June 22, 2001. I’m standing at the edge of Lake Wazeecha outside Port Edwards, Wisconsin, next to Jan. It’s the day before our second triathlon and a fit-looking gentleman in his 70’s scans the lake with his eyes. We ask if he’s doing the race and he says, “Yeah, I’m doing it with my son. He got me started doing triathlons back when I was in my early 50’s and I’ve now knocked off over a hundred races.” I am overtaken with the magnitude of his achievement. As we walk away, I can’t stop thinking about it.
June 23, 2001. This is an ice cube race. I have never subjected my body to such cold water in my life. I don’t own a wet suit and when I get out of the water, my arms are numb. All these athletes are NUTS!
And yet, the idea of creating a long-term fitness goal took hold of me that weekend. 100 races. I would be healthy long into the future.
At the time, my son David was four and my daughter Heather was seven. I had moved to Wisconsin where women pack on weight from cheese, beer, and long winters. I dreaded the thought of turning into a butterball, so a long-term fitness goal seemed like an excellent preventative measure. Knowing I’d be vibrant and able to enjoy life far down the road was also extremely enticing.
100 triathlons. I run some scenarios through my head. What if I aim for 100 races in 25 years? That would be four each year. Or maybe in 20 years, with five each year. I’d be 54 years old when I reach 100.
“Jan, that guy on the beach yesterday really impressed me. What a great way to stay in shape. Don’t laugh, but I think I could do 100 races, too! Can you just imagine?! Maybe I could do 5 a year for 20 years.”
Today I stand at 48. And today I’m packing up my tent for my annual Devil’s Challenge Triathlon and camping weekend with friends at Devil’s Lake State Park. 49.
Next Sunday, I will compete in the J-Hawk Triathlon down in Whitewater, Wisconsin. 50. In exactly ten years.
A lot has happened in those ten years. Nine years ago I got divorced. Six years ago I slowly completed a half Ironman triathlon, four years ago I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, and last year I left a career of 17 years and started my own life coaching business. I also led my kids backpacking 40 miles through the Grand Canyon. This year I met Michael, truly my soul mate.
Life is busy and there have been times when I’ve thought about leaving the goal behind me in order to pursue other things or just free up time for other weekend events. But in the winter, when I’m confined to the house and instinctively eating fat-producing carbs to keep warm, I remember the important role that the annual cycle of races plays in my life.
Fall 2020: It’s 7 am and I’m standing ankle deep in a lake, next to Jan, poised for a start gun to go off. My kids, now 24 and 27, and Michael are spectating from the side of the beach. They’ve used a thick Sharpie marker to write “Happy 100th race, Mom” on the back of my leg. Jan trash talks in her most unserious voice, “I’ll wait for you at the finish line.” to which I retort, “Like hell you will!”
What’s vitally important in your own life? Health, friends, family, romance, career, intellectual challenge? Do you devote enough time and energy to this area of your life? Do you attach time-bound goals to it and develop strategies to get there? What obstacles stand in your way and how can you creatively clear them? And finally, who are your supporters that get you through the rough patches and celebrate the positive?
Research shows that we are most fulfilled when we pursue our most cherished needs, goals, and wishes. Don’t wait. “Someday” never comes. Just start dabbling in whatever would make you happy and see what happens.
If you need help getting started, call me. I would love to help you launch into a new adventure!