I am living the dream. At least for the most part. For those that haven’t heard, I’m spending my summer in sunny San Diego, Calif. interning with Triathlete magazine and Competitor Group, Inc. I’m interviewing my idols, copy editing, fact checking, ordering and testing samples (I was recently assigned a story that required eating free granola – journalism is a tough occupation), and living my dream job, well minus the whole getting paid part. What was my hobby – learning as much as I can about the sport of triathlon – is now my (unpaid) job. And I love it.
The glamor of living and training on my own in Southern California wore off rather quickly – within five minutes of saying goodbye to my mom. The realization that the nearest family member is more than 2,000 miles away is both exciting and extremely daunting. This is not like college: there’s no RA to hold your hand, no activity fairs to meet people, no meal points, no professors to remind you of that assignment’s due date, no previously existing friends down the hall. Just me and a couple of bikes. I’d lie if I said it hasn’t been difficult living in California for the summer, because it has. It’s been difficult navigating a new city. It’s been difficult cooking for one. It’s been difficult figuring out a daily routine with absolutely no parameters. It’s been difficult moving to a new place where you know just two people – both of whom I had yet to actually meet face-to-face upon coming here. But, it has also been eye opening. It has taught me to be at peace with my own company. It has helped me navigate my mistakes and their resulting lessons. It has reminded me to wear sunscreen. It has helped me trust and depend upon myself. It has taught me resilience.
Unfortunately a lot of these lessons and hard times have been surrounding my training. San Diego is the mecca of triathlon (aside from Boulder, Colo.), and coming here I was overtly exciting to take my training to the beautiful trails, roads and beaches of Southern California. This hasn’t quite worked out as planned.
After Collegiate Nationals, I was dealing with some sort of stress injury in my right shin, something between a stress reaction and stress fracture. I’m fairly familiar with these (I’ve had somewhere between six and eight tibial stress fractures – I’ve lost count – and one in my femur), so I know the warning signs, recognize the pain and am my friends’ injury specialist. I laid off the running, took to biking and swimming, and hoped it would heal up in a couple of weeks. It didn’t. I backed out of a half marathon and registered for a later one, hoping it would be all healed up in time for San Diego. It wasn’t. I would go for a test run, feel no pain, and within a week of light consistent running, it would flare up again. This process repeated itself throughout the months of April, May and early June. Just recently, I finally was getting back into running – with my first successful tempo workout and run of over four miles – until the pain came back. My frustration and pent-up anger took to a brief melodrama where all of my dreams were swept away in the ocean waves and replaced with looming question marks. Meanwhile, on my first solo bike ride in San Diego, I found myself also in my first bike accident and hit and run. Thankfully, nothing was broken. I was just shaken, bruised and bloody, but relatively okay, until it hurt to breathe. I couldn’t take a deep breathe, sneeze, cough or laugh without feeling a sharp, acute pain in my chest. I was worried. Continuing my catastrophic thoughts, I called my doctor at home and reported that I thought I had broken a rib – he assured me I would definitely know if that were the case, and we settled on either an intercostal sprain or a costochondral sprain, depending on how quickly the pain subsides. I was told to stay on the trainer, no swimming and little running. And I did. Within a few days, I was back on the roads and rejoicing that I could finally train in at least two of my three sports – riding and running – until the shin pain returned. I regressed to my catastrophic, looming question marks. I began to question my worth, for if my training is suffering, then I must be suffering, too. My athletic identity was gone. My dreams of becoming an elite triathlete were shattered – but only for a minute.
This is a season of transition: a new coach, a new set of goals, a new training philosophy and an ever changing me. While my physical training may not be meeting my expectations this year, my mental and emotional training is exceeding them. This season, my focus has been placed on navigating and exposing my mental barriers and ultimately breaking them down. It has been a humbling and difficult journey. I often find myself spending more time fumbling around for the hammer, than breaking anything down, but I have begun to see small chips in the once sound wall, proving to myself that anything is possible. Sometimes my patience is wearing thin, but my dreams are sketched in longevity, and this season’s mental and emotional training brings me one step closer to writing them in ink.
I love California. I love the healthy lifestyles, friendly people and sunny days. I love pushing my limits on the bike with experienced cyclists and adventuring to knew places on my own. I love learning to care for myself and enjoy my own company. I love learning from my idols and mentors, in the office and on the roads. I love challenging myself, finding resilience and choosing positivity in what could be an upsetting situation. I am living the dream. It may not be exactly what I had envisioned, because it’s better.