Today marks a year since my cousin Mona died. Tomorrow marks a week since I withdrew from Ironman Kalmar. It was not the first time someone close to me withdrew from life after struggling with brain illness. Last week was the first time I had withdrawn from a major race.
I struggled with the decision for a few weeks, as the deadline loomed to withdraw and still get a 50% refund. My main reason for pulling out was that I was going to do Ironman Kalmar because Mona lived in Kalmar, Sweden, and she always had asked me to do this Ironman as she and her kids would love to cheer me on. After her funeral I decided to do it in her honor, to bring awareness and discussion around The Elephant in the Room (brain illness), and to feel more connected with someone who had played a pivotal role in my youth; a cousin whose rebellious spirit and zest for life always reminded me that it’s OK, in fact it’s pretty darn cool, to be different.
However, when I signed up for Ironman in August 2014, circumstances were different. My daughter wasn’t going to private school (now she is), I wasn’t going to start a new business with a friend (InsideOutU.com), I wasn’t going to have several other commitments I have since happily accumulated, such as with The Avielle Foundation. But perhaps more importantly, grief is unpredictable and everyone handles it so differently. After Mona died, her dad, my Uncle Bertil, quickly succumbed to cancer, further burdening my family with deep loss. My gut told me that Ironman 2015 is too early. It is never my intention to increase my or anyone else’s stress, and if I went ahead with this Ironman and subjected my family to the intensity of the training all spring and summer, to the logistical complexity of the travel and the energy required (at least in their minds) by my Swedish family, to host us 4 for a few days, for a visit that is not exactly a carefree, touristy occasion – well, that would go against my mission and values.
After I withdrew, I joked with some friends that now I’m officially a quitter, but honestly, I never felt that way. When our gut is telling us that something is causing us stress, and it’s impacting or could impact those around us in a negative way, I believe that those feelings need to be acknowledged and examined. Two main things helped me decide once and for all to click on “Withdraw” – when I thought the whole thing through and gave myself permission to pull out, I felt a big sense of relief. I see this type of relief in any major decision as a sign that I’m doing the right thing. The other thing was that my friend Marni pointed out that sometimes when we make a decision, we do it in a certain context. However, the circumstances may change, and when we are presented with new information, the wisest choice may be to redirect.
I am still training in swim/bike/run/Poga though I’ve cut back on volume. I still plan to race regularly, and the documentary Running From Stigma is still going on. I am still training and racing and breathing in an effort to bring awareness and comfort to those who struggle with brain health issues or impact. My Ragnar Cape Cod team, Team Brainstorm, is working hard to spread the Avielle Foundation’s message in order to prevent violence, stigma, hopelessness (please click HERE if you'd like to donate $10 or whatever you can swing so we can meet our goal). I know that Mona loves the fact that we are not only talking about The Elephant in the Room but we are shouting from the rooftops, in a green tutu no less.
Just. Keep. Going.
Motivational coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.