come back

At the end of May, I completed a half-Ironman here in my home city of Victoria. It was my first long-course triathlon in 7 years. Sure, I did a few races in the interim. I tested my newfound mountain biking skills (and post-partum fitness) at an off-road tri 9 months after Felix was born. I jumped into a ton of local cycling road races. I lost my crit virginity (terrifying and exhilarating). I did a virtual half-Ironman during the pandemic. I won the Masters division at the BC Cycling Provincials last spring in the TT and Road categories. I did a handful of gravel fondos, including the Ochoco Gravel Grinder in Oregon in July and Burnt Bridge here on the Island in September.

But this was bigger. I invested more time, money, and energy into it. More work. More hope. More of myself.

Racing the 2022 BC Provincial Road Race in May, 2022 (1st, Masters Women)
I don’t have any good shots of the Ochoco Gravel Grinder (120 km/2,500 m elevation), so here’s one of Felix and I post-race, both with muddy, dusty faces.
The 120 km “Behemoth” at Burnt Bridge 2022 was tough as nails with 2200 m of elevation. (3rd woman)

Sadly, I didn’t make time to write about those other races. (Some pics above, for fun, and because I didn’t post about anything last year.) But when a friend asked if I was going to write about Victoria, I told her that I’d try.

Writing about endurance sports isn’t easy. It smacks of indulgence, egotism, and repetitiveness. And half the time I’m too tired to attempt a creative pursuit beyond concocting a nutritious meal for my family. It’s exactly the kind of tired I love, of course. But sometimes leaves room for little else.

My amazing supporters and training partners at IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria
Core team!

Sports writing doesn’t lend itself to poetry unless you’re Gay Talese or Andre Agassi. (Writing about triathlon even less so.) But there are a few shining examples. As Cormac McCarthy puts it in his novel Blood Meridian: “Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work.” I’m not sure I agree entirely, but I get the point. For me, triathlon is somehow both play and work.

This is what I posted on Instagram after the race:

It’s been 7 years since my last half-Ironman—which incidentally, took place on this very course long before I ever knew I’d call this beautiful island home.

And though in many ways it was just another race, I found myself feeling nostalgic this weekend. Metaphors of the full-circle journey were everywhere: I’ve grown and changed; lost and found love; become a mother; moved; discovered gravel cycling; lost touch and reconnected. Yet I’m the same person who fell for this nerdy, infuriating, and endlessly compelling sport 14 years ago.

And with yesterday’s wins and losses still fresh, I can say that it’s still in my blood. I don’t know yet whether this was a finale or a new beginning. Or something simpler perhaps—a homecoming of sorts.

Whatever it was, it’s good to be back.

Doing my best thing! (2:34:14 bike split)

A few weeks of regular life have gone by since typing those words. The daily life that is simultaneously magical and yet mundane, interrupted only occasionally by these mountaintop experiences—racing, traveling, getting promoted, falling in love, having a child. Only a few days went by until I was training again—skirting emerald lakes and darting up forest switchbacks in Whistler. Training is a lifestyle, a daily pursuit. It’s my choice of “exercise,” sure, but it’s so much more than just checking boxes.

When I put so much time and energy towards something like this, I can’t help but ask myself, why. Why do I keep doing this? (Because I love it!) Is it just routine? (No) Why do I love it so much? (Jury’s out) Am I trying to prove something? (Don’t think so) What am I giving up? (Jury’s out) And for everyone out there who balances this kind of training with work and family, is this sustainable? (Yes and no) Is this selfish? (Yes and no)

The best 10 meters of my day.
Third 40-44 Women. Total: 5:05:10 [Swim: 31:03 | Bike: 2:34:14 | Run 1:52:14] Bettered my time in all three disciplines from 2016.

I might keep asking those questions until my body refuses to do this damn thing anymore. But I don’t need answers; I have few needs, actually: Daily movement, excruciatingly tiny gains. Fresh air, discomfort, suffering, and the release that comes on its heels. The process, the structure, the discipline, the currents of motivation and fatigue. The mini project of each session, down to the tedious logistics. The connections, the friendships, the support and vulnerability of putting yourself out there athletically and saying I want, I can, I will do this thing. I might fail, but watch me work.

Maybe I needed that 7-year triathlon hiatus to build back the hunger I’d lost after my last few races.

I don’t have complete clarity as to what’s next. I worked really really hard for this fitness, and though I’m happy with my Victoria result, feel like I had more to give. All I know is that returning to this sport has been fun and satisfying. I’m grateful for a job that makes space for it, a body that lets me keep at it, and most of all, a family that celebrates (tolerates?) it, right along with me.