It’s still dark outside as I slip into the pool and begin swimming at 5 am.
There will be just enough time to swim, shower and drive home to be with my 6 school-aged children before they leave for school. It’s important to me that I’m available for them both before and after school and that can mean some super early workouts.
Pretty much everything I do is for my children. They are primary reason I fled a 27 year long abusive marriage.
My children are also the primary motivating force behind me training for and competing in triathlons.
This year I am training to participate in my first full IronMan triathlon.
The first question asked when someone finds out that I’m doing this is “How far is that?”
I’ll explain that it’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and then a marathon run to finish it all off.
There is usually a pause and then: “All in one day?!”
Yes. All in one day. Crazy, isn’t it?
99% of the time I *love* training for triathlons, but even I sometimes question my sanity in pursuing this.
Earlier this year I had to have knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. My recovery ended up being much slower than anticipated. Thankfully, as I rehabbed my knee I was able to work with an excellent physical therapist ~ a triathlete himself, who understood my IronMan goals. During one of my PT sessions he asked me, “So, why do you tri (do triathlons)?”
What a great question! As I answered BJ, I was surprised to find myself fighting tears. Triathlon has played a *huge* role in my life in the past 6 or 7 years. I thought that it would be helpful to think about that question and explain here “Why I Tri”, both for me, and for others who are curious.
First of all, learning to open water swim and compete in triathlons was something that I feel certain the Lord used to show me how to be strong and brave in preparation for escaping a 27 year long abusive marriage and rescuing my 12 children.
Now, as a single mom of a large family dealing with ongoing legal battles, trying to advocate for adult children who have PTSD after so many years of abuse and learning to navigate my own PTSD, training for triathlons keeps me going.
Three and one-half years after escaping my abusive marriage I continue to “tri.” Here’s my why.
I Tri to Manage My PTSD
- Part of the fallout from living with abuse for 27 years is that I have Complex PTSD. Training for triathlons has been the most effective way I’ve found to deal with the flashbacks, invasive memories, depression and unpredictable emotions that go along with C-PTSD.
- PTSD can be incredibly overwhelming and scary. It’s also scary doing new things like learning to swim open water, bike long distances and run. Learning something new makes me feel brave. I need all the brave I can get in my life right now.
- If getting a hard workout in is good, getting a hard workout in outdoors is at least 50% better. There’s something about being out in the sun, observing changing skies and catching glimpses of wildlife that grounds and calms me.
- Restful sleep can be elusive with PTSD. Daily triathlon training helps.
- There is a meditative quality to some of my workouts, especially swimming laps and biking long distances that I love.
- Triathlon training also gives me small daily goals to accomplish. This gives me a reason (other than my children) to get up each day. Many days the routine of showing up for my workout pulls me through very dark and overwhelming times.
- When I am managing my PTSD I am better able to be the mom that my children need me to be.
I Tri for my Children
- I tri to be an example for my children of healthy ways to deal with life challenges and stress. I hope that in watching me, my children will be inspired to take on their own challenges and accomplish their own big goals.
- I am a much better version of myself when I’m working out each day. I’m not nearly as overwhelmed with my life and am able to be more present and available for my kids.
- My kids have told me numerous times how proud they are of me ~ that they love telling their friends, “My mom is an IronMan!” (They don’t care at all that I’m slow and will never be an elite athlete.)
I Tri for Me
- Triathlon is one thing that I do just for me.
- As a single mom of a dozen children, time alone is a rare commodity. Swimming, biking and running gives me quiet time to think, pray and be alone.
- You guys, riding my bike is just plain fun. My parents can tell you some pretty hilarious stories from my childhood of all of the ways I tried to “fly.” I no longer need to sew a cape or make my own wings and jump off of picnic tables. (Don’t laugh ~ I was four, forheavenssake!) Riding my bike is probably the closest I’ll ever get to flying and I love it!
- Not only is it fun, but I have made numerous friends. The local triathlon community is quite close-knit and so supportive. Triathlon is one of the few sports in which everyone competing is cheering for everyone else.
- Learning something new shatters a preconception of myself. Once I shattered one (I can’t swim), I went on to take on more difficult challenges.
- When I am fit and strong I feel good physically. I love it that I am more athletic now, at 52, than I was when I played sports in high school!
- Triathlon training allow me to challenge myself in ways that I choose. So much of my life right now consists of extremely difficult situations that are thrust upon me ~ that I never would have chosen. When I train for triathlons, I have some very challenging workouts. It is tremendously satisfying to accomplish a workout that I wasn’t totally sure I could do.
- I am very aware that being able to train like this is a privilege. Many people simply can’t physically do this and I know that I won’t always be able to do train this way. Each day that I can swim, bike or run is a gift that I don’t want to squander.
I Tri to Give Others Hope
- Finally, I tri to give others hope. Hope for those that are broken, for those who are deeply wounded and feel alone. Hope that it can get better. Hope that overwhelming circumstances which feel like they’ll sink you might actually be the catalyst to teach you to swim and even fly!
- I’m not sharing this here to tell everyone how wonderful I am. I truly am not a particularly gifted athlete, just somewhat desperate and very persistent. I’m an extremely ordinary person ~ a very broken ordinary person, with huge challenges. Triathlon is something that the Lord has used in my life to give me the strength to keep going, to keep “showing up” each day for my kids.
It’s hard to say where one small act of bravery might lead you.