My friend is training for her first half-ironman in celebration of her fiftieth birthday this year. I am so proud of her. She is one of the kindest, gentlest, and thoughtful people I know and when I was training for my races throughout 2018 & 2019, she was one of my biggest supporters. She was always so interested in the what, the why, and the how of everything I was doing to prepare for Ironman and she would patiently listen to my constant vacillation between fear and excitement, between self-doubt and renewed confidence. She would also tell me that there was no way she would ever do it herself.
She and I met at the YMCA almost 10 years ago when she was training for her first marathon. We had a lot in common; husbands, kids, our love of Y classes, and running: Plenty of conversation topics to fill hours of running together over the years.
When I finally stopped ignoring the pain in the ball of my foot in the spring of 2016 and was diagnosed with a hairline fracture, she was excited to hear about my switch to biking for the season. She continued our routine of weights and running while I learned about cadence, aerodynamics, and clipless pedals.
When my husband gave me the Ironman registration for Christmas, she was flabbergasted and pretty much horrified, just as I was. But like the good friend she is, she was 100% supportive and excited to come along on the journey in any way she could, including an open invite to swim in the small lake in her backyard. That first year she would join me on her paddleboard or watch from her yard, until I assured her that I was fine in my wetsuit with my buoy trailing behind me.
My friend got her bike in 2018. My friend started swimming that winter. And this fall, my friend will head down to Madison for the next step in her own journey, her Ironman 70.3.
And now it's my turn to be Superfan.
It's different being on this side of the fence, encouraging and supporting rather than planning and sweating.
In my regular life, I am the supporting cast; raising children, taking care of our household, helping my husband be the best he can be at work so he can provide for us, and now counseling my clients at work as they face their own individual challenges. I love this life and would not change any of it. And yet sometimes it's hard to be always helping everyone else do amazing things.
Training for races let me be the focus for a while. Sure all that exercise and feeding my passion was the self-care we're always touting, but it was a little different, a little more than that. Rather than simply "filling my tank" with "me time", training let me shift from feeling behind the scenes to feeling front and center. It feels strange to write that because I've never been a center-of-attention kind of person. I think we all need to feel important, to feel noticed, to feel accomplished, and working toward Ironman, learning and planning and seeing the progress let me focus on myself in a bubble that was separate from the rest of my life.
To be perfectly honest, I started this blog as a way to keep myself motivated and accountable at a time when I was feeling very stagnant. But I think the reason I was feeling so stuck wasn't just a lack of inspiration; it was because I was injured and denying the severity, or chronicity, of it. As I had been doing for years, I thought I could just push through and eventually it would be fine. It wasn't, and of course that mindset is what lead to the injury in the first place. I don't want to quit writing just because my training days are over (for now). Instead I want to keep writing, looking for joy in my everyday life and sharing it so that the good becomes that much more visible to me and maybe some of what I share can touch others.
Surprisingly, I'm feeling kind of okay with my *very moderate* level of exercise these days. It's frustrating to be wiped out after a Saturday 70 minute run when I used to do that on the daily but at the same time, it's good to have extra time in my day for my family, my work, and our new dog:) After months, almost a year, of a messed up routine due to Covid and near-constant pain due to my injury, even though my heart rate is through the roof and four miles is plenty I'm settling in to this sustainable new normal.
Training is taking a back seat to the rest of my life. I still have my "me time" at the Y and around my neighborhood but this experience is pushing me to find other ways to "fill my tank" as well. Like I said, I'm the type of person who is most comfortable as the supporting cast. Right now, I think I need to embrace that and be thankful for that and grab the opportunities God puts in front of me to build people up and whole-heartedly encourage and celebrate them, helping them to feel important, to feel noticed, to feel accomplished. It's not about putting everyone else ahead of myself: It's about using my gifts and being my best in this season of my life.
I get to watch my friend train for her 70.3. It's not living vicariously through her, but walking (or running, biking, or swimming) alongside her as she pushes herself to do something she swore for years she would never attempt. I love seeing people push their limits. I love talking with them about what scares them and helping them find ways to work with and through those fears to find out what they are capable of. I'm sure sometimes I go a little too far and get a little naggy, but it always comes from a place of love.
My personality works with being the supporting cast. I've stepped outside this role and found I can do some pretty great thing which gives me experience and knowledge that I can use when empathizing and strategizing with others. Whether it's working through the ups and downs of life or navigating the world of double workouts and post-workout nutrition, it is a joy for me to be there for people. I'm excited for this summer as my friend ramps up her training. She's gonna rock this thing and I get to be right there with her, experiencing the thrill of finding a new level of awesomeness within herself.