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Challenges. These can be positive goals we decide to accomplish. They can also be negative circumstances we face in life. Whether they are positive or negative challenges have one thing in common.They are difficult. They require determination and willpower to achieve or move through.  At one point or another, we are all faced with challenges. How we face each challenge determines who we are and how we see the world.

Over the past few years, I have faced a number of different challenges, some of which I still battle. However, one particular challenge has changed me far more than I could ever imagine. Two and a half years ago I began losing weight. This was merely the first step in this challenge. The next step was by far the greatest catalyst for change in my life.

One year ago, February 21, 2011 to be exact, I began exercising. For a girl who never exercised much, this was a scary and daunting idea. However, I jumped head first into it and have never looked back. I realized I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I am not the same person I was. My appearance is simply the tip of the iceberg. My thoughts and actions have undergone a dramatic transformation.

One of the biggest changes is my attitude toward trying new things. I am up to try just about any new experience at least once. I have so much more life now. I am willing to take on new challenges and experiences with pleasure instead of fear.

A few months ago I had the crazy idea to do a triathlon. I’m not sure what I was thinking. At the time, I didn’t even have a bike. However, the idea stuck.

I came across one particular triathlon that looked like a good first triathlon. The distances weren’t too bad and the swim was in a pool, all good things in my inexperienced book. I talked about doing a triathlon for months. Then January rolled around and it was either go for it or drop the idea. My strong willed nature wouldn’t allow me to back down from a challenge. So I began to train. For the past month and a half, I have practically lived at the gym.
This past Saturday, just over a year after I began working out, the moment of truth came. I was incredibly nervous. As J.R. pulled off the freeway that morning I told him, “Nope. Not gonna do it.” He laughed and kept driving. I cannot remember the last time I was so nervous.

I checked in and had my things ready for transition. As I stood at the starting line, I bounced around with nerves. I couldn’t believe what I had gotten myself into. Then it began and I ran. The nerves were gone and I just ran. I wasn’t concerned with everyone passing by me. My goal was to simply keep moving.
Then I began to get chills and felt sick to my stomach. My stomach was definitely not happy. I just kept moving. Then there were no mile markers. There was no indication of how far I had run. More importantly, I didn’t know how much I had left to go. I just kept moving. Then my mind started talking crap. “You’re so tired.” “You can just walk a little.” “You feel sick.” “See that guy walked for a little bit, you can too.” I fought through all these thoughts. I just kept running.

I finally reached the end of the run, giving myself one last push through to the finish. Quietly, thankful to see my bike and end the running madness.

The bike was my break. I found my gear and I was off, extremely thankful for the chance to catch my breath. As I made the last turn on the loop, I was faced with a headwind. Ugh. I struggled to find my gear. I struggled to maintain speed. However, I eventually made a turn and was blessed with a wonderful tailwind that sent me sailing down the runway.

I endured this cycle 3 times around the runway. The bike was easy compared to the run, as I knew it would be. However, I wasn’t able to find a comfortable position on the bike. The seat wasn’t right. My hands weren’t right. The pavement was causing major vibrations through my whole body. The seams in the cement caused a constant jarring. I was in pain and couldn’t wait to finish. All I could think of was 2 more times, 1 more time, almost to the pool.

As I got off the bike, I was barely able to walk. I stumbled to my transition area and changed quickly. However, I forgot one important thing, my sandals. I had to walk through a gravely parking lot in my bare feet to get to the pool. Not fun.

I jumped in the pool and like my run just kept moving. At one point I wondered why the lines in the pool were crooked. Then I realized I was swimming sideways. Oops! I made it to the finish and stumbled across the finish line as they announced my name. Let me tell you, your legs are anything but stable after all that.
My emotions weren’t all that stable either. I chocked back the tears as I began to realize what I had just accomplished. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever imagine myself completing a triathlon. I am completely amazed.

A year ago, I would become winded just walking up the stairs. This weekend I ran 3.7 miles, biked 13 miles and swam 200 meters. And my time? 1:44:07!!! Not bad! I was 26th out of 47 in my age category. I was eligible to compete in a different category but decided against it. Had I competed in that category I would have been 9th! Wow!

I am absolutely amazed at what I have accomplished. I can’t wait for my next challenge. I am now not just an athlete but a triathlete!


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