On Monday I raced the Capital of Texas (CapTex) Triathlon in Austin Texas. I originally signed up for this event to race the Open Physically Challenged wave which would occur alongside the USA Paratriathlon National Championships. However, due to the roll out of the new International Triathlon Union classification system for paratriathlon, nationals was moved to September in Tempe Arizona. I decided to race CapTex anyway – I had a bone to pick with the race, having last been on the course in 2012 with broken ribs. Plus I had a friend to meet there – my friend Joey.
Someone recently asked a generic “if you had three wishes what would you wish for question” and I replied “I’d like to go all over the world meeting people who have touched my life.” When nationals moved I knew I would still go to Austin, to meet Joey. I “met” Joey in 2013, online, in the run up to Ironman Texas. She was profiled by Ironman.com and my friend Josie spotted and sent me the link. Since then we have chatted on Facebook. Through photos I’ve seen her out there living life, always with an infectious smile.
Joey picked my sister and I up from the airport on Saturday, just back from crewing a friend through the Key West 100 mile run. She greeted us with that smile – the kind of smile that says instantly and simultaneously “you are my friend” and “what are you waiting for” – the smile that dares you to live life on your own terms.
I confessed over a meal that the past year has been rough for me – that I have found it hugely draining to constantly think about and manage through the pain and issues I have with my left knee. Joey just looked at me and without blinking said “I never think about or manage the pain I have – pain is just a reality. I just do it.”
My initial idea was to cross the finish line with Joey. I figured if we could finish together, we could celebrate the fact that we COULD do it, together. But (as you can imagine after crewing a 100 miler and being awake for nearly 48 hours to do so) Joey was sick so smartly chose to sit out CapTex.
So I raced alone. I was left with my thoughts.
I was nervous.
Out on the course I had what I thought was a strong swim (my first time thinking that I had a strong swim at a sprint distance – with room to improve for sure) and I felt good on the bike (for the first time in ages – with room to improve here too I think). And then came the run. My sister said to me “Run Time Fun Time” when I came into transition – but the run has been anything but fun for me recently, with my knee.
I took it one step at a time. Some steps felt good. Other steps were horribly jarring. There was a lot of walking involved. But each step – run walk or hobble – put me closer to the finish.
When I approached the line all I could do was smile. No matter how hard that run was, I had taken my life back – AGAIN – with triathlon. I went out there and I did it – regardless of the pain – on my terms.
And – most importantly – it was FUN. I finally – FINALLY – felt the joy that I used to feel from triathlon. The joy that had vanished WAS BACK.
Better still, Joey met me at the finish line. With her smile. And gave me my medal.
Life. With a smile. On our own terms.
I could not stop hugging Joey at that finish line. You have no idea how much this finish meant to me – when I crossed the line I left my pain on that course and replaced it with a smile. I got back the fun and left behind my last year of training and racing – the constant worry about and management of my issues, all of the demotivation and stress that entailed, it vanished with that hug. I don’t know if you can tell but that hug for me symbolised PURE GRATITUDE.
Thank you Joey. Best. Race. Weekend. Ever.
I placed top woman in the Open PC category at the CapTex triathlon. This was by no means my best finish time ever at a triathlon. But it was perhaps my favourite race yet. I have a lot of thanks to give out – my coaches Russ Cox, James Dunne, and Tim Denyer – my sponsor 2XU – my supporters Motion Junkies and Punk Rock Racing – the Charcot Marie Tooth Association that support me and countless others with CMT – the Hypermobility Syndromes Association which provides support to those of us with hypermobility syndromes like Ehlers Danlos – my sister Cynthia Lawrence the best sherpa-razzi ever. Pure gratitude. I took back my life – and the fun – at CapTex. Everything’s better – and everything GETS better – in Texas – isn’t that right?!