While at Lake Temescal (a short jaunt out of Berkeley into Oakland), my sophomore year in college, I was about to do a Tuesday tempo workout with my triathlon teammates. We were stretching, talking about the target paces, how many loops around the lake we planned to attempt, etc. I turned to our lead female athlete, a legend on Cal Tri, and my idol at the time and asked her, “Do you enjoy racing?” She looked at me a little surprised (I assume this was less because of the question and more because of the intensity with which I had asked it– really wanting to know); she listened as I continued: “I mean I know you are GOOD at racing, your talents are undeniable – you’re an incredible athlete. But.. do you ENJOY it?” She smiled sincerely and answered as if it’s a question she already knew the answer too. “Yes. I love racing. Because when I race, I feel like I’m FLYING.”
I have pondered this response for the remainder of my collegiate racing and have continued to be entranced by it into my age group racing phase of life. This woman, an intellect, humble, talented, kind, and above all FIERCE, was our number one female athlete and the top ranking female repeatedly at collegiate nationals. Needless to say she had cultivated the ability to suffer and she was GOOD at it. (It’s an odd thing to say someone is good at suffering, but then again so is swimming, biking and running as fast as you can and hoping you don’t keel over — for FUN). Knowing this, knowing how hard she had to push herself, knowing how much it must have hurt (in spite of injuries I might add), she still enjoyed it. Amazing!
I’ve spent years since, especially on tempo days and especially on days I ran at Lake Temescal, repeating in my head like some kind of ritual or mantra, “I love this, I love what I’m doing, just a little faster and I’ll be flying.” I’d say it over and over with an inward smile as if a smile and that mantra would cast away any doubt, mask any shin splints, cure any migraine. Even when I didn’t believe it I would say it until I had convinced myself to no longer entertain stopping; until the only possibility within the realm of consideration was to push harder. It’s gotten me through some of my hardest workouts, most painful injuries, and seemingly impossible feats. Drawing inspiration from this person I watched from the sidelines overcome great obstacles with a humble fierceness. Drawing inspiration from an idea that I’ve turned into a empowering beacon of gratitude for what my body can do.
When I think about the races ahead of me, this weekend and this season – I have a lot of hope and expectation. Inevitably with that comes certain doubts and insecurities – and of course the inescapable question “why do I do this?” But then I remember, I remember that little manta (stolen and tweaked to make it my own); it’s in the back of my mind, a little voice urging me on: daring me to FLY.

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