I have always said sport is synonymous with life, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. This is what one of my very first coaches ~ Olympian, Brenda Taylor, said all the time.
The human body has an amazing capacity to cope and adapt to stressors. Whether you are getting yourself to and through a tough job interview, dealing with a personal illness, sorting out finances, a new child in the house, a 10×800 track workout (or even all of the above), our body is equipped to cope with these stressors, and we will amaze ourselves in hindsight. Then, stronger from dealing with the last one, the next challenge will be waiting for you ahead, guaranteed.
I sit here writing having dealt with many challenges in my life, through each challenge that very mantra “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, echoed in my head.
Over 10 years ago, in the peak of my National rowing career, one month before the 2006 World Championships, I was nearly killed by a car being driven ~70km/hr by a driver, blinded by the sunrise.
Abruptly, that day life changed. My sole focus of being one of the best lightweight rowers in the world that year, I woke up on the side of the road in a pool of blood with shattered bones and a shattered helmet, and very confused with a significant brain injury. But, I was LUCKY. Through the impact of the accident my limp and unconscious body hit the bumper windshield and then flew over top the vehicle and onto the ground below. Police said, I was lucky that the windshield was the second impact – not the frame. Without my helmet, which was split in 2, Doctors said I would have been a vegetable or dead. 3 weeks later after having crazy nerve pain from a one of my broken bones poking into my Brachial Plexus, I went through an emergency surgery after they found that same bone sitting dangerously close to my Jugular Artery. Again, lucky!!
Stubborn as usual, and ignoring doctors prognoses (after much patience, persistence, and therapy) I went onto continue to compete for Canada for the next 5-6 years . In those years, I also woke up to the rest of the world. Prior to the accident I had been a very serious athlete, with tunnel vision. After the accident I realized that life is much too short to sweat the small stuff and that family and loved ones are much more important than sport.
Two years following my accident my father was much too young to be diagnosed with cancer. His journey for the next 7 years was a rollercoaster but I believe it was triumphant and beautiful as he embraced his last days more than ever, playing music for people and surrounding himself with the most positive people he could, when he could. Myself, my mother, and my sister were fortunate enough to be able to be with him, hold him and say goodbye to his very last breaths.
Recently, I have witnessed my sister suffer with a severe form of (Chrone’s/Colitis) in and out of the hospital, with multiple surgeries, medical mishaps, long hospital stays, and ICU incidents over the past 4 years. After a courageous 4 years of patience, pain and persistence (and a life no one can even imagine), she is thankfully on the up!
As we all know, sometimes life gives you the test before you have had the time to understand the lesson. My sister just had this beautiful epiphany a few weeks back, and is now mentoring other patients who are, new to and, trying to learn to cope with the horrible disease and other GI diseases.
My philosophy with sport is that it helps to strengthen our bodies ability to cope with many stressors. When I was climbing the second of two 5000ft mountains in my 50 mile ultramarathon, not only did I try to smile as much as possible to appreciate the journey, I reminded myself that “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. Be it mentally or physically – hopefully I can continue to be stronger in life with every challenge.
It is not always as easy as just making lemonade out of lemons. Life can be unfairly rough, we all know.
People ask me why I run ultra marathons.
I say, “because I can.”
When I cannot anymore, I will say, I did.
Happy New Year, and Happy Trails!!