Funny story: when I started this blog a year and a half ago, my intention was to write a new post every week. That plan failed after about three weeks. I then decided that once a month was much more appropriate/doable… until that failed too. Then I managed to go over four months without a single update on what turned out to be a very eventful summer. I don’t want to make any more empty promises by saying I will never let this happen again, but after struggling to condense four months of my life into an easily digestible blog post, I have a feeling that it won’t.
Shortly after my last post, I went to Austin, TX to race at the Paratriathlon National Championship. Dare2tri was once again well represented with 12 athletes proudly wearing the uniform. My class of above-knee amputee women had some new competition this year, and I went into the race honestly not knowing how I would stack up. The girls I raced against were indeed fast, but I was lucky enough to cross the finish line second only to my friend Melissa Stockwell. It was exactly the result I was hoping for, and I finished the race happy with how I placed and excited for what the rest of the season would bring.
After Nationals, I immediately jumped into final exam mode for the last time of my life (or at least until I get bored and go to grad school). And just like that, college was over. It wasn’t the dramatic ending that you would expect, but then again, my entire college experience was far from typical. After struggling to find my place on campus for my first year and a half, I eventually found my place outside the college bubble when I discovered the triathlon world. In my last two years, I spent so much time working, training, and racing that in a lot of ways, I felt like I had already graduated. While my college experience ended up being vastly different from how I thought it would be when I entered as a freshman, I am nonetheless grateful for all that Northwestern has given me, and for how it is shaped my last four years.
The day after my last final, I returned to Boston for the second time with the Semper Fi Fund. While my first visit included a large group from the Fund, this time it was just me and my friend Bobby, a Marine and fellow amputee. Bobby’s aunt, who lives in Boston and had become the hospital’s most regular visitor, organized a jam-packed schedule of visits for our 30-hour trip. By that point, it had been almost two months since the bombings, so many of the survivors were either in the rehabilitation hospital or being transferred home. Thus, this second trip was even more fulfilling for both the Bostonians and us. Psychologically, they were in a much better place to talk, and because many of them had gotten a taste of what life would be like at home, they were ready to take the practical advice that would have been premature in April. It was amazing to see some of the people that I met during my first visit and to see how far they had come in such a short time. I was also able to meet some new people who gave me chills with their recollections of Marathon Monday, and inspired me with their hope for the future. One of the coolest things was seeing how close the dozen or so people who had lost limbs had become. In a matter of months, these people went from being complete strangers to a second family, and were now stopping by each other’s rooms, calling to check in, and sharing advice with those who were farther behind in their recovery. It really goes to show you that even in the worst tragedy, there is a silver lining, and that the goodness in people always does prevail.
One of the highlights of my summer was the two weeks that I spent at my favorite place in the world—One Step camp. I spent the first week with my beloved 11 and 12-year olds in the Stepping Up program. I’ve been a counselor in this group for the last two years, and my favorite thing about them is that as long as you act excited, you can get them pumped about absolutely anything. (True story: we once entertained them almost TWO HOURS with a hula hoop contest. You would think these kids were watching Game 7 of the World Series, but I promise you, it was just hula hoops.) During the second week, I was a counselor in Watersports, a program of 13-16 year olds that centers around, you guessed it, water sports. We spent the week kayaking, paddle boarding, water skiing, and just enjoying each other’s company.
Usually coming home from camp is met with a very serious condition known as post-camp depression (characterized by neglecting friends at home because “they’re not camp friends,” locking oneself in a room to look at camp pictures for hours on end, and crying upon hearing the first three notes of “That’s What Friends Are For”). But this year, my PCD symptoms were dramatically lessened, because right after returning from camp, I transitioned into my real world job at Children’s Oncology Services, the nonprofit that runs One Step camp. I’m currently working out of their office in downtown Chicago as the Development Coordinator. Though I was an intern at the office prior to coming on full-time, it’s still been very much an adjustment. But I am extremely lucky not only to have a job out of college, but to be doing work that I care about with people I enjoy.
Of course, through all of this, I have still been training daily and racing when I can. I am still running the Chicago Marathon for Team One Step in October, and have made it to 13 (.1!) miles while still feeling great. I’m admittedly a bit behind in my mileage, but I’ve spent the last month or so focusing on shorter, faster runs in preparation for the Paratriathlon Worlds. Training-wise, it’s been a bit of a tough summer. After making some big gains in early spring, I started to see my times plateau despite the fact that I was training more seriously than ever before. It was all stemming from a bad mental state, but it ended up impacting my physical state as well. I’d always said that I would only continue with triathlon as long as I loved it, and while I was still loving the three disciplines individually, I was not loving the stress, the drama, and the pressure that came with it. I really started to question my future with the sport, and began to wonder if all of this was really worth it.
But here’s the funny thing about training funks—they really do make you stronger. After a couple bad months, I finally pulled myself out of it, and things slowly started to improve. And then at the end of August, all the bullshit became worth it when I had the best race of the season at the Life Time Chicago Triathlon. It was one of those perfect races where everything goes your way, and you end up falling in love with the sport all over again. And after a summer riddled with training lows, that day was a reminder of why I do what I do. That race not only reinvigorated my love for the sport, but gave me a huge confidence boost going into my next big race. It’s the race that’s been on my mind all season—the Paratriathlon World Championship in London, England.
And that, I suppose, brings me up to the present. I am leaving for London on September 9th and will race on the 13th. With a week to go until race day, I am now embarking on the most difficult phase of training: the taper (read resting up and not doing anything stupid). I have a feeling that this could be a real breakthrough race for me, so I am trying my best to remain relaxed and focused for the next week. I trust the training I did, am confident in what I can do, and am excited to see how the race will pan out. I will post a recap on Worlds later in September, but your best bet for any updates before that is good old Facebook.
So that’s my summer in a nutshell. I admire your attention span if you actually read this entire thing. I would really like to be more like you.