Tri Diva Reunion Event? Hell, yeah!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It is the Night Before THE Triathlon

It is the Night Before THE Triathlon
by Sally Edwards, National Spokeswoman, Danskin

The blend of energy and synthesis coming from the anticipation for the Danskin triathlon, especially if it’s your first, is only something that an alchemist could ever have cooked up. This recipe consists of a teaspoon of your embedded dreams, a cup of unharnessed excitement, a dash of dread, and the worry of what-ifs all blended together with that long list of gear, time schedules, sleeplessness, self-expectations, and overall - the optimism of the moment of arrival – the finish line.

This is normal. This is healthy. This is what all of us experience no matter how many triathlons finished. After finishing 77 Danskins, everyone since the Danskin Series started 14 years ago (and by the end of the 8 races this year my total finishes will be 85 races), I know better than anyone because I have felt the emotional power of the time before THE Danskin for all of these years. I still feel it every single day and night before every race.

The reason I capitalized that word – THE in THE Danskin – is because there is no other participatory event for women on this planet that resembles the one you are about to experience. The only words that can explain it are those that you say or write because it is an extreme personal event – it is personal to you and the storyline that you have created everyday living your life by the way you live it. It is the storyline of what it took you to get to the starting line of THE triathlon, one of the best in the world.

Right now, I suspect you are probably experiencing the day-before alchemistry, by definition the seemingly miraculous change of one thing into another, of fear and anticipation and wonder just reading this article. And I know what’s racing through your mind because it flashes in mine too the day and night before THE Danskin: what to eat; all this gear; how am I going to get to sleep tonight; what happens if: my bike has a flat, I have to walk, I can’t see the swim buoys; worry about the start; what will I look like; what if I see someone I know; what if I am last (you won’t be, I have volunteered for that finish place).

I like to imagine these fears as "stickies" that are hanging all over the outside of my new Danskin outfit that I hope you buy at the Shape-in-Motion Expo the day before each Danskin. I have written these thoughts on yellow sticky notes and post them from thoughts racing through my mind and into my heart. These are the stickies of fear and desire and they come from my inner self squaring off with reality of this very moment right now: what was I thinking – me, a triathlete?

If this is happening, you are talking to the monkey of fear who is on your back and feeding you with your own negative self-talk. Take a deep breath of air and keep shopping. Do that positive affirmation thing, hydrate, and have fun because if you are a first timer, this is your last day as a non-triathlete virgin. You are about to be initiated into the legion of swim-bike-run athletes and it’s a wonderful world to live in. I can guarantee that you are going to have the day of your life, close to one of those unforgettable days like the day you said to your partner, "I do". I know the power of this day because I have finished now behind over 100,000 women who did it just like you are going to do it. If they did it, you can do it.

I have one final tip for you. Rather than worrying about the start, focus on the finish. I want to share with you what happens when I focus on the finish.

Each of the 16-times that I have crossed the finish line of the Ironman triathlon and the nearly 100 times that I have crossed the finish line of the Danskin, there is always one last thought that appears in my mind. As I approach the finish line, say 500 yards away, I get ready for that moment when I enter the finish chute. I prepare myself physically and mentally for the moment. My ritual is to take off my hat and fix my hair by running my hands through it before I put my sweat soaked cap back on. I straighten my spine because the fatigue from all of those hours tends to shorten my height. You see, as the final finisher, it has been a long day for me.

I start each race by giving you each of you a personal double high-five and there are dozens of swim waves. Next, I swim with the last wave often zig-zagging swim with the last swimmer who has invented a new swim stroke that I call "the desperation" stroke. As I leave T1, the swim-to bike transition area, escorting the last cyclist in front and the police officer behind, I smile – this is the very definition of living the happiness. After I leave T2, the bike-to-run transition, walking with the last runner I ask my fellow final finisher and triathlete, "Why are you doing THE Danskin?" And the answer is always the same – someone told me I could do it and I didn’t believe them but they are right. I am about to become and triathlete and I am forever in debt to my friend for their belief in me."

Exactly three miles latter, we can hear the voice of Creigh Kelly, the Danskin announcer and that marks the time for the final preparation. After almost 5 hours from the first wave to the last finisher, through moments of joy, tears, smiles, hugs, high-fives, we see the crowd waiting patiently for us – happy that we are here and happy at the same time that they are not the final finisher. I take the hand of the woman I have been escorting all of these miles and holding our hands overhead waving at those who have waited so patiently all of these hours for us, we pick up our step, stretch out, and find the run steps that we have saved for this moment.

At that moment, I always have one last yellow sticky note that my imagination posts on my Danskin t-shirt and I write this one too with my mind’s words. This sticky note says, " I’ll be back". The Danskin is what life is about. It’s a marker. It’s that marker event that helps each of us individually and is part of a bigger part of life because it supports more than this race. THE Danskin is the kick-in-the butt for me to train each year to get healthier and stronger. THE Danskin is a fund-raiser supporting the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to help find a cure for cancer. THE Danskin provides a way to teach all of us the importance of mentoring with the Danskin Mentor:Mentee program (thank you Rebecca Yao, our national coordinator). THE Danskin shows me that women who have survived cancer, who have beat the disease, who train for the race of life and the race this day at the same time, Team Survivor (thank you Cathy Daldin, our national coordinator). And there are many more programs that support the women who do THE Danskin. You see, THE Danskin is a way for so many to be a part of the largest, the longest-running, and most successful triathlon series in America.

I’ll be back. You bet. And next, year I want you back because this is a marker in your life as it is in mine. We are both going to train to be fitter and healthier. Next year, we are going to bring our sisters, our aunts and mothers, our next door neighbor, and we are going to help other women friends get to this same line. The Danskin finish line is not the end, it is the start.

Sally Edwards, National Spokeswoman, Danskin Women’s Triathlon Series

1 comment:

The Love Collective said...

Just showing love. Great blog, btw.