We all have dreams. Some of us let them slip away because “life” just happens. Living in our modern world of go-go-go with family priorities, work commitments, running errands, and trying to squeeze in time to make a fresh meal – usually leaves little time to workout or simply “breathe.” Who are we kidding? That is just an excuse to never reach the best version of ourselves, or that goal we always wanted to accomplish. Years ago I had a dream to complete a Ironman triathlon. But that dream never became a reality due to excuses and not making my goal a real priority in my life. Now don’t get me wrong, we are meant to serve others before ourselves; but it is healthy to take time for ourselves to “breathe”, “pause” and “de-stress” with exercise and to strive toward that athletic goal you want to see come true. Having the discipline and diligence to cross a finish line will only help make you a better spouse, parent, work colleague and friend to others.
Back to that Ironman goal. In 2010, after hearing the story of Rick & Dick Hoyt, known as “Team Hoyt” I was inspired to train for a triathlon. Team Hoyt is well known within the triathlon community and competed for years at the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. A full Ironman triathlon race consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 marathon run. A 70.3 Half Ironman consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 half-marathon run. Considering I hadn’t swam since I was kid, and definitely had not been on a bike since college, this was looking more and more like a pipe dream. For a year I would dive into every triathlon resource known to man – books on running by the legends like Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, Chris Cooper and Jeff Galloway; and training stories of the elites like Chrissie Wellington and Craig “Crowie” Alexander. I had all the knowledge and resources to begin, but yet I made every excuse to not train. Heck, I’d sign up for a 10K and barely run a few miles before the race day. I would finish, but only feel defeated and embarrassed that I hadn’t committed as much as I knew I could have. This cycle would continue for years. Even in 2011, when I had the privilege to meet Team Hoyt at the Boston Marathon, I thought, “This is it! This will be the year to get to that triathlon goal!” But within weeks my training logs would be empty and no progress made. With the wealth of knowledge I had in triathlon training, you would think I was a professional athlete. But I had never ignited that athlete within.
Years passed by, and our daughter was born. You know, a funny thing happens when you become a mother. You start to view the world differently and all of a sudden your priorities are in check. You live to serve. You look into your child’s eyes and your heart says, “Dude, I’ve got to get it together so she can grow up with a stellar role model. So she can know that any goal is not too great, and she can achieve what she once thought was impossible.” All of a sudden that flame inside that was dwindling to a mere flicker was ignited to a full-blown wild fire. I signed up for my first sprint tri, hired a coach to keep me accountable, actually put in the hours of training and crossed that finish line with my husband and daughter cheering me on. Eight months later I crossed the finish line of my first 70.3 Ironman race. When I look back, it is almost as if they were meant to both witness that accomplishment with me. Everything had fallen into place exactly how it should have in perfect time.
I believe that we all have an athlete within us, waiting to be unleashed. When partnered with a plant-based lifestyle, our exercise goals are always within grasp. There are two men who have transformed my life into the athlete I am today: my amazing hubby, and ultra-athlete Rich Roll. I had first heard of Rich back in 2010 after he completed the “Epic5 Challenge – a odyssey that entailed completing 5 ironman-distance triathlons on 5 islands of Hawaii in under a week.” This past year, James Lawrence, “The Iron Cowboy,” conquered 50 grueling Ironman triathlons in 50 days. But Rich…he was the pioneer. After learning how he transformed his life and reach his Ultra-Ironman goals, I discovered how many similarities I had to him. I read his books, ignited that athlete inside, and never looked back. Life is funny how it plays out. My husband, a Lifestyle & Sports Medicine Physician, now speaks at national healthy-living conferences with Rich. When you are on your journey of becoming who you are meant to become, life hands you little blessings along the way that make your heart smile.
There is a quote I love and I’ve painted on my bedroom wall: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The paint sparkles surrounding my medals hanging on the wall from races over the years. It reminds me each day that we have the power to decide our future. We have everything within us to become who we are meant to be. Sometimes we have to just shut the brain off and simply do. Simply swim, bike or run to that goal. It reminds me that we are blessed to be able to move our bodies and compete in races that we are passionate about. Remember that it is never too late to pursue a dream or cross a finish line. So get out there and ignite your athlete within. God speed and I will see you on the roads!
– Tiffany Esser CPT