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!