I feel like almost everyone avoids the negative topics concerning our great sport(s). A lot of people don't want to talk about DNF's and DQ's and injuries and overtraining and illnesses and - let's not forget - straight-up jackasses and haters.
Jackasses are easy to spot. They're the people who don't say "on your left," and almost crash someone just to finish behind (or 2 seconds in front of) the person they almost crash. They rack their $5,000 carbon triathlon machine on top of your poor little bargain road bike in transition despite there being 100 spaces open after the ride. And sometimes they just act like jerks because they have more money.
And then there are what I call haters. Haters are more subtle. They try to undermine everything you do. Sometimes they'll tell you how great and awesome you are while they plot on how to show you up at the next race. They question your choice of clothing, your training plan, your shoes, your race goals, and sometimes try to sabotage you mentally because they're afraid you might finish a few minutes ahead of them and they just can't stand to finish behind someone who doesn't look as fit as they are, or who doesn't follow their rules. All you can do is your best to avoid them.
The reality is this: triathlon and marathon are very competitive. And some people take that SUPER seriously. The haters, like the jackasses, are unavoidable.
And that's ok. Without a little competition, many of us would never push ourselves to be better.
But it's also ok for a completely different reason.
LET'S TRAVEL BACK IN TIME
In 2006, when I did my first 5k, I had no idea what was ahead of me. I was talked into doing it by my best friend, and really encouraged toward it by my original triathlon mentor, who helped found the Lakeland Landsharks Tri Club. At the beginning of the race, Karime, who does not harbor a single ounce of malice or ego about such things, told me something I will never forget.
You're faster than me, so you go ahead and I'll see you at the end.
The thing is, she really meant it. She wasn't telling me go ahead and thinking or pretending she wasn't thinking I'm still going to beat you or we both know I'm really faster. No, she seriously, truly, honestly, wanted me to kick ass.
still kind of back in time here
When I started typing this, I started to think about her. And something else someone told me - someone I still don't know to this day - came to mind.
It was at Florida 70.3 I had just been DQ'd for missing the time cutoff on the run. My nutrition, which I'd trained with for 2 years, had sent me attempting to poop or puke down the run course for 13.1 miles and subsequently had me shut down with only 4.3 miles left. I was crying. I'd trained for 2 years and thought 2 years was more than enough experience to finish a HIM. An older, wiser, more experienced athlete gave me this advice:
Don't ever let anyone rent negative space in your head. (He mostly meant ME renting negative space in my OWN head, but it pretty much applies to anyone.)
WELCOME BACK TO 2011
I realize that if I spend too much time talking or thinking about the haters, I am letting them rent negative space in my head.
So instead I'm gonna tell you about the lovers.
Last night, I meet Karime for dinner and to watch some baseball and have a beer and just catch up. Since that first 5k, I have done dozens of races. Karime is still cool with doing a 5k every now and then but has no desire to be a crazy triathlete. Nonetheless, she is completely supportive of my athletic insanity. She's asking about the century, and I tell her that I really know now how little I want to do Ironman. The conversation goes like this.
Me: "What? I'm serious. Don't want to. At all."
"No, you're going to do one."
"No, I really don't want to."
She looks at me for a second, puts her hand up and says, "Listen, bitch. I know you. You did a 5k and said you'd never do a marathon. Now you've done how many marathons? How many triathlons?"
"Yeah, but Ironman is different."
"I didn't say you're going to do one now, I just said you're going to do one. Maybe in 5 years. But eventually you'll get so well-trained you'll do it just like everything else, just because you can."
I stop for a second, speechless. Here is someone who believes in me so strongly that she does not doubt I can do anything just because I decide I can/want to.
And then she says this: "Just make sure it's the one in Hawaii. Because I really want to go to Hawaii."
Well, now she's just delusional.
"Do you have any idea how fast you have to be to get to Kona?" I sputter. "You have to be like a 12-hour Ironman finisher. Elite. Super fast." I point at myself. "Not this gal."
She shakes her head and tells me, "You'll get there. I know you. Eventually you'll just get to the point that you can."
I look at her like she has six heads, and she adds, "Let me tell you how this conversation is going to go. 'Ring ring . . . hello? Oh hi Meggan.' 'Oh, hi. So I was wondering . . . do you want to go to Hawaii?' "
The point here is not that I want to do Ironman or think I can qualify for Kona, ever (because, for the record, I do NOT.) The point is that this person believes in me enough to truly think that, if I really, really, really wanted to make it happen, I would do it.
That single conversation instantly crushed the memory of the 50 more I have had with haters.
Triathlon aside . . .
What would life be like if we all believed that? If we all did not doubt we can do anything just as long as we decide we can?
I have been trying to surround myself with more and more lovers. And I know there are sometimes going to be more haters than lovers. But that's ok. Doubt may be powerful, but hope will win every time.