Reflecting, Dreaming and Planning

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re probably not big enough”…

Reflect1Reflecting

It’s hard to believe 2013 is already coming to a close. It’s also hard to believe what a wonderful year this has turned out to be for me.

Looking back to early May when I was forced to drop out of a race for the first time in my life after getting sick with heat stroke at Wildflower Long Course, and then three days later got injured in a mountain bike crash where I fell off a big rock onto my knee cap… things were looking pretty bleak.

I was initially told it would be just a few weeks before I was back to racing after the knee injury, but my body ended up on a much different timeline for healing. I ended up missing five of my originally scheduled triathlons as I waited two months to be able to run again, and then focused on staying patient as I worked my way back into form. Several weeks of hobbling, swelling, little mobility, lots of pain and few answers had me feeling frustrated and very uncertain. But thanks to some tremendous support from family, friends and experts, and a whole lot of patience, positivity and distraction, I got through it with my head held high, no major mental breakdowns, and a refreshed outlook on the rest of the season and my sport.

It was an unexpected beginning to 2013, for sure, but I can see now that in many ways it was actually an unexpected turn for the better. Ultimately, the entire focus of my season had to change. While my original plan was to focus on “going long,” with four Ironman (140.6-mile) distance races on my schedule, I was forced to miss three of them due to the injury. But instead, I was able to do some mountain bike racing through June and July (including my first ever 100 km trail race that ended up qualifying me for the Leadville Trail 100 next year), and focus significantly on improving my riding. I made tremendous progress with that, which I may not have made had I not been forced to focus so exclusively on my biking and swimming. I understand the important impact that progress has made on my season, and I am extremely grateful for it. (And my ever-faithful riding buddy, who got me out there every day!)

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 12.14.58 PMSo while initially I felt like I was missing out on so much, I ended up also gaining so much that I had not anticipated. This season challenged me in new and unexpected ways. In the face of them, I can’t say I liked those challenges much, but looking back I can say with certainty that they made me stronger, made me reach further and in new directions to accomplish my goals, and ultimately made me a better and more well-rounded athlete.

So in the end, I did not accomplish all of my goals for the season… (I did not qualify for Kona in 2013, having missed my qualifier due to injury; I did not set a new time PR in the Ironman distance; I just missed breaking 5 hours in the half-Iron distance; I came up short on my dream of winning the overall amateur Xterra World Championship title; and I was forced to break my lifelong streak of never dropping out of a race)…

However, I accomplished some significant goals that had not even been on my radar heading into this season, and I far surpassed other existing goals once I was able to get my racing going again… (I competed in my first Cat 1 mountain bike race; I learned to ride and race further and faster on my mountain bike than ever before; I turned in two new PR’s at the 70.3-distance and just missed qualifying for the 70.3 World Championship in my first full tri race back from injury; I earned a couple unexpected overall wins in races not on my original schedule, and used that momentum to propel me forward; I became the 25-29 Age Group World Champion in Xterra; and I experienced one of the most special days of my life by winning the overall amateur female race at Ironman Lake Tahoe, in front of friends, family and the most supportive community out there)…

2013 has been a season full of surprises, both good and bad. It has been a season of setbacks and surges; failures and successes; but most importantly progress and learning. While forced to push myself in new directions, I also reached new heights. I had to let go of a lot of the ideas I wanted so much to hold on to, but by doing that I made progress in other ways that I had not anticipated, even before my injury. I achieved some major personal breakthroughs, even as I watched other races and goals pass me by. Most importantly, I learned a lot, and grew tremendously.

Through my injury and recovery, as well as through my progression and successes, I learned some valuable lessons that I will carry with me. I learned to appreciate even more the importance of listening to our bodies, letting them be the dictator and honoring their messages. I learned to truly understand the meaning of making the most of the situation at hand and finding the benefit of each of our circumstances, whether it is as we intended or not. I learned that each of my experiences — from incredible highs to some lows I am happy to leave behind — had a specific place and purpose in my season, career, and myself as an athlete. I learned even more than I already knew about the value of perseverance, an open mind, adaptability, and constant self-belief. And I was reminded yet again that the journey of an athlete is constantly evolving, and we are indeed constantly improving as athletes and people, even in those times when our results don’t show it. I continue to trust in that.

Most important of all, I came to love triathlon even more this year, and feel even more certain about the path I am on in effort to purse my dreams in this great sport. I met some incredible new friends this year, and grew closer with old ones. I had so much fun. And I got incredible support from family, friends, competitors, sponsors and my community — and I am grateful beyond words.

© Skyler Mullings
Can’t get by without a little help! Photo © Skyler Mullings.

I was so fortunate to get to spend another year as a member of the LUNA Sponsored Athletes squad. It is this program, and all of the tremendous people at LUNA, who have truly planted the seeds for me to grow so much these last few years, and given me the foundation I needed to step up. Also a special thanks to August and Unleashed Coaching, for helping me create and continually assess and re-direct a plan for this season and beyond, and for really enabling me to believe in myself enough to “go for it” with this dream of mine. To Paco’s Truckee Bike and Ski, Alpenglow Sports, and Oakley… tremendous thanks for all of your support this year. And to the incredible healers at Synergy Healing Arts and Gateway Urgent Care, thank you for getting me back out there when I felt so unsure whether it would ever happen! And of course to each and every one of you reading this blog! I am so grateful to have you all on my team, and truly could not do it without you. Every single cheer and word of encouragement has lifted me up and pushed me forward in ways you could not imagine.

Dreaming, and Planning

Looking ahead to 2014, I’ve had some big decisions to make. First and foremost, I had to decide whether I was going to continue forward as an age grouper, working toward age group world titles at both the Ironman World Championships and Xterra World Championships next October, or if I wanted to step up to the pro ranks in 2014, challenging myself in new ways by racing against the best in the world all year long.

This was a really tough decision for me, as there are benefits to both staying amateur and going pro. I’ve thought long and hard about all of them. And in the end, I have decided to follow my gut — and my dreams — and accept my professional license, starting the 2014 season as a pro both on and off the road. Becoming a pro is a big, important step to the ultimate goals I’ve been working toward in triathlon for a few years now, and the dream I have really decided to invest myself in. I understand it’s a big jump, and will bring a great challenge for me next year. But I also know I am someone who rises up to the challenge around me, and just as I have seen this year, it is in the most difficult environments, facing the greatest tests, where I thrive.

I am a big dreamer, and also a big believer. And I do think it’s true that our dreams should scare us a little bit if they are dreams worth dreaming and pursuing. Why pour so much of yourself into something if you already know you can achieve it? A dream worthy of your energy should be something you have to reach, work, sweat, focus, and struggle for — relentlessly. It should be something that cannot be achieved without limitless passion and desire. I have those things, and I am eager to do the work; I am eager to step up and rise to the challenge. I do no want to wonder, “What if?!” I have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited to do it, and confident that I am ready to do it. After all, if I want to be among the best in the world, I’d better start racing with those ladies, right?! Right!

So, I’ve relinquished my Kona spot for next year, which I had to do since it was earned as an age grouper. But that’s okay… I’m in this for the long run, and I really do believe I will have many years left to go to Kona, hopefully as a pro now! But right now I want to do what will help me to make the greatest improvements and growth as an athlete, and I believe racing as a pro next year will help push me to make the gains I am looking for. I am nervous, of course, but also very excited. As my friend Lizzie said to me recently in one of my discussions with her about this: it’s time to stop doubting and just go for it! So here I am, embarking on the next step of my journey, and I am going to do all I can to make it a big one.

I am still in the planning process as far as exactly what my schedule will look like for next year, but I know that Kona will not be on the program for 2014, and Xterra World Championships will be the big finale for me next year. I plan to focus on the Xterra U.S. Pro Series, and the 70.3 distance on the road, with some other supplemental races in there as well, including Leadville 100 on the bike. There are still some details to be hashed out, but I know for sure that I’ll be aiming high, dreaming big, and giving it all I’ve got in my first of what I hope are many years to come as a pro triathlete — celebrating a life outdoors and a sport that I love.

Bring on the journey…

-KL

© Skyler Mullings
© Skyler Mullings
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11 Comments Add yours

  1. Adam says:

    Woah, big news! Congrats on the decision to go pro. It’s crazy how much can happen in a year – both good and bad, expected and unexpected. Looking forward to more updates!

    1. karalapoint says:

      Thanks so much! I’m pretty excited. And you are right, SO much can happen in a year… here’s to some fast ones ahead! 🙂

  2. Sian Turner says:

    Congrats again and see you in the snow soon!

  3. Rory says:

    Heck ya! You’re going pro?! That’s SO RAD!!! Now I expect to be introduced to all your pro friends and be invited to all pro parties and shenanigans. Good luck Kara!

    1. karalapoint says:

      Heck yeahhhhh! Thanks!! Haha, don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll continue with plenty of our own shenanigans, and we’ll be making the party anyway 🙂 Starting this Christmas break when you guys come to visit and we have our ugly sweater rollerskating party. 😉

  4. Sue Daniels says:

    Congrats on everything you have achieved so far and good luck with your next endeavor into the pro ranks………
    You are an inspiration to all of us and thanks so much for still making time to coach the NTHS Nordic team 🙂

    1. karalapoint says:

      Thank you so much, Sue! And thanks again for all of the support this year. I am happy to be able to coach the kids again, they keep skiing FUN! 🙂

  5. Sian Turner says:

    Congrats again – see you in the snow soon!

  6. lentinealexis says:

    I’m so proud of you, Kara, for all that you’ve accomplished, and all you are about to accomplish in our sport!! So pleased to have you as an inspirational teamie + friend — you’re on the way up, gorgeous!! Xx

  7. Skyler Mullings says:

    Congrats Kara! Going to be awesome to follow you though the adventures your life will bring to you!

  8. Liz says:

    Guurl! You so fine, you so fine you blow my mind!!;D Haha amazing post, Kara! I think you put it well saying ‘Celebrating a life outdoors’ and ‘Bring on the journey!’ I know how big this decision is for you and I’m so stoked for you:). Just livin this crazy thing we call TriLife;D!!

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