Badger Time: Lessons in Grit
My coach has given me the nickname the honey badger. It not just a nickname but the way I approach all the challenges in my life. I don’t have unflappable confidence and am not really really ridiculously good. For me, it’s always come down to grit – hardheaded, stubborn, down and dirty, blood sweat and tears, grit.
So in my typical badger style, I took my Lyme disease diagnosis this June with a stubborn desire to preserve yet another challenge in my path. It is only through grit that I am here racing professionally at all.
I wasn’t born with ridiculous talent in fact I was born with a hole in my heart, a mitral valve prolapse with mitral regurgitation of blood and deformed heart valves. Now this isn’t uncommon. But it is not an advantage to have leaky valves allowing blood to rush backwards every time my heart pumps. Add to this my bad hips and their two torn labrums and early osteoarthritis, my ten stress fractures, feet with plantar plate tears, and bad knees, it’s only with grit and a lot of duct tape that I make it out the door to train every day.
I wasn’t born with ridiculous luck either. Start with my ill-timed broken collarbone and shredded AC joint a month before Kona in 2013. Add in a similarly ill-timed crash caused by a convicted doper in an ITU race three weeks before the Olympic Trials in 2008. Not to be outdone by a dog attack resulting in a puncture wound while riding my bike, not a big deal except when the dog has not been vaccinated for rabies so a month long rabies vaccine protocol is required. And finish it off with a low speed sailboat drive by hit. I know you can’t make up this stuff. Who gets a hip contusion from a sailboat cruising slowly through a pack of swimmers? But all this bad luck only made me more determined to get to the next starting line with typical honey badger stubborn perseverance.
I wasn’t born with studied forbearance. The obstacles above have been tough but the challenges that have truly tested my grit have required patience. I’ve had to take a step back from my normal urgent gritty stubbornness to get past Mono, years later Epstein-Barr virus, and now this summer Lyme disease. Taking a step back to recover requires a placidity and intelligence that is difficult for me. But despite being forced to step back, I never considered stopping.
As I reflect on my strengths and weaknesses, I can see where my stubborn determination has both helped and hindered me in reaching my goals. My only ambition this year is to put Lyme disease away and take every race as an opportunity to unleash raw honey-badger courage. With that in mind, I will tackle my first race in many months, Ironman Maastricht, this weekend. I can’t promise much except that it will be gritty.