Keeping up with the Joneses: Ironman Edition

First tri, also parents' first time sherpa-ing - we were all new! lol
This weekend I got a bit down on myself. I’ve had a lot of stress since Texas surrounding what my next goals should be, mixed with a desire to be FAST like so many other amazing (superhuman?) athletes that saturate our sport. I guess I’ve gotten to that point where I’m faced with the question “who am I as a triathlete?” 

I read one of my first blogs after starting triathlon the other day. It was filled with wonder, excitement, and just a complete acceptance of whatever race day may bring. I didn’t recognize that voice whatsoever. Not that it’s completely a bad thing. Ironman distance forces you to take training seriously in order to be successful, and I’ve gained so much confidence over the years. But at the same time, I found myself missing that joy, the complete disbelief of what my body might accomplish, and the total gratitude that came with the entire experience.

The last few years that I’ve lined up at the start of a race (I have only raced long distance courses since mid-2015), I do it knowing that I have at least 6 months of dedicated work to that singular race on the line. I do it with giant expectations dangling over my head, and the knowledge that I can be competitive, and therefore, I should be competitive. After 3 Ironmans, I no longer measure my personal success as an athlete by distance, but by growth and competitiveness. Instead of being overjoyed when I complete a distance, I am now staring an ugly monster in the face that says “why can’t I be as good as so-and-so on the podium?”

And it’s not that I doubt that I can. I know the work these athletes put in. I know it’s not some magical potion that they have found that makes them special. But just because they have put in the work, does that mean we should all put in that kind of work? That’s a rhetorical question. But one I’m trying to find the answer to. Who am I as an athlete? What do I want to accomplish as an athlete? But the answer I keep circling around to is another question. Who am I as a person? What does Ashley want to accomplish? (Oh my gosh, I sound just like my father during my 16 year old teenage angst phase!)

first tri-bike excitement!
I don’t really have the answers to these questions right now, but I think the fact that I am evaluating them, versus simply allowing myself to get sucked into the “keeping up with the Joneses: Ironman edition” is helpful. “Triathlete” does not define who I am. It is actually a very small part of who I am.  (I may need to repeat that to myself every morning when I wake up!)

I’ve touched on this in my last blog, but my goal right now is to have as much fun in the sport as possible. In 2018, I want to rediscover that girl who had stumbled across triathlon in 2012. I want to find the fun and the wonder of it, instead of it being the job that I’ve had to do over the past few years because I knew that if I didn’t treat it as such, I would fail. I’ve passed that point now- I’ve proven to myself I can do it, so unless I’m willing to double down, work harder than ever, and let the sport dictate my life to the extent that I have a shot at being the best (because God-given talent for speed just isn’t in this 5 foot 5 frame!), why shouldn’t every day be a FUN, WONDERFUL ADVENTURE?!

It’s been hard for me to write some of this, because I haven’t quite come to grips with a lot of these emotions (post Ironman depression?) completely, as well as the fact that some of these things are hard for me to admit. But I thought that if I was going through these issues, maybe others were as well. And I wanted to say, it’s ok to not know. It’s ok to pause, remember what you love about the sport, but also remember who you were without the sport too.


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