Finding Peace at Pleasant Prairie

Finding Peace at Pleasant Prairie

emily at pleasant prairie 2014by Emily O.

I knew as soon as I finished my first sprint triathlon in August 2013 that my goal for 2014 HAD TO BE to complete an Olympic distance triathlon. As I was in transition packing up my gear at the Naperville Sprint Triathlon presented by Experience Triathlon, I thought, “I could have kept going… I could do an Olympic.” And so my journey and life changing training began.

In October, I met with Coach Joe LoPresto and discussed my goals and training plan. It was clear that if I wanted to go about this the right way with no injury, no lack of motivation and constant accountability, I should be coached along the way. It also became clear a month or two later that I shouldn’t have waited so long. Whoever thinks having a tri coach for a sprint distance is silly or unnecessary, I would whole-heartedly disagree. But that’s another blog.

As I mentioned above, one of the great things about having a coach is the accountability it provides. Just because I had a moment in the transition area after my first tri does NOT mean I would have the motivation, direction and perseverance to train as well as I did. The accomplishment of finishing my first Olympic distance triathlon at Pleasant Prairie was SO much more than that day alone. It was all of the small goals I met along the way. Each workout, each new distance, time, mile or elevation was an accomplishment, and that’s really what it’s all about.

So I trained, trained, trained. I swam, biked and ran, swam, biked and ran.

In the days leading up to the race many doubts crossed my mind. As a side story… the first 5K I ran without walking at all, my boyfriend, Kyle, told me right before we crossed the start line, “Physically you can do this.” It was the same thing with the Pleasant Prairie triathlon. Physically I knew I could. Mentally was another story.

On the drive up to Wisconsin, Coach Joe and I had a lengthy conversation about how I was feeling. I was fixating on the mental side of things. Coach sympathized with me and said one of the hardest things for athletes to do is quiet our minds, but that’s what you have to do. Don’t think and analyze over it. Have confidence in your training and ability. Don’t think about the bike when you’re in the swim, don’t think about the swim when you’re in the bike. Stay in the moment, take it in and appreciate the experience.

That evening before I met fellow ET athletes for a team dinner I called one of Kyle’s and my closest friends, Tommy, to wish him luck as he was being deployed to Jordan on race day. He told me his orders had changed suddenly and he was leaving for Iraq instead. After some initial shock, then crying for a bit I realized that of all the things in the world to have to prepare yourself for the following day, Iraq trumps them. In that moment I truly let go of the mental anguish I had been feeling and focused on how lucky I am to wake up the following morning and participate in a race I WANT to run because I live in America and I am free. It’s a true blessing to physically be able to participate in a race of any kind. Our best friend is now overseas and waking up everyday to the unknown. He is serving a purpose much larger than anything I’ve ever known. I am honored to use his determination as a motivator every day, during every workout and now during every race.

I am participating in my second Olympic Triathlon this weekend, Lake Zurich. Tonight, just under a week before the race, I have a calm mind. I have confidence in my training. I know I can physically accomplish the race. My goals are not based on finish time or placement. Instead, I am striving to stay in the moment, be thankful for the ability to participate in such a race and above all, embrace the Experience. These are the things I’ve learned and these are the things that make me coming back for more.

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