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Commentary: High-Fiving On the Way Out

Our outgoing editor-in-chief looks back on the lessons learned in triathlon and at Triathlete.

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Since it’s my last day as editor-in-chief at Triathlete and the last time I get to write whatever I want, I’m going to tell you about my best triathlon race ever. (Don’t worry, there’s a point.)

Punchline first: It was 2015 Ironman Wisconsin, I got second, and I spontaneously high-fived every single person in Madison that day. 

OK, now the lesson part: I picked IM Moo solely because my family lived nearby, I needed some kind of goal after finishing grad school and facing down the summer, and my gut said go for it. Always listen to your gut. After forking over my money, the one promise I made myself was that I was all in, going to do whatever my new coach said. And I did. I hit every interval, every workout, checked every box; the one workout I cut short in three months was when a kid pooped in the pool and I had to get out early—and you better believe I finished it the next day instead.

I was so ready.

Here, then, are all the things that went wrong going into the race: I crashed two weeks before and still couldn’t lean on my elbow in my aerobars (a fun challenge!); I lost a contact temporarily around the last turn buoy during the swim (I got it back!); I lost an increasing number of gears available to me as the race went on (but at least my derailleur didn’t fully break, which was definitely a concern!); I forgot the “special” method to opening my mom’s car door on the way to registration and couldn’t get it to close again (nothing like rolling up as the last person to check-in with your car held together via a bungee cord and the alarm going off all the way down the interstate). And to top it off, there I was race morning, in oversized thrift store sweats because I didn’t bring warm clothes, throwing up—a lot—over the side of a curb. The concerned couple next to me very clearly thought, “There’s no way this poor girl is going to finish.”

That’s it, my full list of excuses. But, as the race weekend and day went on, each of those things became something simply to focus on, solve, and move forward from. I actually believe I had the best race of my life not in spite of everything that went wrong but because of those things. It’s our mistakes that define us.

And all I remember now is how focused I was on each step and how much damn fun I had. I laughed all the way through the cheering crowds up the Helix into T1; I laughed when the people dressed as clowns stepped out of a cornfield; I laughed when another woman named Kelly and I led up the packed hills on the bike; I laughed when I realized I was in the top three coming out of T2 and got a lead cyclist—“Look, mom, I get a biker!” I yelled as I ran by; and I laughed the entire last two miles into the finish line, forcing high fives on every person lining the roads. And then I vomited again—a lot.

Yes, this is all really (not so secretly) sports as metaphor for life. But isn’t that why we love triathlon? Because of what it can mean. Working hard, making mistakes, overcoming stuff, achieving goals, having fun.

Being editor-in-chief at Triathlete for the last two-and-half years has been a lot like that race, like any triathlon—but with less vomiting. When I was hired a month before a global pandemic, there was no way to know what this race was going to be or what was ahead of us. There’s been a lot of adjusting the plan as we go, learning lessons, solving problems, relying on my team to get through things. It’s been all the things triathlon always is, and it’s also been a lot of damn fun.

There’s nothing like going to work every day with people ready to argue over whether Jan or Kristian would win (trick question; the answer is Gustav), if Lucy will be back in top running shape in time for Kona (probably not, but won’t it be exciting to watch), or if Ironman should give Flora a 70.3 Worlds wildcard (they should). There’s nothing like everyone loving triathlon as much as you do and always being willing to go all-in. And even though I’m moving on to the next race now (to extend the convoluted metaphor), Triathlete and the team here is still going to be everything triathlon is: solving problems, learning lessons, helping you overcome stuff and achieve goals, and having a lot of fun.

All that’s left is for me to force high-fives on all of you on my way down the chute.