Lessons in Adversity

Lessons in Adversity

While dealing with an injury that put a damper on the beginning of my season, I read something that stuck with me. “Adversity brings the character of people down to the level of their circumstance or up to the level of the challenge it presents.” It wasn’t until dealing with my own adversity that I understood exactly what this meant. I wanted to be able to say that I rose to the challenge, but I think at times I let it bring me down. So as I reflect back on my experience I asked myself two questions: 1. How well did I handle the adversity? 2. What valuable lessons came out of this experience?

For me, the most important one was…Stop Living in the Past! I have this picture of me running alongside a couple of very fast Purplepatch pro ladies at a training camp I attended in February, and I had considered it my best training session to date. I left there on a training high and with a lot of confidence to help carry me through the season, and then BAM! Twenty minutes in the gym left me with what was eventually diagnosed as sciatica from a herniated disc. There went my confidence! So, I put that picture on my phone, my computer screen and even on this blog. My intention was to use it as motivation to help get me through this injury and remind me that I would get back to that level of fitness eventually. The problem was that I’m not sure I believed I would get back there. Looking back now, I think it actually kept me from moving forward. I kept wishing I was that girl again, rather than being in the moment and focusing on what I could do now. Unfortunately, without even realizing it, I was living in the past.

Meredith Kessler, a professional triathlete for whom I have the utmost respect, kindly said to me, “the new Sarah is healing right now and will come back stronger than she was before.” And my coach, Matt Dixon, told me “The problem is that you are living in the past and it’s affecting your training today. You keep thinking about who you were in February (How did he know?:)) rather than what you can do now and where you want to be.” They were both right and it got me thinking. I began to look at myself and question how I was dealing with this bit of adversity. Did I handle it with the most positive attitude? Probably not. But I also didn’t let discouragement get the best of me and keep me from continuing this journey. I listened to the doctors, strengthened my back, did smaller amounts of training, rested as needed, and kept moving forward.

I certainly think there is room for improvement for the next time adversity strikes, but now I am more aware of how I view adversity. I see it as something I can learn from rather than something that is holding me back. I see now that if I want to reach my goals, I have to be well beyond that girl in Kona. As an athlete I need to continually evolve, and that means believing that each step I can take today toward my goals is what is important, not how fast I was running back at training camp in Kona.

So, as I write this, I realize that I have come a long way from where I was just four months ago when I couldn’t run a step. I have a whole new appreciation for not just how resilient the body is, but also how powerful the mind is when it comes to facing adversity. To actually have adversity “bring you up to the level of the challenge” you really have to stay positive and believe that you can overcome whatever it is you are facing, one step at a time and one day at a time. I am so fortunate to be able to do what I love to do again and to be back in my State of Grace.

Thanks for reading and I hope you are always living in the moment!!

I want to say a special THANK YOU to everyone who supported me throughout this process…My husband and #1 fan, Bret, thank you for never letting me give up on myself and encouraging me to do whatever I needed in order to get healthy as quickly as possible. My sponsor, Summit Orthopedics, for giving me the red carpet treatment when I needed it. My coach, Matt, for the tough love and belief in me. A great mentor, MBK, for the constant reminder that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Dr. John Ball for the Starbucks and lunches, oh and the tears of joy!:) Dr. Chris Matock for your positive energy and keeping me on the path to recovery. My dear friend and PR gal:), Francesca, for the many coffee dates and the reminder that “it’s just a freaking hernia!” And last, but not least, my amazing family (including Josie:)) who helped me out with my kids and daily tasks, which were much more difficult while in pain!

Posted on July 24th, 2013.

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