“So, did you win?” My friend politely asked after noticing I had returned from a 5-day hike.
“Err…. No that wasn’t the purpose of this event” I replied a little taken aback.
“Oh, really. Wow, well that must’ve been something totally different for you then”, they remarked.
And in a way, they were right.
Retiring from professional Ironwoman racing over 15 years ago has been an interesting learning curve. Admittedly and to an extent, I have kept the competitive flame alive with an Australian short course adventure racing title, and a few Australian stand-up paddling titles since having children. Do I substantiate these successes by referring to these sports as ‘different’, a hobby, a way to keep fit by way of goals and that I’m not really returning to my ‘self’? Maybe… But I’m thinking there is another reason behind all this.
Coming from a sport that was largely based on individual performance, meant a lot of long lonely hours doing the extra 1%’s. The strive to grab any golden opportunity to improve my strength, endurance, nutrition, speed, skills or mental state was always high on the agenda. If I knew I’d dotted all my I’s and crossed all my t’s then this gave me the confidence to stand on the line knowing I could win. Ironwoman racing was my profession and job. Not only was there training involved, there was the physio, Pilates, media, sponsor and charity commitments. Others work 9-5pm, I trained three sessions a day, 6 hours a day, 6 days a week with the beach being my office – rain, hail or shine.
My will to win in the sport was very much internally driven. But one also of solidarity. I didn’t care to know what my competitors were doing, how much they were training, or what they were doing after we raced that day (socially).* I was there to do my job and that was to be the best Ironwoman I could be… And then to return to the privacy of home.
Sure, this led to me being called ‘aloof’ or anti-social on the professional circuit by media and fellow competitors – but something I chose to not let worry me. My thoughts were if I was doing something different to my competitors then this was mentally giving me an edge. In some ways, this rang true.
Requesting rooms on my own if we were interstate or abroad, avoiding breakfast at the hotel buffet and going out to dinner with my coach and the tight-knit group of training friends was common. What if someone saw a weakness, my nerves or emulated the way I mentally prepared for races? I didn’t need to fuel rumours or my ‘left field’ intricacies so it was best to remain to myself.
At the time of retiring (age 28), I was still at the top of my game – but my heart wasn’t in the right place. There was a strong pull to jump off the elite athlete merry go round and experience life without pressures. Finding motivation was never a problem – but the energies required to lift me for each event and compete to fulfil an expectation was an empty bucket.
Retiring from the sport has been a process. A process of allowing others to enter my life. I now don’t view everyone as a competitor, or someone that is going to judge my every step that comes with being in the spotlight. There has been a shift towards feeling enriched in my life through friendship, inspiration and conversation, plus now helping others through my experiences and learnt knowledge as a Nutrition and Health Coach.
The feelings of enjoyment and being in the ‘moment’ that I once felt when I first began competing as a 15-year-old have returned through new experiences, self-discovery and adventure (without the devotion to be the best). I have come to understand the reason I have remained active is through chasing new challenges – not competition – just committing myself to things that make me feel uncomfortable and going through the necessary steps to complete the goal. Whether it’s travelling to Bora Bora for a waterwomans event, joining an amazing group of people on a LifeChanger challenge, or simply planning a 2-week motorhome holiday around New Zealand with my family, It’s the allure of adventure that’s the draw card.
Competition has new meaning. The tide has turned with a desire to support others achieving their own dreams now bringing fulfilment to my life. Watching my children participate in sport because it brings joy and self-fulfilment without the need to win is something I get. I really do.
When life slows down, magic happens. This comes with an enjoyment to bask in the small things that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. This becomes more clear each time I join a group of amazing humans on multiday physical challenges that support and raise funds for the LifeChanger foundation. With the massive vision of the foundation to afford every young Australian the opportunity to develop a healthy personal identity, empowering them to live their best life through mentoring and youth camps. Yes, I am out of my comfort zone, and yes, it feels foreign, but I also knew that this is what life’s all about. Stepping outside the “well-known” comfort zone, sharing experiences with others and learning and growing from new challenges. Simply put, there is more to life than judging yourself on your successes in sport.
Life is too short to live in repeat. Discover the most wonderful pockets of the planet you didn’t know existed and live a purposeful life without limitations. Chase your ‘other’ dreams because once they become realities life is so much sweeter.
If I’ve got your juices going after reading this post or my west coast adventure and you would love to join us on another LifeChanger Challenge, now is the time! Register your interest now for the upcoming LCC#4 – Lord Howe Island Exclusive Experience in September. With spots limited to a small group be sure to secure your place as I think only 2 spots remain at the time of writing!
* This was easily achieved as there was no such thing as Instagram or Facebook!