What made me decide to take on the 2014 Weihai ITU Long Distance World Championships? I can speak of a few obvious reasons, like the fact that I qualified, which isn’t something that happens everyday. I raced at EPIC Dartmouth’s iron-distance triathlon on June 30, 2013, which was a qualifying event. There are only a handful of qualifying events and it’s pretty cool that we had one right here in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. I knew this but didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it as all I ever wanted was to complete an ironman-distance triathlon (3.8km swim + 180 km bike + 42.2 km run) under the cut off time. A typical ironman-distance triathlon event gives you 17 hours to complete the race but EPIC Dartmouth’s was only 15 hours. Last year I had 10 km left to finish on the run when they came and told me I had to stop as I wouldn’t make the cut off time. It was heartbreaking, a whole year of training to achieve a dream, I was so disappointed in myself. My first mistake was not wearing a watch. My second mistake was racing with an injury. I had fat pad heel contusions and even walking was painful. It was tough and it took me 6 months for my feet to recover after the race.
Anyway, two weeks after the race, I signed up for EPIC 2013 as I’m stubborn and determined. When I want something, I go after it, and quitting is not in my vocabulary. This time my goal was about not just finishing, but to finish strong and with no injuries. The last thing on my mind was trying to qualify for the Worlds in China. Actually, I had told Justin (my boyfriend) and my dear friend/training buddy/support person for EPIC 2013 to NOT allow me to do another ironman-distance triathlon again. It’s a lot of work! A lot! And then to add fundraising into the mix. Crazy!
The day arrived and I was ready for EPIC 2013. I did it – I am ironwoman, and proud to say I am the first female from Lunenburg County to complete such an event. After the race was over, I didn’t even know I had qualified for the Worlds. All I cared about was completing my goal and I that I did indeed, finishing in 13 hours and 44 minutes, sprinted the finish line without one single limp, cramp, or injury of any kind. I had a really fast recovery, back to normal in no time. It wasn’t until several weeks later when I was in Cape Breton that I received this message in an email from Tim Chesnutt, EPIC Race Director:
“Hello Tammy: Congratulation on finishing top in your age group and qualifying for a spot on Team Canada at the 2014 ITU World Long Course Championships in Weihai, China.”
I remember a feeling coming over me when I read this email. I clicked on the link in the email and there was my name on the webpage as 1st female finishing in my age group, 40-44. I had two thoughts “holy shit, really?” and “uh-oh, I thought I was done with long course triathlons.” Now I had to make a decision. First I talked to Justin and of course he said he would support me but that I needed a valid reason to do this event, and not just because I qualified. He wanted me to dig deep and think about this, especially with starting up a new business and spending the last 2 years of my life training to compete in two ironman-distance events while raising money for PRO Kids, not to mention everyday life such as being a mom, looking after my home, etc. That’s a pretty full plate. Justin asked me “why is it so important for you to do this event?” I had to think about this…
I called my family, of course they said “DO IT!” Then I sent the email to Liane and she writes back “GO FOR IT!” After thinking about it for several days, I realized that Justin, my family, and one of my best friends would support me AGAIN. That’s huge, but I wondered if others would too. Are people getting tired of me yet? The thing is, I can’t do this event without fundraising. It’s going to cost me probably between $4000-$6000. The airfare alone is about $2500-$3000. My registration was over $800. It’s not a cheap undertaking and I have never in my life been outside of Canada. It’s scary when I think of all this. I decided to make an announcement on facebook to see what others thought. The response was incredible! I felt inspired. So many people said they would gladly help anyway they can, and ever since I mentioned it that day, people are still saying the same. I haven’t had anyone yet tell me that I should not do this. This made me realize that the goal of competing at the Worlds in China actually can become a possibility.
So the first two reasons – qualifying for China and knowing that I have the support I need to do it behind me – made it easy to say yes. The more complicated answer was the one that Justin asked me: “why is it so important for you to do this event?” I had to dig deep into my soul, I needed my own time and space to think about this. Its’ been since July that I’ve known about qualifying for the Worlds and it was only Sept 24th, two days before the deadline to register, that I made the final decision to go for it. For the past 2 months I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching to answer Justin’s question. Here are is my response:
As a child, a teenager, and as a grown woman, I have experienced some traumatic things in life. It took great efforts to heal, and I’m still healing. I probably will be healing for the rest of my life. But I’d rather look to ways to heal myself than to live in misery, shame, guilt, and unhappiness. If you know me, you know that I roll as a ball of positive energy trying to bounce off the good things in life. Lucky for me, I realized early in my life that I did not want to travel a miserable path of daily mental torment. Life is hard enough as it is. There were two directions I could go – up or down. I decided to climb up. At age 22, when I become pregnant with my son, I had to face things head on. Reality hit and it was tough! However, that initial hump, that really was a mountain, I actually climbed over, and it wasn’t easy, the hardest thing I could ever do, and that was just the beginning. I’m glad I did it. It made me strong. It made me determined.
From then on, I started my journey, growing stronger as I conquered each obstacle, climbing each mountain. It takes an enormous amount of effort, courage, and determination to make change in your life. Unfortunately life-changing journeys are not smooth either. Is it ever smooth for anyone? There have been huge ups and downs throughout this journey and sometimes I’d get lost. However, somehow I was always able to pull myself back and each time I would learn so much about myself and what I’m capable of doing. I think the main driving force to change was my son, Tyler, and the desire to be happy. I want the best for Tyler, always have, and even though I didn’t always give it to him, I had to keep trying. Giving up was not an option, no matter how much effort it took to keep going. If I didn’t keep making changes, I was going to become something that I would hate. If I hated myself, how could I find happiness, and if I can’t find happiness then how could I ever be the best that I can be for my son? For myself? Right now, where I stand today, I can honestly say I feel like I have become an incredible role model for my son. To say that outloud makes me happy. It’s a win-win!
This journey I am on is opening my mind to learning about life, myself, others and new experiences. I am learning the art of listening, accepting good advice, admitting I have weaknesses, avoiding temptations, exercising control, and how to live in a way that makes me feel happy without guilt. There is a lot of forgiveness, a lot of soul searching, reading, and time alone. There is a lot of energy spent exploring who I am, which I believe is so necessary. I know that I have to step outside my comfort zone, I have to grab the bull by the horns and do the things I dream of or else I will just sit here and watch life go by. When I joined the Bridgewater Triathlon Club in 2007 and started racing, a whole new world opened up for me and my journey got even better. It wasn’t about shaping my body or losing weight but it certainly was about building self-esteem, confidence, achieving, and expressing myself through a healthy means instead of ways that were damaging me. I changed my outlook, I changed my scene, I allowed myself to explore things I was passionate about. I developed this attitude that things stay the same only if you let it be that way, and if you want change, it is up to you to make that happen. If you want to achieve, then believe in yourself and take the steps. Stop waiting, stop wondering, stop second guessing yourself and go after it!
So while I experienced some very traumatic moments in my life, I know that I always have a choice. I want to be everything I can be. I want to achieve great things. Competing in this world event, IS a great thing! Even if I don’t place high in my age category, it’s the experience I’m chasing, not a gold medal. Yes I will train hard, yes I will do my best, but my focus will be about doing it, going for it, representing the fullness of living my life and hopefully making many Canadians proud. Looking back over my entire life, it gives me great pleasure to stand here today and say that I am going to be representing my country in my age group at the Long Course World Championships in China in 2014. Really? REALLY? Yes…really! And I can only imagine the good things that will come from doing this. There is going to be so much to learn and so much I can share with others. So, there you go Justin…now you know why it is so important for me to do this event. Given all the words that I just spoke from my heart, how can I say no? I can’t. I have to do this. Competing in the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in China is a way for me to celebrate how far I have come in life.
I hope, more than anything, that I can inspire other women who have suffered hardships and traumatic situations in their life to gain confidence, get active, learn to love themselves, and gather the courage to change their situation to find their happiness. I hope, more than anything, that I can inspire young girls to stand up tall, take pride in who they are, speak out, and not let anyone push them down. I hope, more than anything, that I can inspire anyone else out there that is feeling lost, no matter how young or old you are, man or woman, that it’s never too late to change your life, to go after your dreams, and to become what you really want to be.
And I certainly hope that I am inspiring everyone to move their ass and eat healthy, EVERYDAY! Life is what YOU make it!