For Every Uphill, There is a Downhill

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I could write a whole blog dedicated to every single lesson that I took away from my Ironman 70.3 experience this past Sunday. However it is still very raw and fresh for me and I think it’s going to take me a while to recover, so we’ll leave it for another day. Instead I want to talk about one of the main things I realized across my 7 hour 43 minute journey, and how I think we can all take something away from it.


It happened the second I hit the water for the first segment of the race. I just didn’t realize it at first. I only felt a few things in this instance actually; 


  1. Immediate shock from the cold of both the air and water temperatures that literally took my breath away. 
  2. A rush of adrenaline that propelled me forward.
  3. An overwhelming sense of fear, panic, and doubt. 


As I was flailing my arms and legs, trying to catch my breath while attempting to also continue progressing forward, I wasn’t thinking very much other than “oh my god” and holy ****. But what came next were my natural coaching instincts. I just thought “okay, get to the first buoy.” And then “okay take a breath and try to calm down.” And finally “you came here to do this, let’s go.” All things I would tell our athletes in challenging times. 


The next thought I had was about all of the people who encouraged me through this process, my family who was waiting back on the beach for me to come out the other side, and our athletes whose strength is infinite. So I took a breath and took it one buoy at a time, and before I knew it I had made it, slowly but surely,  through the whole 1.2 miles. I ran out of the water stronger than when I had gone in, a new sense of confidence that motivated me to keep going. 


I finally realized it on the next stage; the bike. 


This was a 56 mile course that started with hundreds of feet of elevation across the first 10 miles, a cruel slap in the face to anyone (*cough* me *cough*) who might have been feeling confident after that swim. But for every uphill, no matter how slow I had to crawl up, or how much my quads felt like they had been lit on fire, or how hard I could feel my heart pounding in my chest… There was always that sweet, sweet relief of the downhill on the other side. That whip of the wind in your face, the blur of trees and houses out of the corner of your eyes, flying type of feeling that can only be found on the other side of something so hard it makes you wonder why you are doing it. 


For every uphill, there is a downhill. 


That’s the thought that popped in my head after the first and most challenging hills were out of the way. In my case, it was quite literal. As I conquered these hills I grew more and more excited for that feeling of relief on the other side. In knowing that if I could just push a little more, what I wanted and worked for was there waiting for me. And since I had so much time to think, over 4 hours to be exact, those literal hills turned into something much bigger in my mind. 


When we are faced with a challenge we are given two options; 


1. We can succumb to the doubt, pressure and anxiety that we sell ourselves. We can stop ourselves short of finding out what is on the other side of that hill. 


2. We can use it to fuel us straight to the top, and marvel in the glory on our way down. 


This rings true for everything in life, not just my hill climbs on the bike. If you are being faced with a challenge, you get to decide how you attack it. Everyone has hills in their life. Whether it is literally you running up a hill as you train for our upcoming 10k or Spartan event, or solving a frustrating problem at work. There are going to be uphills, there are going to be challenges. But for every struggle, for every challenge we endure, for every inch we conquer… there is going to be relief on the other side, that magnificent downhill that feels even better because you know you earned it. 

So challenge yourself, and embrace that challenge. After all, you may never know what you are truly capable of- until you try. 

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