I’m not writing this to get sympathy, but for the out-loud processing this blog has become for me. It’s been a very tough week. Monday was all sunshine and happy hours and productivity and friendship; from then on, spoilage.
To summarize a bureaucratic, complicated story, I’ve been waiting for a work visa renewal since last July. Legal aliens, such as I am, cannot re-enter the country unless their status is up to date, and so I cannot travel outside the U.S. until it’s approved. After missing Christmas in Canada with my family because of this, I submitted the necessary documents in early January and my lawyer assured me we’d have an answer by early March. The date came and went. Immigration told us to wait another month. I am supposed to fly to South Africa on March 31st.
It’s a waiting game where you have no allies and all you can do is throw empty hope at the sky and congressional offices and friends in high places in D.C. And then wait some more.
In short, there’s a good chance I won’t be racing Ironman South Africa. A race I’ve been thinking about and dreaming of and training harder than ever for. The news came in the middle of this week’s four-day rest period, and so my energy levels were already low. Thank goodness for yoga, massage and easy runs on the beach to clear my head, when the opiate of sweat and a pounding heart rate were unavailable.
The people closest to me keep telling me that my training isn’t wasted. I know they’re right, but it’s hard to see it that way. I am trying to focus on being grateful that I haven’t been seriously injured. That I’m safe and sound and healthy. But it’s a total mind shift. I close with an analogy that came to me randomly in a conversation, and that’s helping me keep moving forward. I hope it will help others in a similar position who stumble here.
Triathlon training is a lot like picking berries. You go row by row, working in the hot sun toward your goal, repeating the motions over and over, putting in the work. As the hours go by, your pail of berries begins to fill. That pail is your race-oriented training. Your stored fitness. You strive to fill that basket which you’ve got so many grand hopes for—hopes of fresh pies and achievements. But then there are the berries that don’t make it into the pail. The ones you pop into your mouth as you pick, the ripe, juicy, sun-warmed ones that make the whole endeavor joyous and worth it. This is the training you do for love. For being outdoors with your friends riding bikes and swimming in the sea and moving your body and listening to your heart pound in your chest. That you do to feel alive. And that training, even if your bucket tips or spoils or your pie burns, nobody can take away from you.
Over the next few weeks, as I hold my breath and cross my fingers so tightly they turn blue, training will be about enjoying more berries along the way, because the bucket is already full.
Update: My visa was approved later this afternoon. Who feels silly now? Thanks, blog gods.