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Getting It Right

By Christina Hammitt

All my life I never felt good enough. I didn’t have the right hair, the right weight, the right clothes, the right timing. It was always an uphill battle—one I never seemed to master.

There were always hills, but those damn hills at Kensington Metro Park mocked me. I’ll never forget my coach saying, “We’ll know who has put in the work and who hasn’t.”

Round one: Not even half way up our first hill. I knew I was one of those people. I was late, had forgotten my helmet and didn’t dress appropriately. I never made it a third of the way up the hill. Sitting in the parking lot I cried.

Round two: I had practiced. I was on time. I had my helmet. I was dressed for the weather. I had done it right, but I was wrong. This time my failure was in front of other team members. Again, I left the park in tears.

Round three: My coach and I vs. the big hill. I started to go up. Then, I just stopped. I couldn’t do it. I’d go and stop. Go again. Stop again. Coach yelled, “Run the rest of the way with your bike.” Again and again, I’d start, stop and run. I was getting up the hill, but I wasn’t doing it right. Frustration became my friend.

storyRound four: I knew failure lurked at those hills. I had accepted it. Before our bikes hit the road, a fellow teammate told me, “Those hills are hard for everyone.” One pedal stroke, then another. It was going alright. I made it up the hills. Five loops. Five miles of loops. Every hill, every time.

Was I finally getting this right?

Ever since that day I tasted sweet victory everything else went sour. The thought of quitting haunted me. I justified every reason, but it was the last one which occurred the Wednesday before race day that anchored my aspirations. I was in pain, my head pounding. My body was fighting me. Besides, I just wasn’t ready. I didn’t have the body nor accounted for all the bricks. I didn’t have a calculated nutrition plan. I didn’t have a tri bike. Even my new tri suit ripped.

Looking around the expo, I thought, “What am I doing here?” I kept waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and ask me to leave because I didn’t belong. But no one did. In fact no one laughed at me. There were smiles and hugs and well wishes. Some checked my bike and even re-taped my handlebars without question. My uncle had even flown in from New Jersey and downstairs in the hotel lobby were teammates, friends and the best little 9-year-old making signs.

My ear plastered on a heating pad, I said a prayer. I thanked God for this moment and prayed for the strength to be a man of iron.

At 5 a.m., I survived the beach run-in. Then, the first wave hit. Lake Michigan was kicking my ass. Everything I had done right went wrong. I lost focus and form. I was sighting like a blind man. But, I just kept putting on arm in front of the other.

On the bike, the song sang a bit of a different tune. Slow and steady I just kept putting on foot down on the pedal at a time.

It was the run where everything went downhill. My legs wouldn’t move. I felt like I was a brick verses doing one.

“Just 10 miles to go, just 8 miles to go,” a voice said in my head. It was that 70.3 sticker speaking. And as silly as it sounds I wanted that sticker to be mine.

Starting the second loop, my attitude changed and thoughts of the sticker seemed stifled.

Just when I was on fumes physically, mentally and emotionally, I saw a fellow teammate running toward me. He didn’t laugh. He didn’t tell me I was a failure. The pain up my back was unlike no other, my feet were on fire and I felt like a gigantic gross blob but I wasn’t alone.

Coming into the chute, I was no longer the girl who wasn’t good enough. The impossible became probable, and I had never experienced such pride. It wasn’t about my hair, my weight, my clothes, my skills. This was about being as strong as iron.

To be honest, the entire experience is still all a blur, but I remember that moment standing there guzzling down my water, seeing the people there at the line. I just knew I had done something right. Perhaps it wasn’t perfect training or the perfect performance but I had found a place where I am accepted for who I am. I am valued for all the possibilities I have the potential in making possible.

The triathlon community is full of all the right people and all the right places and all the right timing. This group of athletes of all paces, races, shapes and sizes is unlike any other. It’s a place of competition and camaraderie unmatched in any other sport.

You cannot cheat in triathlon. There are no short cuts, no loop holes. There’s always a better bike, a better number on the scale, a better time to finish, but the journey is one swim stroke, one bike pedal, one step then another and another. It’s that way for everyone. I still cannot believe I finished a half-Ironman. I cannot believe what I found; a group of people who are dear to my heart. I found a place where I belong, a community where I am accepted, a chance to fail and the opportunity to succeed.

I finally became good enough to get it right.