Mind Over Matter
I tend to think of myself as a positive, mind over matter person. I truly feel if you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it, and when I set my mind to do something, I do it. This way of thinking was tested to the extreme leading up to ET Lake Zurich.
I will start by giving you a brief “readers digest” version of my journey thus far. I have four kids, I am a school librarian, and I am married to my wonderful husband, Jon. We moved to Geneva, IL from Iowa in March of 2008. The same day the moving truck pulled into our driveway to pack our house, I got the call that I had early stage breast cancer. Yep – 35 years old, four kids under 11, moving to a new state, and now the big C. My positive self was tested, but I just kept moving forward. We moved, I got the treatment I needed, and all was well. A big C diagnosis no matter the stage can sideline you and make you a victim, or it can propel you forward to make some changes in your life for the better. I chose to make better choices. I started exercising, lost over 40 pounds and was feeling great.
The thought of doing a triathlon was starting to creep into my brain. Jon had done a triathlon a few times and I always thought, “How fun for him. I could NEVER do something like that. I can’t swim.” And I really couldn’t. I flunked beginner swimming lessons and never went back. I could swim well enough to have fun in the pool, but I never learned how to actually swim.
I didn’t let that stop me. I did my first sprint tri in August of 2013, my second sprint a month later. The first one went fine. I loved it – I was hooked. The second one not so fine. The swimming was messing with my head. I started playing the tapes that said, “You can’t swim, why are you doing this? The lake is deep! There is wildlife in the water.” However, my mind over matter thinking took over, and I finished the race but it wasn’t pretty. Two weeks later, Jon and I met Coach Joe LoPresto. Best. Thing. Ever!
Unfortunately, cancer thoughts kept nagging and creeping in my brain. Because my kids were so little at the time I was diagnosed, we had just moved, and the cancer was early stage, I chose not to have major surgery. However, having cancer screening tests done every six months for years and basically planning my funeral the week leading up to the tests was not a healthy way to live. In January 2014 I decided the best way to manage the constant fear and strong possibility it could come back, was to have a double mastectomy.
Major surgery of any type can be quite humbling. I couldn’t lift my arms above my head for several months, seemingly mundane tasks were hard for a while, and swimming was out of the question. I never really believed that it would take a full year to recover, but it takes a full year to recover from that particular surgery. I used this to my advantage though, and started with a clean slate. When I got the green light from my doctors I started my triathlon training from scratch. With Coach Joe’s training plans and support, I clawed my way back, albeit slowly, into race mode. I had it in my head that I was going to do an Olympic Tri. It was the next logical step since I had already done a couple sprints. I signed up for the ET Lake Zurich Triathlon as soon as it was open.
Uh oh… the swim. The same tapes that stalled me at the last triathlon before surgery were the same ones that began to play in my head leading up to this one. “What am I doing? Are you crazy?” And now a new tape, “You can’t swim almost a mile in a lake, you just had surgery and couldn’t lift your arms a little over a year ago.”
Two weeks before ET Lake Zurich I was ready to bail. I thought to myself, “I’ll just say I’m not ready.” If you happened to see me at any of the Centennial Beach swim workouts on Monday afternoons, you too would have said, “Nah, she’s not ready.” Lots of tears were shed; I was mad at myself for even thinking of quitting.
I didn’t quit and here is why: Two people said some powerful things to me that got me into the water and through the race. Two days before ET Lake Zurich Jon said to me, “Chris – you can do anything you set your mind to. Leave those swim demons at the bottom of the lake. With each stroke you are pushing them down, and when you come out of the water they will be gone. I believe in you.” On race day, minutes from the start, Coach Joe came up to me, took me by the shoulders and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Chris – I believe in you. I know you can do this. Trust your training.” Through tears, I believed Coach Joe and Jon, even though I didn’t know if I quite believed in myself. My mind over matter way of thinking took over, and guess what? I DID IT! I completed the ET Lake Zurich Triathlon. Was it pretty? Nope. Was it a podium finish? Of course not, but it is mine! I did it. Crossing the finish line to the cheers of the ET crew, and the biggest hugs from Jon and Coach Joe was simply amazing.
My hope is that if you have a goal that is so big and scary, whether it is a sprint, a 5K, or the Ironman, that you are able to overcome the gut wrenching fear, trust your training, and leave your demons at the bottom of whatever lake you are struggling with.