ha! I have some strong intuition. ;) Congrats! It's a crazy journey and one that you're never truly ready for, but it'll be interesting all the way. can't wait to read about your thoughts re: the first trimester. :)

Mary said...

Congrats and enjoy the ride! ;)

Jen Rife said...

Once again you have blatantly disobeyed Trousermouse law. No baby-making in the month of October! Realize that now Chris will have to miss every one of your kid's birthdays since he will be on Ragbrai with the rest of us.

E.L.F. said...

Can you blame us? Someone from the team has to provide the future Ragbrai engine. Those Gifford kids are too scrawny to pull a line. Give it 18 years. You'll be thanking me, Rife.

Beth said...

Congrats to you and Chris!! Of all the things you have accomplished, this promises to be your best yet! :)

Terri said...

It's amazing how similar childbirth and triathlon are - you anticipate the event with excitement and when the day arrives, fear. Then the pain, agony and wanting to quit and then, the exhilaration that made it all worthwhile! You swear you will never do it again and all you remember later is the exhilaration and you setup to do it all again.

Good luck - do all your training so you're ready for the big day.

TriEVIElon said...

This is a great blog. I loved reading about your decade. I was reflecting on my decade on New Year's Day. It is amazing to discover the arc your life follows when you take the time to reflect. All the joys, tribulations and lessons.

So happy about the baby. That's awesome news! Hmmm, July 28th. I think that will make Little W a LEO... YEEEHA! Let's hear it for the fire signs..

Haley Cooper said...

I am so stoked for you and Chris! I fully expect that your pregnancy blog will be filled with humor and candor and I look forward to reading all about it. So, was it the fertility chicken that did the trick?

Scottie said...

You both will be GREAT parents!!
Congratulations.

Wytosk said...

Congratulations! Hopefully you'll still post a little now and then about training while expecting too!

Wonderful news:) wishing you all the best-
erin (blog lurker in wi)

ADC said...

:))))

MtngirlinCali said...

Another lurker reader coming out of the closet to say congratulations!

I'm 24 weeks pregnant and up 20 lbs....so I am beating you to the fat train! But hopefully your energy returns soon -- will look forward to your adventures in swimming, biking, and running while with child. :)

Sarah Giacomarra Schrader said...

You're back! YEAH!

beardies3 said...

Congratulations! A new beginning. Parenting is an Ironman that has a million finish lines-euphoric moments interspersed with a few episodes of what-am-I-doing-here. Enjoy the ride!

Marni said...

What a great summary and congrats on the pregnancy! How exciting!
-marn

Sarah Giacomarra Schrader said...

I was so excited to see a new post, I commented before I read it so of course I need to comment again...CONGRATULATIONS!!
Can't wait to read all the stories in your blog. I am sure they will be very humorous, which is good, because humor is a requirement for surviving motherhood.
All the best!

Jennifer Cunnane said...

Congratulations - this is great news!! Unfortunately the peeing never ends... maybe you can view it as a beautiful reminder of bearing children and then delivering them!

Morgan said...

I am so excited for you! CONGRATS! It really is going to be an amazing new decade for you!

I seriously can't wait to hear all about the journey to the big day! OMG I can only imagine how the next few months of posts are going to go!!!!

Erin said...

I loved this blog entry and what a way to end it! Congratulations!

ShutUpandRun said...

Congrats!! I really look forward to following your pregnancy, new motherhood all mixed up with some tri news, tips and training. You will be a great mom...you will pass your passion and drive on to your kid(s). Here's wishing you the best!

Sara Cox Landolt said...

Wow, what a New Year post! Congratulations on this little gift!

Kate Parker said...

Congrats! Looking forward to the next few months of posts!