This week I was ordered to take time off from training. Itâ€™s weird, but as soon as I finished my last race all I could think about was getting ready for next season. I just had what Mr. ITU calls a breakthrough season, but to me it seems like a lucky season. It was lucky that the chase pack at Treasure Island didnâ€™t catch me. I peaked two weeks early for Worlds and benefitted by winning Alcatraz, and if Cameron Dye hadnâ€™t been worrying about how he would ask Natalie to marry him at the finish line of the Amica Triathlon he may not have let me get away on the run. But Iâ€™ve always thought luck was way overrated, and certainly not an accident.
The real breakthrough this year was in my attitude. The past few years Iâ€™ve tried diligently to become a loner. To suppress the spontaneous, fun-loving, outgoing and silly parts of my personality because they arenâ€™t the head-down, single focused, â€œseriousâ€ athlete character that fits the paradigm of a successful endurance athlete. It all came to a head this year once I was living at the Olympic Training Center and for the first time had the opportunity to completely shut out everyone from my life â€“ to prioritize my training above everything â€“ including all my extrinsic sources of happiness. I trained my ass off, fought perpetual injury and illness and found myself alone, knee-deep in summer with an awful case of depression and no real hope for improvement. How could things get better when I was already living the â€œrightâ€ way according to everyone I looked up to and trusted?
Luckily, I spent my birthday in Seattle and realized how much energy and happiness I receive from the people who care about me. Iâ€™m not the quiet passive selfish athlete that Iâ€™ve tried to be in the past, and what makes me tick is not the same battery that drives my competition. Mental health, Iâ€™ve come to realize, needs to be the priority. I started the sport because I love competing, I love training, and I love the dedicated and methodical lifestyle. But in order to really enjoy triathlon, I have to balance that lifestyle by including education and friendship in my priorities. No more pretending to be a hermit. No more selfish, unbalanced, lifeless living. This year I learned to believe in myself and what Iâ€™m capable of, rather than pretending to be someone Iâ€™m not. I have the greatest support network of any triathlete, with great sponsors, a family that will stand by me no matter how crazy they think I am, and friends who have stuck around through some of the most one-sided relationships I can imagine. Iâ€™m not your average Joe, and Iâ€™m done trying to act like it.
So now my mind is buzzing. Iâ€™m taking my time off, but my body is twitching with excitement for whatâ€™s to come. After a few changes in my approach to the daily grind Iâ€™ve become a lot happier. Iâ€™m recovering faster from the hard work, excited for training, excited to be a professional triathlete, excited to be a student, to have people involved in my life, and to be entering the final season before the Olympics. And, yeah, luck seems to have come knocking on my door.