Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why do I consider myself a "closet athlete"?

I had originally started this post back in March. I have made several attempts since then to put into words why I consider myself a "closet athlete", but have found it to be very challenging. I guess calling myself a "closet athlete" was my way of saying that I didn't consider myself to be an athlete. I felt this way because I had spent most of my adult life living off the athletic accomplishments of others instead of pursuing my own.

Unfulfilled Dreams

I was an active kid.  I took gymnastic and tennis lessons.  I played softball for a season, I played on the first all girl soccer team in Stockton, and I swam on the summer rec team for a few seasons. Were any of these activities on a highly competitive level? Not really. Did I play any of these sports in high school? Nope. Did I aspire to do more? Unfortunately, no. That is, until I had my own kids.

This is probably one of the hardest things to write.  Probably because I have to admit that I pushed my daughters to compete, not always when they wanted to, but when I wanted them to. I think I did this because I felt I had missed my opportunity when I was young and I wanted to make sure that they didn't.  Would I change anything? Of course. Would I have pushed as hard as I did? Maybe not...but then again, maybe I would have.

Ashley (age 10) at Tiger Memorial Day Swim Meet
My girls' accomplishments became my own and I lived through them. Every first place finish, every high point trophy, every PR, every goal, every save...they all became my own. It didn't matter that I wasn't the one spending several hours a week practicing. It didn't matter that I wasn't the one in the pool getting kicked and scratched during a water polo game. It didn't matter that physically I had let myself go while pushing them to improve.

The end of my daughters' high school careers was bittersweet.  So much of my time had been spent getting them to practice and games, now I wasn't going to be needed. +Ashley went on to Sonoma State and quickly decided that the college experience she wanted to have did not include water polo and she quit the team. I wasn't happy about this, but Lindsey was still in high school so there was plenty of sports still going on close to home.

First Pacific Water Polo Big West Player of the Week
+Lindsey had a choice of several colleges, and a few had offered her water polo scholarships. She eventually selected the University of the Pacific. Not only did she receive a nice scholarship, but she was going to be close to home. It was a win-win in my book.

Unfortunately, once her college career got started, so did problems with the coach. At the end of Lindsey's freshman year at Pacific, a number of players quit the team (including Lindsey), unwilling to put up with the coach's erratic and often abusive behavior.

Without the scholarship, Pacific was out of our price range. Lindsey decided she wanted to go to Sonoma State with her sister and the SSU water polo coach even offered her a scholarship to play for them. However, by the end of that summer, Lindsey was done with sports and declined the scholarship. It was the end of MY athletic career! LOL

Moving On

So, by the fall of 2009, I was completely done with sports. I had no more practices or games to attend.  Mike and I did our P90X workouts together and we did a couple of 5k fun runs, but that was it. Then a funny thing happened.

In 2012, Lindsey decided to do the Great Spear-It run with me at the Asparagus Festival. Lindsey placed first in her age group and I placed second in mine. I was shocked. We really hadn't been training. I had been suffering with plantar fasciitis and had just starting running again after taking several months off. However, that victory ignited something inside of me...I wanted to compete.

Zoo Zoom - They called us the"Amazing Pengilly Running Family"
I think it ignited something in Lindsey too, because that same day she suggested we do a half marathon. Three weeks later we ran in the Avenue of the Vines. We then decided to do the Zoo Zoom and Lindsey, Max, Mike, and I all came home with medals. Who would have thought that competing for yourself instead of vicariously through someone else could be so rewarding? I was hooked!

I started scanning race websites looking for the next event. One event that caught my eye was a super sprint triathlon at Eagle Lakes in Tracy, CA. Unfortunately, it was the same weekend that Mike and the guys go to the motor cycle races at Laguna Seca. I asked a couple of people if they could give me and my mountain bike a ride to the race (since there was no way I could get a bike in my car), but things didn't work out. So I picked a half marathon trail run to do that weekend instead.

Why a Tri?

At this point, I can't tell you why I thought I wanted to do a triathlon. One of the mother's on the girls' water polo team did triathlons and she always looked pretty cool rolling up to practice on her bike AND she dropped a ton of weight. Other than that, it just seemed like a fun new challenge and I wanted to race! Then an interesting post showed up on the Fleet Feet Facebook page...

The post that changed everything!

Wow! A triathlon class! This is just what I needed/wanted. I anxiously attended the first meeting (I made Hot Stuff go with me for support). I was ready to quit before I got started. Coach +James and all of his hard core triathlon gear freaked me out. Funny thing is, it hasn't even been a year since I started, and now I could probably lay out a pile of gear and crap that would freak out a newbie.

Anyway, I went through James' class and completed my first triathlon on October 7. I finished first in my age group and was second overall female. I couldn't wait to race again! I signed up for another 5k and a duathlon the following month. Within days of finishing those races, I registered for Barb's race, a half Ironman distance race.

Out of the Closet

I've heard James' remark that he's created a monster. I beg to differ. I think the monster has always been there, I think James' simply unleashed the monster. Now instead of living through the accomplishments of my children, I spend my time cajoling friends and family to come try a triathlon with me. I'm sure Mike cringes every time I point out a race "we" could do together ("We" meaning, if you don't want to race, you get to carry my stuff and take pictures LOL).

Actually, I'm to the point where I don't feel like I need to have someone there beside me holding my hand (although I love knowing that Hot Stuff is there at the finish line waiting for me). I compete for myself and I enjoy it more than I can say...I guess that's why I want to share it with people. I want my friends and family to experience the sense of accomplishment from pushing past your fears and breaking out of your comfort zone. Regardless of your reasons for competing, the feeling when you cross the finish line is amazing!

Well, this post was a little long, but I've had this stuff in my head for a while and needed to get it out. I guess I'm officially "out of the closet". Maybe my kids can live vicariously through me now ;-)