For years now, I've split us up into two groups. Real runners, then people like me. Real cyclists, then people like me. Real swimmers, then people like me. Real triathletes, then people like me.
This, I've learned, is a massive load of crap.
It may take me more time to complete athletic endeavors, but right now, in this moment, I am an athlete. I step up to the start line. I cross it. And the finish line? Yeah, I cross that sucker, too. Time and time again. Because I'm an athlete.
Last Saturday, I was down in Hudson, IL to participate in the Tri-Shark Classic sprint tri. One of my great, athletic friends (I'll call him Biff, because I do) was the co-race director, and that was reason enough for me to show up. (Reason No. 2? He wears a kilt.) Anyhoo, it was me, and about 599 "real" athletes.
Any rational person would be intimidated, but I'm not all that rational.
Just before getting into the water, Biff came up to me and said, "I see you got her game face on." And yeah, I suppose I have one of those; I get really serious before a race starts. There are a few vital things going through my mind.
At the starting line, I become a little overwhelmed by what we have in common - we, the athletes. We stand there together with identical potential. We've not yet begun to race, and we all know that in truth, we are only racing against ourselves. Our beautiful sameness in those pre-race moments can be pretty overwhelming for me emotionally, but that's mostly because most athletes treat others like ... well ... athletes. They don't know that I'm gonna fight for my near-last-place finish, and if they did know, they wouldn't care. Because athletes - true athletes - celebrate achievement, no matter what it looks like.
Saturday's race was so good for my soul. It was the first time I've ever done a tri without a member of my tribe out on the course with me, but Biff and Amanda just filled my soul with love and encouragement. Biff was waiting on the dock as I came out of the water, and I cannot find the words to say how incredibly cool it was to have someone supporting me like that. Through the bike and the run, I knew I had support, and it inspired me to move forward.
Was I as fast as I wanted to be? Nah. But I made my way to the start line, I got my body through each of the disciplines, and I crossed the finish line.
I trained for it. I worked hard for it.
I am an athlete.