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Speaking my language

May 17, 2012

I opened Chrissie Wellington’s book expecting to read about Ironman. I expected her to reinvigorate me about the race, draw me back to it and inspire me all over again.I expected to read about training under Brett Sutton, about the feeling of being the Hawaii Ironman World Champion not once, twice but four times. I expected to be brought to tears by the feeling of winning.

What I didn’t expect was to open a book to read about someone with whom I resonate very deeply with in two areas of life that are not related to multisport. Eating Disorders and our work. As I read her words that detailed her thoughts about what it was like to live in the mind of one with an eating disorder I thought to myself…. exactly, she is articulating it exactly as it is.

I read the thoughts of a woman who has been there like I have and who understands the battle and who understands the shame and the feelings that you have when this is actually the world you live in. It was like she opened my head and read my mind. That battle of perfection, that self-created pressure of competing against yourself, being your own harshest critic and expecting nothing except 110% of yourself. No one in eating disorder world ever speaks of that. And that’s where it is and what is true. Those of us who are fortunate to have found recovery get that, understand that and we feel that we owe it to those who we hurt through it.

As you travel through your life and come into the presence of people who would do anything to have the health you once literally flushed down the toilet, you notice a deep and insurmountable desire to pay it backwards at the same time you pay it forward. Their lack of…. becomes your cause. Because you had so much and chose to treat it badly. Your obsession became your worst enemy and now…… you feel indebted to those who need the help you can give.

You give to them not for accolades. Not to be noticed. Not to become famous. You do it because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s one thing… as Chrissie says… to hand them a pen with your logo on it. It’s an entirely different situation to teach them to do for themselves.

I have always….. always struggled with that. For ten years I threw up and deteriorated my own health. When I was able to gain it back I embarked on this athletic career which has given me more than I deserve. What we do with that….. how we do it…… let me correct myself…. what I do with that and how I do it became extremely important to me.

This whole thing with Mr. Armstrong my main focus was the kids. It meant I had to do a lot of press but as long as we stuck to the issues we were on the good foot. It was inescapable that we had to embrace the star power and how it all happened. At the end of the day I slept well each night knowing that what we were doing and why we were doing it was because of the most authentic intentions. We raised over $61,000 in that experience and while the media hoopla has died down, we have kept on going.

Because we can give a teen a t-shirt and tell them it’s going to be ok. Or we can teach them the tools they need to make their own OK.

I found Chrissie’s book to speak to that passion for this kind of work, that lives inside of me. That feeling that isn’t guilt for what I have and someone else doesn’t, but that feeling that I can use my platform as an athlete and all the things I do to make a difference in my own way. Trust me when you are able to do that your biggest trophy is teeny in comparison.

Mr. Armstrong in his speech reminded us that we have to take care of one another. That we have to look out for each other. That we have to pay it forward. Chrissie emphasizes that as well, and daily I see more and more people embracing it. Some will always do it for the recognition they think it affords them or for personal gain. In my opinion, who cares the reason? If it helps someone then what happens in the end is that it teaches us to do the right thing and to be the right person.

This Sunday I will be walking with our Teens from TLC Fit in the Lilac 5K. When a friend heard I was doing that he asked me….. are you ok with a walk time in print?

I was almost offended at the question. He pointed out my competitiveness. He’s right. Absolutely, I am competitive. That is not a secret. I felt good, really good that the thought had not crossed my mind until he asked me that. This walk isn’t about me it’s realizing a goal that we at TLC Fit set together on my birthday in January. The first night of the program.

That night we said that we would complete the Lilac 5K in May. There are teens who can’t run and trust me they want to. But they can’t. I will be with them. Not because I want to be seen doing that, but because on that evening back in January some of these teens didn’t believe me that they’d be able to do it.

And now they are just days away from it.

That… will be more rewarding than any Ironman finish line I have ever achieved.

Reading Chrissie’s book helped me feel validated in this endeavor. That it’s okay to use what you achieve to catapult something else. That it’s okay to repay what you did to your own health by sharing what you know with others. At the same time it’s okay to feel the passion that you feel for your sport and it’s okay to pursue your goals and dreams simultaneously. In fact do both together and have the most exhausted and rewarded feeling when you collapse into bed each night.

It’s an odd mix of passions but ultimately one that can go hand in hand. My parents have always taught me that when it comes to chasing your dreams that the rules don’t apply. As long as you are good to others and treat people right then the rules of what should be just don’t matter.

I highly recommend the book. Expect to be talked to about heart rates and wattages. Be blown away by the passion for making a difference. My challenge to you then, is to follow through with it.

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