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Be About It

CPC's Blog About Health and Wellness

Lost & Found - My Athletic Journey Through COVID

Wednesday, 9 / 16 / 20

2020 has not been the year that ANY of us were hoping or planning for. As a world, we were thrown and continue to be thrown new challenges that last year at this time could only have been imagined in a movie. A year ago I was finishing up a bucket list race in the Casco Bay Islands, and preparing for my first 70.3 Half Ironman in several years. A year ago I was mentally preparing for how, as an athlete, I was going to go after 2020. And all changed. 

For those of you who don’t know me outside of the walls of 175 Benton Drive, you can usually find me swimming, biking, running my way through Western Mass & New England. I’m always moving, trying to grab a few miles here or there. The bigger the better. And if I’m feeling extra jazzy, the faster the better. 2020 was going to be that kind of year. Big and Fast. After an amazing but physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting run at the IRONMAN World Championships in 2017, I stepped away from the thought of racing with such intent for a while. The thought of going all-in again was daunting. So, I waited until the time felt right. This year of all years was going to be the year. Ironman Louisville was on my race calendar. Additionally, I had received my first Boston Marathon qualifying spot for the race in April. 2020 was setting up to be a year of BIG races and BIG goals. Then the world stopped and my big plans were gone.

As an athlete losing is the thing I work so hard to avoid. I train day in and day out to gain one step or one second on my opponent. I move weights, push faster paces, and log hours of work when no one is watching so that I can give everything on race day. The competitor in me is always trying to find a way to continuously keep improving. I'll ask myself how can I be better today? While I type, I know I am not the only one that will be reading this that doesn’t ask themselves the same question. It’s what drives us. When your driving purpose is taken away from you by a coach’s decision or an injury it hurts but you find a way to process the loss. It’s normal. When all that you have been working for is taken away from you one race, one game, one season at a time your ability to cope and rationalize how to move forward is thrown for a loop.  It’s not normal. None of what we’ve experienced is. 

In the last six months, I have personally lost the Boston Marathon, not once but twice. I’ve lost my biggest race in years, IRONMAN Louisville. I’ve lost countless smaller races with friends and current athletes. I’ve watched the athletes that I coach and work with lose their attempts at so many firsts. First seasons. First Half Ironmans. First PR’s. First trip down Boylston to a blue & gold finish line. I’ve watched hours of work put in to build fitness and hone a mental game that is strong and resolute to only see it wash away upon the receipt of another race cancellation email. The bigger picture that we are all facing now is not lost on me. The necessity of the decision-making by countless race directors and athletic administrators takes precedent, but the loss doesn’t hurt any less.

As an endurance athlete my ability to “endure” and go to a very dark place in preparation for race day is what makes me good at what I do. It helps me outlast a lot of the athletes around me. This time of loss has given me a lot. As with so many other athletes, I had to make a decision, keep on moving or stop. I chose to keep moving and find the good.

This will be the year that we all remember for being downright awful for so many reasons. The collective “WE” have lost so much however I have found peace and joy in the things that I once took for granted. There may not be an upcoming race on the horizon but I can ride my bike like I stole it and love every second of it. I have found time for “more fun things” because I’ve always been too busy training with a purpose. I found more time to spend with friends and family. There is nothing that brings me more joy than blowing bubbles with my two-year-old niece. I have found that my friends are equally as crazy as I am and are willing to go on epic adventures enduring 100’s of miles in a weekend. I have found that my ability to go dark when in race mode needs to be counterbalanced by my closest friends who know and understand where I go and how to pull me back. I have found that while these last few months have been brutal there has been good in them too. Choosing to see the positive and make your own adventures however big or small is what has helped me find a way around the loss.

My story of lost and found may not hit the mark for everyone. It is my hope that within these lines someone has found a truth that speaks to them. I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on what you lost over the last 6 months, but more importantly what you have found. Choose to see the good and when things become uncertain...keep moving forward. 

TAGS: Motivation, Training
Sarah Kelly