I’ll be honest. When I first got the email at work reading “Sign up for the Active Triathlon!,” I deleted it (Sorry, Arch!). There was just no way I could accomplish something like that. I would actually have to get into the freezing cold salt water and not just look at it. Over the past few years, I had become very accustomed to doing just that - observing from afar, and that was fine by me! I found endless excuses for not getting in: it’s too cold, there are sharks, it’s too early, it’s too late, I don’t have a wet suit...the list went on and on. As everyone around me was signing up for the triathlon, I just assured my coworkers that the water was not for me. I also didn’t have a bike – another reason I could absolutely not participate! I figured I can cheer them on, I’m great at that! But my mind was made and I wasn’t going to do it.
I work for a company called the Active Network, and competing in races is a huge part of the culture. There is a regular flow of email chains encouraging (or pressuring :)) one another to do the next race. Arch Fuston leads ActiveX, which is an excellent workout program at Active. ActiveX provides a community for the company while also promoting a healthy lifestyle. It’s a beneficial way to take a break in the day, and we come back feeling more energized and focused for the remainder of the day.
Arch also puts together the ActiveX Charity Challenge every year, a race near and dear to his heart. The money that is raised for the Charity Challenge supports the phenomenal organization Kids in the Game. KITG is a nonprofit organization focused on inspiring kids to thrive in life through sports. They provide financial assistance to help youth from low-income families gain access to after school sports programs and physical education programs in schools. For the Triathlon sign up Kick Off, Arch organized Kids in the Game speakers to come in and talk to us about the organization. They shared personal stories of what the organization was doing throughout the country. They explained the meaningful work that Kids In the Game was doing in our community and the first-hand effects the organization has on so many children’s lives. I left a little teary-eyed (shocking) and starting to believe I could do this. If anything, I could do this for the kids. And in light of what happened at the Boston marathon just a few weeks earlier, I needed to at least try to do this for the numerous individuals who no longer could. Before I could dwell on it anymore, I went for it….and signed up!
Even though I still had my doubts about actually completing the tri, I was beginning to run out of excuses. I won a wet suit, for fundraising in the top 5 (thank you friends and family!), I was lent a bike and I had my shoes. There was really no looking back. Throughout May and June, I pushed myself to do things I never thought I could do. It was reassuring that many of my co-workers were in my same boat. They dreaded swimming or they didn’t have a bike. Even if they were making their best efforts, they also didn’t really think they could complete in a triathlon. We complained with one another, but also motivated each other. We were all in it together.
When it began to get dark and cold after work, let me tell you, the last thing I wanted to do was put a wet suit on, swim out in the ocean, and do drills for an hour. There are too many other things I could be doing - mainly wine + E! News. But I digress. Some days it was a full-blown struggle to get myself to those nighttime swims or the 6 am swims before work. But even while I vividly pictured my death by a Great White attack at any moment, I did it. And you know what? I felt pretty amazing afterward. I was overcoming a fear, relishing in the companionship of new and old friendships at work, and working out in a new and refreshing way. I dare say it -- I was beginning to actually like it!
Soon after, training bike rides began, followed by runs and then finally a “mock” triathlon in the bay, a few weeks before the big race in the ocean. The ocean felt like a whole other playing field, but I was eager, a bit anxious and possibly even ready! My dad came out the weekend of the race. On Friday my co-workers, dad and I swam out to the quarter mile buoy one last time for “Bubbly to Buoy.” With Arch leading the way, 50 of us swam out to the buoy with champagne in tow and popped those bottles. It was a relatively cold evening (for San Diego), but the glowing sun was about to set into the ocean and it made for a beautiful back drop for the swim. We were all ready to celebrate with a final toast in honor of our endless training hours, strenuous work and perseverance over the last few months. As I floated in the water and looked around at the breathtaking views of La Jolla, I felt so small in this big magnificent world. It was pretty surreal to be out there with my dad and co-workers/friends, partaking in a little chug-chug-pass together. I felt pretty proud, a little buzzed (ha!), but mostly thankful. Thankful that I had been pushed out of my comfort zone, by the best people, to do something I never thought I could do -- and to celebrate this moment with my dad no less. It was an indescribable feeling.
Sunday was the big race. The sun wasn’t up yet and the temperatures were low, but my nerves and adrenaline were running high. It was time to attain this goal we had all been working so hard for. We set up our bike transition area, put on our wet suits and gave each other a few final good lucks, high fives and hugs then made our way to the ocean. The waves were BIG that morning - big for me at least. I watched them crash for a few moments and felt my heart drop a little bit, but I had no time to think of it because soon the horn went off and it was go time!
Starting with the intense swim through the waves, where it was constant game of swimming over and under other competitors, to transitioning onto the difficult bide ride along my co-workers and finally running my heart out to finish strong - it was thrilling! I loved all of it. Don’t get me wrong, it pushed me harder than I had ever previously pushed myself, but the feeling of crossing the finish line with my team cheering me on was a life highlight. To top it off, as a company we were able to get 1,134 kids in the game! I was on cloud nine.
That race eventually led me to doing another triathlon last year, a 10 mile swim relay and I just recently a half marathon. These are accomplishments I never would have achieved had it not been for my Active team and the supportive people in my life. That's not to say there weren’t bad training days preparing for these races. There were days I just didn’t feel up for it, or couldn’t do it. Days I felt afraid I would fail or that I wouldn’t finish the races -- but I learned in the end failing isn’t so bad. Failing helps you grow, learn and reach new limits. Someone once said, “Don't be afraid to fail. Don't waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It's OK to fail. If you're not failing, you're not growing.” I couldn’t agree more. Although failure and doubt nagged at me in the back of my head, I did my best to shut it out and focus on all the things I WAS accomplishing, whether I finished or not.
I would not have taken the risk to potentially fail at something I had never tried before if it wasn’t for Arch. If you don’t know, Arch, just know your life would be better if he was in it. His enthusiasm for life, fitness and serving others is contagious. Arch, thank you for believing that you can do anything you put your mind to and teaching me and countless others how to do just that. Thank you for having a vision and pursuing it with all that you have. Thank you for continually pushing us to reach new limits and then some. Fear, self-doubt, and worry simply melted away when I crossed that first finish line. I’ll see you at the next one :)