Personally, 2018 has been an interesting and humbling year for me. I’ve experienced some very, very low points and some incredible high points. Publishing my book, Swim, Bike Run, Happiness: My Journey to Overcoming Depression, as well as finishing the extreme-distance triathlon, Project DM, are probably two of my biggest personal accomplishments from this past year. However, on the other side of the highs are the lows, and they left me with some important lessons, most important of which is a new appreciation for what it means to ‘surrender’.
I do not mean surrender in terms of giving up, but rather as a means of surrendering to life’s current situation and doing the best that I can in the moment, regardless of what I am having to deal with.
It started when I got sick with mono in November of 2017. For those who have had mono, then you know it can be ruthless as the fatigue from this viral infection can last for upwards of a year or more. I was lucky and only experienced the horrendous fatigue for three months. It was a very tough three months being frustrated to no end with my inability to control my body and how it felt, but I came back strong and had a great couple of races to kick off my 2018 triathlon season. I placed 1stoverall and won the Bartlett Lake Sprint triathlon, posted a time I was very happy with at Ironman 70.3 St. George, and then was able to successfully finish Project DM, and extreme-distance triathlon that spanned 2.4 miles in the water, 126 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing on the bike, and then 36 miles or running/hiking to one of the highest peaks in Arizona. That finish was made even more special as I had tried and failed to finish it the year prior.
Then in mid-September, I came down with a weird post-viral infection that again wiped me out for three months. It was basically like having mono again, except this time I felt even more helpless as no doctor could tell me exactly what it was or how long it would last. The frustration during this time was almost unbearable. I had been feeling incredibly fit and ready to tackle Ironman Arizona, only to be left nearly incapacitated and struggling to stand up out of bed without feeling winded and lightheaded from the fatigue. However, despite my seemingly endless frustration and lack of answers, I learned of an important lesson that I never wanted to accept, but that hit me like a freight-train while listening to a podcast featuring Mark Allen, 6x winner of the Ironman World Championships back in the late 80’s and early/mid 90’s.
A few weeks back, while commuting to work, I listened to him speaking on this podcast show intently, soaking in his every word as gospel as he had ‘been there and done that’ to just about every extent possible in the world of Ironman-distance racing and coaching. He mentioned that one of the most important lessons he had learned during his career as an athlete was that of surrendering to the moment and doing the absolute best you can with what you have been dealt.
This hit home with me big-time as I had basically been fighting my every waking moment of existence for the past three months trying to figure out why I was sick, what caused it, when would it end, how much fitness I would lose, when I would be able to move my body again without feeling like death, when I would be able to train again, when I would be able to race again, etc., etc. I had the hardest time accepting the situation I had dealt and had certainly not handled it the best that I could have. I was still able to be productive in my day-to-day living and take care of what need to be taken care of, but I moped around and felt sorry for myself almost every minute of every day I was sick in the three months prior.
I had been told a million times to ‘live in the moment’ and to ‘do the best I can do with what I’ve got’, but for some reason hearing Mark Allen say it, and to say it in exactly the way he did as it related to triathlon, it finally hit me. I’m not one to believe that things happen to us for a reason, but rather that we have the responsibility to give life’s somewhat random events and occurrences our own meaning as they happen to us. I could choose to be pissed off and resent the situation I had been put in for many, many years to come long past my recovery from the illness, or I could choose to attach some sort of meaning to it. I’m glad I chose the latter.
Sure, I can’t claim to be perfectly equipped to deal with all of life’s future happenings and that I have mastered the ability to surrender. However, at its core, it’s not about walking away from the ups and downs that I experience being ever-molded into a perfect being, but rather understanding myself just a bit more, and understanding that it’s OKAY to not be okay, and that this understanding can lead to acceptance, surrendering, and growth in all areas of life.