Why I swapped my Ironman for sangria in Barcelona…

It can feel icky to go against the gain! Fitness is not linear and never stops yet it does change and can adapt to your circumstances if you allow it to.

In 2019 we returned to Europe from Australia. I entered an Ironman at the end of the 2019 summer for the start of the Triathlon season in 2020. This was my first European winter in four years. I obviously knew these winters well but now that I tasted the lifestyle of basically year-round outdoor training in Australia, it is hard to get excited about indoor training on stationary bikes, cramped chlorinated swimming pools and dark wet runs. I will gladly confess that I have become a softie 😊. To give me a bit of external motivation I purposefully entered a race at the start of the triathlon season with the aim to keep me training throughout the Winter months.

With mixed training success I ‘sort of’ did it/did enough to feel okay about the incoming event. However, we all know what happens next, Covid had other ideas! After my race getting cancelled and rebooked 4 times, it finally went ahead on Sunday 26th June 2022. A lot happened in those two years! And instead of me tattooing my race number on my calf on the night before, I was watching a fountain display in Barcelona and eating churros.

I never sold my spot in the ironman (this is a very expensive event!). Part of me was always hoping that if I could just stabilise my thyroid enough, my mental resilience could do the event as long as my body was healthy enough to cope with the event. Hopeful, but not very realistic 😛.

For those of you who don’t know, for the last year I have had a very unstable and unpredictable underactive thyroid. In a nutshell, it’s been a challenging year to manage my symptoms.

(I wrote a blog about it, if your are interested in Underactive Thyroid life!)

Last month it got confirmed that I have a permanent autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Disease. This means that my immune system is attacking and killing my thyroid, it will progressively continue to do this in varying degrees for the rest of my life. Upon finding out this news, I knew that an Ironman is not what I need right now.

My partner had to travel to Barcelona for work the week before the race, so I decided to fly out and meet him after I finished work on Thursday. We had such a great weekend! Instead of staying at home (to probably attend a pity party with myself), I was going to have an alternative weekend with lots of new scenery whilst supporting the event from afar.

My weekend in Barcelona had a perfect blend of relaxing at the beach, lounging around tapas bars, appreciating Gaudi’s masterpieces, sipping anything with ice in it to keep cool, plenty of swims and seaside dips, a sweaty hilly run and lots of quality time with my partner. I sent messages to the amigos racing throughout the weekend and kept updated on their Instagram. It was the perfect way to surrender to the situation yet support and cheerlead those who took up the challenge of the race.

It’s the first time I have entered a race and not showed up, and I’ve entered a lot of races…On Sunday I woke up and just sat with my feelings. I’ve been trying to meditate for just one minute every day. Being aware of my physical and emotional state before and afterwards whilst not judging it (or at least trying not to!). Yea, I know it might sound a bit woowoo to some, it’s only one minute of my day and I feel much calmer and centred with just this little moment.   

On Sunday morning I felt light in my body, an emotional response of sadness/mourning with this undercurrent of contentment. After one minute, the feelings are pretty much the same yet now I was ready to get on with my fun final day in Barcelona. We went for a run, brunched, explored a neighbourhood, had a beachy afternoon/evening and packed for our early morning flight. This was an awesome alternative. Of course I thought about the ironman lots, and I’m okay with that.  I didn’t feel this fomo or anger towards the situation or myself, just contentment, this was the right decision.

I would be lying if I wasn’t finding this blog cathartic to write. I’m actually proud how my mindset has changed (I say actually because it feels pleasantly surprising). This mindset is still a working progress but just noticing this progress within myself is a win, sure it isn’t an ironman medal but a win nonetheless.

Upon previously completing every event I ever entered, I chose to miss this one and raise my glass of sangria to the decision whilst genuinely supporting my sporty pals.

Sometimes the events you enter can all come together perfectly, other times it can be a struggle yet you get through it with relative degrees of success, and in other instances it just doesn’t happen. How you respond to the outcome is another topic because regardless, there are lessons in it all. I have learnt many new things from this ‘failure’. And I’m going to learn a lot of lessons in the future as I figure out how to manage my life (and activities) with Hashimoto’s Disease.

So this is a blog for those who made some decisions on their fitness missions which might have been difficult or went against the conventional grain. Maybe for those who had to adjust their lifestyle/hobbies around a condition or situation. Celebrate those who cross the finish line, celebrate your ability to step back and listen to the story your body is telling you. Your fitness journey is not linear!

Cheers Amigos!

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