I didn’t always like athletics. When I was five, I was on an all-male soccer team and got kicked in the face with the ball, and that was the end of contact sports. I played Angels softball in third grade but got stuck out in right field. No one ever hits to right field. PE class and field day were my least favorite activities. I wanted to dance or take up horseback riding by my mom wouldn’t let me—too expensive, too many body image concerns, etc. Then I started swimming.
When I first tried out for one of our local club teams in the sixth grade, I could barely swim 25 yards. By eighth grade, I had my sights set on Senior Nationals in the 100m breaststroke and the 50m free. When I entered high school, I discovered cross country. The Friday mile in middle school was the bane of my existence, but I realized there was something to this whole running-for-fun thing. I started as a way to stay in shape for swimming, but I soon found I loved running more. I then developed a number of injuries, and my parents (correctly) limited my extracurriculars to one sport. As a sophomore, I spent most of the season on crutches and in a boot recovering from a stress fracture but pulled it together for spring track and the 3200m and 1600m—world’s most boring races but exciting for distance runners. Needless to say, by the time I was a senior I was ready to check out the longer distances and managed to complete the 2005 Disney Half Marathon with a friend.
In college I took on the next challenge for a runner—26.2. I ran the inaugural ING Georgia Marathon in Atlanta in 2007 and suffered through the infamous LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon the following fall. With a few half marathons thrown in for good measure, I set my sights on a BQ (Boston Qualifier, for those who don’t run).
I moved to DC after graduation and quickly found a local running group that met in the mornings just steps from my apartment door. I’ve always preferred solo training, but the Capital Striders were the absolute best way to stay motivated through the dark and cold DC winter. I made Boston at the 2010 Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach with a time of 3:36:18. When I hit mile 20 and realized I was going to make that 3:40 cutoff, I was ecstatic. Especially after a three-week hiatus from all activity during Snowmageddon.
When summer rolled around, I needed a new challenge, so I entered my first triathlon—the inaugural DC Tri. I finished third. Of all the women entered in the sprint (though I crossed the finish line first because of my swim wave—I broke the tape and everything). It was a high point and enough to convince me I’d found my calling. I promptly joined the DC Tri Club. Over the summer, I competed in one more sprint, an Olympic race and then jumped to the half Ironman distance in October 2010. Now begins my second season as a triathlete, and I have much to look forward to, including Ironman Wisconsin on Sept. 11, 2011.
Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about smart training, good nutrition and mental preparation. After a number of stress fractures, mental/emotional roadblocks and some not-so-thoughtful workouts, I’m taking a step back to pay careful attention to my end goal and the steps it will take me to get there. I train and compete because it’s a release from the daily grind, because I love the challenge and because of the community it creates. But now I’m older and wiser and have a little bit more knowledge about how and when to push or take a step back. And believe me, the next eight months are going to be all about planning and making smart choices.
A note on the title of this blog: speed laces are used in lieu of regular laces in running shoes. They’re basically bungee cords that don’t have to be tied/untied when taking shoes on and off, so they shorten transition time. Plus, they don’t come loose if you forget to double-knot them. And amazing races—a reference to the great reality TV series and hopefully a little bit of what I have ahead in the coming months.