I’m not a big New Years Resolution fan. Instead, I like to choose a word of the year. A mantra, if you will. This year I chose the word “Do.” Because I am business minded but also have a creative mind, I tend to have a lot of ideas and half starts to things but no final products. Whether fear of failure, or judgement, or loss of interest- whatever it was, I had a lot of ideas, not a lot of actual things. So this year was my year to “Do.” I made plans. I started working on an eBook, a Podcast, and my own coaching practice. Things were moving, I was doing.
And then life kicked me in the lady nuts.
If you follow my personal Insta (@annieappy) you’ll know that back in June my husband decided he wanted to leave our marriage. It was a complete surprise and absolutely devastating for me. You ever seen those silly pharmaceutical commercials about depression, where the people are all gray and moving slowly and looking at the rest of the world being all happy but not being able to engage? That was my life. It took a hot minute to find my feet again. Well, actually, it took about 3 weeks to drag myself out of bed and eat a solid meal. You know what forced me there? Triathlon.
I had been training for Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa, my redemption race, since the previous November. I wanted to have this 70.3 thing done and off my back after almost drowning at Superfrog 2016, so I was putting in the work to have a solid (for me) race. Sure, I was dealing with constant injury, but I’m great at pushing through physical pain. I was 6 weeks out, heading into peak training, feeling like the distances were no big thing and ready to bank that physical stress in my body when divorce-gate went down. And I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. There was nothing in my body to give, no drive, no desire. I had no appetite, no energy, and I burst into tears just brushing my teeth. I slept. I forced myself to drink some chocolate milk. I watched a lot of Netflix. Peak training? Never happened. Not one single session.
So Santa Rosa was looming along with the romantic road trip through California I had planned for after the race. My mother, bless her, immediately and without prompting volunteered to be my drive buddy and Sherpa. Now, hard truth time here- the thought of taking my romantic road trip with my mother instead of my husband because my husband abandoned me was enough to send me into another wave of wailing and despair. I felt LAME, y’all. But mothers, in their innate wisdom, know when and how to step up when their baby is hurting. (Thank you mom.)
I cancelled the romantic bed and breakfast. I cancelled the two-night stay at the Grand Yosemite. But I refused to cancel or shorten my reservation for Santa Rosa. I was going to go to that race I had trained so hard for. I was going to drink beer at Russian River Brewing Company. I was going to swim bike and run my heart out. I was going to see my Betty sisters and drink all the wine I could get my hands on the next day. I halfheartedly finished up the last 3 weeks of training and reset my expectations. This was not going to be pretty, but it was going to get done.
And it did. Even with a cancelled swim, I started the day on my bike with a huge smile on my face. I handed out Betty bracelets and cheered on my teammates and made funny faces at the photographers. I felt joy out on that racecourse, the joy I get when I’m racing with no expectations, for nothing but fun. Compared to everyone else on that course, I was SLOOOOOOW. I finished last of the Bettys for sure. But you know what? If there was a category for who was having the most fun, I would have podiumed. Triathlon is a piece of my identity that couldn’t be taken away, and it felt so good to stand back on my own two feet and accomplish something extraordinary. For one day, I got to put aside this horrible thing and relish in feeling strong.
In the prior weeks I struggled with how to tell people about what had happened. I told my closest friends, and then my Betty Squad, and then a wider circle of friends. But putting it out into the world via social media felt both final and tacky. In a world of perfect pictures, how do you post one that says, “Hi! My life fell apart, how are you?!” There’s something so weirdly personal and yet impersonal about social media. I’m inviting you into the pieces of my life I want you to see, and yet you don’t know really know me. At the same time, I believe so strongly that we need to normalize those pictures and share the bad with the good. So, my decision was exactly that- share the good with the bad. The morning of the race I sharpied “THIS IS NOT HURT” on my arm, to remind myself of how I had never been hurt like I had just been hurt, and that this race was mine. I’ve raced for sponsors, for charity, and even for my Betty Squad. But this one, this was me reconnecting with myself and with my joy. A picture of my arm along with a heartfelt explanation opened a floodgate of support on Instagram. Overwhelming support. Truly. That race, followed by that support, made me feel stronger.
When I returned from Santa Rosa I learned my husband had filed the divorce papers while I was gone, officially putting us on the clock. But this time I didn’t wail and sink into despair. I got angry for myself. And I started to Do. I got a lawyer. I went to therapy. I got real clear about what I wanted out of the death of this marriage and negotiated for it. I took a look at my financial picture and made a plan. I took down photos and packed away mementos. I started to dream about what could be.
The papers have been signed, and in the eyes of the state of California my marriage will officially be over in early 2019. To know that while I was racing and living out a huge goal, he was at the courthouse filing papers… I don’t think you can feel a bigger disconnect with someone who was supposed to be your biggest supporter. In my heart, it’s been over since the day I conquered my redemption race in spite of the hell he put me through.
There’s still a lot of ambiguity around what the next chapter of my life looks like. What I do know is that triathlon is still there, coaxing me to keep moving forward, to be brave and badass and do extraordinary things.
When life is crumbling around you, triathlon only asks one thing- that you Do.