Today is my "Happy New Year." Nope, not January 1, not a new school year, not my birthday, or not even Rosh Hashonah. But it is a year until my next Ironman- Ironman Chattanooga 2014! Being this, I have decided today officially marks the end of my 2012-2013 season and the start of my 2013-2014 season. So, Happy New Year to me!
I've always loved the start of a new year. It seems so promising. It seems that you can wipe away the things you disliked about the last year, and more importantly, the person you were in the past year, and start again. I am sure I am not alone in my love for this idea, seeing as how most people at least make New Year's Resolutions. On Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, we take it to another level. We judge ourselves and prepare for God to judge us for who we were this past year. While I believe faith is important, I am not a very religious person, however, I find myself flocking to temple year after year on the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur) because, as solemn as these days are, I believe in the important of taking stock of yourself in the past year and preparing for another chance to do it better. One of my favorite meditations from this time is the story of the Chasidic rabbi Zusha:
"I'm afraid!" said Zusha. "Because when I get to heaven, I know God is
not going to ask me 'Why weren't you more like Moses?' or 'Why weren't
you more like King David?' But I'm afraid that God will ask 'Zusha, why
weren't you more like Zusha?' And then what will I say?!"
I hope no one takes it as sacrilegious to apply this teaching to triathlon, but I see triathlon as a metaphor for life and personal betterment, so I believe it is appropriate. This morning I ran with Deena Kastor (more on that in a bit). I will never be Deena Kastor. I will never be an Olympic athlete, and I am perfectly fine with that. I have other important contributions to make. I do have big dreams though (cough Kona cough) and the person I was this past year is not someone who was on the path to those dreams. I am not and never will be Deena Kastor, but I can be the best "Rachel the Imperfect Triathlete" that I can be, and see where that takes me.
I think the heart of all resolutions is respecting yourself. Respect who you are and even respect the mistakes you have made. Most of all, respect who you want to be. That is the easy part, we all have high hopes for what we might become. The tough part next is respecting the dream, respecting the process, and respecting that who you are right now is always in flux. When we break resolutions, it is because we lost respect for ourselves. We started to doubt that we could achieve those dreams, that we were worthy of that success, that accomplishment. Respect is different and more important than willpower. Willpower is what people claim they have or don't have when they stuff the donut in their mouth, or are able to walk by the office candy bowl. Respect though, is knowing that you deserve the success you imagine for yourself, and that giving in in that moment is disrespecting those dreams, and disrespecting the person you can be.
I have not been the best Rachel I could be this past year. Not just in training or horrendous eating, but in many aspects of my life. I was lazy and apathetic for much of the year. I have not lived up to my potential. My best friend frequently quotes her mom to me, saying "The great thing about life is that you can always change." How true this is! And while it is true any day, any hour, any moment, I see a New Year (whether of the Jan 1, jewish, academic, or triathlon flavor) as the epitome as a chance to change.
For my "New Year's" celebration, I kicked it off in epic (for a geeky runner) style- I ran with Deena Kastor. No, unfortunately it was not just me and my new BFF, but a sponsored "Run with Deena" Fun Run at Fleet Feet. I got up before dawn to meet the group at 6:30 for a run, and I am so glad that I did. My first observation was that this girl is TINY! I have gotten use to seeing triathletes, even the pro's who are minimal body fat have very muscular legs. I'm not at all saying that Deena isn't muscular, I'm sure she is pure muscle and bone, but has that elite runner build that I am so far away from (again though, I'm not trying to be Deena, just to be the best me). She briefly chatted with the group, and told us about how people ask her about nerves. Then she said that she has been running since she was 11 and has never been nervous. Huh? But she proceeded to describe those race morning feelings- the knot in your through, butterflies in stomach, shaking hands when tying your laces, and then said "That isn't nerves, it is excitement." We laughed, but how true! I would argue that the high before a race is better than any high afterwards. It is being around hundreds or thousands of people, all with different but similar dreams, who have all done the training and made the sacrifices and are ready to test their bodies. Just like a New Year, it is the point where anything seems possible, and we dream big. I am yet to have a finish line where I felt as excited as the start line, and that is the high I chase when I sign up for races.
The other main thing I got from Deena was her love for the sport. Yes, she is paid, and I am sure would not make sponsors happy if she appeared to be a grumpy runner, but she truly seemed genuine, wanting to run with us lowly recreational runners. She even spoke of how that is what is so awesome about the sport- all levels can share the same experience, and I believe this is so true. To think that in an Ironman more people come back to see the final finishers than the winner- how amazing is that! Sometimes it is easy to become a slave to a training plan and lose that joy and love for the sport. While it is a job for some people like Deena, for most of us, it is a game we are lucky to play. I need to remind myself of how fortunate I am to run (bike and swim) and that while it hurts so bad sometimes, it feels so good too.
The great thing about this New Year's Run with DK was that it pushed me. It pushed me out of bed when I honestly thought about just sleeping in. It pushed me to run further than I have (umm, Deena, interesting definition of 5 miles), and it pushed me to go faster. Heck if I was going to get left behind by Deena Kastor- I wanted to be as close as possible to soak in her awesomeness (swear I'm normal, not a stalker...). I think it was the push I needed to start my year off right.
In lieu of making specific resolutions for my triathlon new year, I pledge to respect myself. I will respect both my current abilities and my goals in all facets of my life, and take frequent stock of whether I am living up to being me. I guess we can call Ironman Chattanooga Judgement Day!