The other day my sister called me a quitter for deleting Trivia Crack and Words With Friends from my phone in the middle of our games. I did this for one reason: I have better things to do with my time. I shot back at her a snide comment about going to the gym and I really wish I hadn’t said it because I can think of several times in my life where I have quit something fitness related. So, here’s the list of what I can remember.
Softball – Played it in summer leagues when I was in elementary school, but never made it past two summers.
Volleyball – Played in middle school and didn’t go further.
Basketball – Played in some elementary (I think I started in 5th grade) years and had high hopes of being the first woman in the NBA. I quite after 8th grade because I stopped growing and didn’t feel I was coordinated enough to play any position other than Center….not exactly big enough for that position at 5’8″ish.
Soccer – I showed interest in this sport for exactly 1 practice during my Junior year of high school and then got Mono and couldn’t finish the season. I never went back.
Crew Team – Somewhere in my college years I joined the club crew team and that was a disaster on it’s own. I found out that I was nowhere near coordinated enough to row competitively and also not equipped for getting up at 4am for practice…in Iowa…in the middle of winter.
I can’t think of any other sports that I’ve attempted and then quit all together, but I have quit many races for various reasons. Usually it involved me not training properly (at all) as a child (under high school age) and then attempting to go out and run a 5k. Four races in particular stand out to me and they were all multi-sport events for which I was “finished” without wanting to quit.
Junior Nationals Qualifier – Kansas – I want to say it was the summer of 1996 when I performed so awesomely in triathlons around Iowa that I earned the right to travel to Kansas and compete for a spot on the Junior Nationals team. It was a long shot clouded by the fact that, again, I wasn’t giving training my all. Like I have said before, I have been blessed with a genetic ability to recover quickly from events, but that doesn’t prepare you for the events themselves. This is a less I’ve learned now, but had yet to learn at the time. The race day was a grueling hot one and the event was what is now referred to as an Olympic Distance Triathlon. I remember the swim was easy and the bike was without shade. At that time in my life I refused to eat before any event and was struggling to down Gatorade and water throughout the ride. I remember looking at the people in the back of the ambulance and them asking my name….while I was still on the bike. The next thing I remember is being under a tent with an IV and bags of ice packed into every crevice of my body. I also remember my friend Dave running around trying to find his dad and my shorts.
Iowa’s First Ironman, Pigman – Palo – By the summer before my Senior year of high school I was a “veteran” triathlete and had also completed three (was headed into my 4th) seasons of double sport competition for school. In Iowa women’s swimming and cross country are both in the fall and I did both all four years. I attempted my first Half-Ironman triathlon that August on the same day as my Senior Swim Photos. The race started out great and I had been training all summer (as best I could while also holding down two jobs). I got off of the bike (56 miles) on a HOT August day in Iowa and my hips were swollen so much that I couldn’t really see my tri-bikini that well. My parents made the decision for me, as I hobbled around the transition zone, to pull me from the race. I could barely walk. In part this was due to a condition for which I had suffered since I was born (congenital hip dysplasia) and a leg length discrepancy that came from scoliosis and a very fast growth spurt in my early teen years. Biking has always been a challenge for my hips because the arm crank lengths force me to rock back and forth. I’ve even tried adjusting, but in a cyclical motion the crank always ends up too long at one point and too short at another.
Duathlon in the Middle of Nowhere – Ohio – During my Senior year of high school my college aged boyfriend and I traveled to the Indiana/Ohio border to visit his parents. I’m not sure I remember why we went there, but we did. On the way there we drove off of the road in the middle of the night and almost drowned my car in a construction site during a torrential downpour. However, we made it to his parents’ house and of the few things I remember from that weekend (I almost killed his mom because she had a peanut allergy and thought it would be nice to get a jar of peanut butter for me, but apparently you can’t leave it open in their house) participating in a duathlon I’d selected from the back of Runner’s World magazine and then failing to finish it was one of them. I can’t tell you much about the event other than it was a run/bike/run event and I again made it to the bike portion. My hip gave out on me so fiercely that I had to be worked on for an hour under the tents in order to walk to the car. This was a sign to me that things were going very wrong in my body.
Many years passed between that event and the next race that I quit. In that time I quit Tae Bo/Kickboxing and some other random fitness trends. I continued to run (although hurdles and I have never been the same since high school either) and to bike and to swim. I competed on my collegiate triathlon team and in a few triathlons and road races. I eventually finished the Half-Ironman in August 2004. I lifted weights and started yoga and Pilates. My body changed in so many ways. I got married, I became a degreed and certified fitness professional, I coached, I trained, I got divorced. I moved to North Carolina and after a bit decided that the old me needed a resurgence. This meant training for and doing triathlons and road races again. I started on January 1, 2009 with a plan to do an event every month from April-September.
I trained hard and through another bad relationship. I did a sprint distance triathlon in April and a fun 5k in May. I quit my job and planned to go back to graduate school. This threw a kink in my competing plans because I wouldn’t have the funds to do everything I’d planned. I rode 175miles in two days in June to raise money for MS. I skipped July and trained straight through to tackle that same Half-Ironman in August.
My third attempt at the event was going to be record breaking for me due to the amazing training I’d put in for the past 7 1/2 months. I drove home to Iowa from NC (after just meeting my husband) and prepared for the event. That morning my mom took me out to the course and stayed with me. The rest of my family was busy and I had no one else to ask to come and watch me. The swim was cold and rainy. The rain got worse and the wind blew. I was out of the water far ahead of schedule, but my pool time had stopped in May and I was really worn. I headed out to the bike and smiled as my mom took picks of me lacing up my tennis shoes. I was going super low tech this race and had borrowed a bike from my sister that was too small and had no pads on the aero bars. It was cold, but all I had was my tank top and shorts to keep me warm over the wet swim suit underneath.
The ride was another 56 miler and I headed out getting pounded by little droplets of water that felt like hail. My poor mom sat there at the race HQ waiting for me…in the rain. I was blown off of the bike 3 times in the first 14 miles. I looked at the skies and at the pick-up spot (one of the places you could ditch out on the race) up ahead. I thought about what this race was meant to prove and how my mom was just sitting there waiting for me. I pulled over, got off of the bike (willingly this time) and waited for my ride back to transition. My mom was shocked to see me there, but she realized that I was making this decision with a good head on my shoulders. We went home, got warmed up and changed, and later that day I went out and ran 8 miles. I didn’t complete the whole distance that day, nor did I cross the finish line, but I knew I could have had the weather been better.
I had every intention of coming back to that race the next year, but 9 months later I would be pregnant with my son, so it would have to wait. I won’t say that I have quit triathlons for good at this point in my life. But, I have found some things that are more important to spend my money and my time on. As you have read here many times, I still run, I still bike, and we’ll be talking about swimming in the future. I still exercise, but my goals have changed. I’m not a quitter, I just have different priorities for my training that don’t necessarily involve competition.