For Jayme, Tea, Vic and Dawn

This entire post is dedicated to several women triathletes who have made a giant impact in both my tri-life and my real life. Their names are Jayme, Tea, Vic and Dawn. (And yes, there is a reason I listed them in that order.)
At a certain point in some women's lives, we realize how vital it is to have strong, positive female mentors. I've reached that age. I won't harp on my circumstances, but what most people don't realize is that I have always been an athlete - and something or someone always got in my way. In elementary school, it was gymnastics with Olympic potential and not enough money to continue lessons; middle and high school, figure skating and not enough money to take lessons; high school and college, running and schedule conflicts and illnesses. I also used to be a positive, relatively quiet person - I wasn't always this in-your-face and grouchy about my situation(s), but I've (sadly) let the adversity make me slightly bitter.
The influence of the four of these women is helping me to slowly find that positive, self-assured person again.

Their ages range from 30s to 40s; their backgrounds and locations are all different; but these extraordinary women have a few things in common. First, all of them triumph over difficult circumstances ON A DAILY BASIS. Second, they've all learned to juggle their challenging lives with the challenging sport/hobby of triathlon. Third, they've managed to keep their sense(s) of humor during all this chaos; and finally, they are all the REAL DEAL. No sugar coating. Their chins and their attitudes are nothing but straight up. Finally, they've all been a huge inspiration in the short time I've known them, and I have learned something incredible from each and every one of them.

Jayme is first because she did the NJ Devilman this weekend . . . . just so you know, I hope to mimic her results on my upcoming half ironman, but I also hope to be more like her "when I grow up."

Time: 7:50:17
Swim 1.2 Mile 0:45:54 199
T1 0:02:53
Bike 56 Mile 3:44:44 202 Rate: 15.00
T2 0:02:24
Run 13.1 Mile 3:14:25 197 Pace: 0:14:51

Jayme is one of those people who has plenty of time to devote to all her friends and family - even though she has a relatively high-profile position at her company, hopes to be a homeowner soon and is planning a wedding. When you solicit her opinion (and some times when you don't), Jayme always gives you the truth, whether you like it or not. Over the past year I have watched her progress as she slowly educates herself about the trials and tribulations of long-distance racing, accepts - then challenges - her weaknesses, and learns to celebrate her strengths. Jayme has struggled with many of the same difficulties with which I have struggled. She has battled her personal demons with grace and strength - and tears, which have not compromised her tenacity and wit, and have done nothing but reinforce her self-efficacy.

Earlier in the year, when I was struggling with the realization that I have an eating disorder - which hit at the same time as I was getting divorced, suffering from a string of medication snafus related to my 4 different illnesses and trying to buy my first home - Jayme was one of the only people who did not make me feel like a freak or a liar for admitting openly that I was bulemic. But more than that, Jayme made me realize that, while I can't take responsibility for everything that happens to me, I MUST take control over my own actions.

Probably the most important lesson Jayme helped me learn: you have to be okay with not finishing before you even start. A heartbreaking DNF at IMOO did not lessen her desire or resolve to complete her first IM this year. (More on being okay with not finishing later . . .)

Tea is a superwoman, plain and simple. Equipped with an iron will - NO pun - Tea struggles with a pack of dogs, a husband, kids and training for her first 140.6 in June at high altitude. {Some times we all think maybe the thin mountain air has gone to her head.} Tea attacks IM CDA this year and has seen amazing improvements in all her sports from the moment she took up running.

The thing about Tea is this: she's sort of an everywoman. She has a full, rewarding family life - which, like most of ours, can be insane - hello, why do you think they call one of her dogs CB?!?!?! - she's finishing her higher education, and she has to juggle being supermom with being superwoman. She's fun and funny and positive - she has good days and bad days, up days and down days. She shares a constantly-evolving, perennially entertaining take on her overall health, lifestyle and training in her blog, and her determination and acceptance of others make her stand out in a field of triathletes that can often be elitist and maniacal. Not to say that she can't be maniacal.
Tea has taught me that there is nothing wrong with people being faster than me, and she also reminds me on a regular basis that denial is a very comfy place. :-D (Obviously, Tea shares my very warped and somewhat sophomoric sense of humor.)
Tea is, without a doubt, my biggest fan. Sorry, Sherpa, but she is.

Vic "TriBrit" - Tampa/St. Pete, Florida

I've known Vic the least amount of time of all these ladies, but here is what I've learned about her in that time:

  1. Beginners aren't always slow
  2. Fast people aren't always snobby
  3. We need more Brits in Florida
  4. She's one of the best people you'll ever have on your support crew
  5. Strangers are merely friends with whom we haven't yet become fully accquainted

Vic is one of the most warm-hearted, friendly, open-minded women you'll ever meet. Like all the other ladies on my list, she has plenty of animals, kids (and a husband) in her life. But that didn't stop her from adopting me, a total stranger, as one of her new tri-friends - or from searching me down at St. Anthony's just to say hi - or from sending me a string of indescribably helpful emails before the race. She has some of the same pre-race quirks I do, and we share the same strengths and weaknesses in our sport (we're both fastest on the bike and have the greatest opportunity for improvement on the swim, although she still whips my butt on both). We also both make pre-race bets with our friends.

Odd thing about Vic: she's terribly lucky and well-connected. I mean, terribly. Only her second year into the sport, and she's winning first overall, riding the course with the race director . . . okay, okay, here is what I've learned from her, for real: YOU MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK. Luck is about 90% how you set yourself up, mentally and physically, and only 10% chance. She's actually fast, not just lucky. It's her winning attitude that also helps her fall into great circumstances.

"IronDawn" - Polk County, Florida

Now, Dawn is last because I probably have the most to say about her - I've known her the longest, and I've known her both personally and professionally. She is the person who convinced me that I could be a triathlete, too - something I've wanted to do since I first saw Kona on TV in my teens.

Self-coached her entire running and triathlon career with the exception of this year, Dawn has an uncanny ability to understand and analyze nearly any sport. She is meticulous, detail-oriented, incredibly organized, and remarkably focused. With absolutely NO professional coaching, while working a demanding, full-time job in sports marketing and rescuing stray animals left and right, she completed Florida Ironman - her first 140.6 - in about 14 hours. (In case you're wondering, she recovered in excellent physical condition, returning to race in 2007 with St. Anthony's as her FIRST race of the season, where she placed 40th in her age group with NO training for the event.) This year, for the first time in her life, she's training with a coach to see if she can qualify for Kona. Warming up for her season at St. Anthony's, she came in 20th in her age group - recording a PR of 11 minutes and 37 seconds.

If I told you the kind of support she reguarly gives to her friends and family, even those with mental and physical challenges, you would probably fall over. Dawn has supported and encouraged me throughout all of my decisions to race. She has never once done what I call "perp a fraud" (perpetrate a fraud, a.k.a. blow sunshine up my ass). She patiently answered every one of my newbie questions when I started racing and helped me earn a part-time job one summer at a local running store before I got really sick, where I was able to learn even more about my sport(s). She never once told me I was too fat to race, too sick to race, too inexperienced to race - even when I'm sure I annoyed her enough that she wanted to tell me one of those things just to shut me up and get me out of her face. She was there for my first Oly, she was there at St. Anthony's, and even though she moved about 1.5 hrs away from me and her life has completely evolved, she continues to be there for me. I wish I could talk her into coaching full-time.

I'm concluding this tribute to the important women in my tri-life with this email from Dawn following my next-to-last finish at St. Anthony's a few weeks ago. Dawn's words summarize much of what I've learned and felt from all four of these very special ladies.

"So now since you didn’t have the best race you need to change your perception.

"First, you didn’t have a great race if you go by numbers but you did race and you did finish. I don’t care how long it takes you short of immediate medical attention/death you always, always finish a race. People will tell you differently and give you excuses but those are not the people that support you they give you an excuse to fail.

"Second, every single day in life we are given the opportunity to learn something. Sometimes it is as obvious as don’t take in too much energy drinks prior to a race because it has negative effects. Now you know that and I guarantee it won’t happen again. Each day you learn something about yourself or your world or your environment. Unfortunately it sometimes comes as a hard lesson which you have had plenty of. Change your perception and you change your reality. I know its cliché but it is true.

"I think this was a great race for you. You know that there is not a situation that you cannot control. You controlled your situation and powered through a “crappy” race. What a great story of achievement your situation did not control you. You set out with a goal – to finish and you accomplished that goal.

"You learned you definitely need a swim coach….not a master’s swim coach an actual person that will teach you the fundamentals. Forget what you know…you need to be taught how to swim, I have seen you swim and I am not afraid to say it. You have an expensive bike/running shoes now you need somebody to give you a swim stroke that you can actually use to propel yourself forward in a fast manner. It will cost money but everything in triathlon is expensive including the tools to make you successful."

I rarely disagree with Dawn, but there is one tool that can make you more successful in triathlon (and life) that is not expensive at all - and that is a great support team. I may not be the fastest, fittest, thinnest athlete out there, but I can promise you I am one of the best-supported.

3 tidbits of wizdom:

Joy | Love | Chaos said...

I'm crying. At my desk. AGAIN.

You probably will never know exactly how much hearing this means to me. I never feel like a mentor. I never really feel like I've done anything heroic or even notable. I usually just try to figure out how to get to the finish line myself.

So to know that I can be helpful in this messy process of life, makes me feel much larger than I really ever do. So, thank you, Meggan. I needed that. You were out there with me yesterday and I consider you a friend. A good friend.

Tribrit said...

Disclaimer-I have only ever ONCE finished first overall and that was in the bike part at the Subaru womens tri. However I keep that result pinned to the wall as a reminder!!
What a great post to read this morning - quite set me up for the day. Thank you and never underestimate the effect that you have on those around you. I was in awe of your St A's because it really was strength in the face of adversity and I know that 99% of the athletes there would have chosen NOT to have finished.
Good luck with the half.

Tea said...

don't tell anyone this, but....but...I'm speechless.

(I'll come up with something good tomorrow. In the meantime, hand me those damn tissues).

signed your #1 fan.