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What would happen if you stopped doing something that defined and structured half of your life? Something you loved very, very much, that completely fulfilled you? It could also be a person or your job… Would you still be yourself?

For example: What if you were a competitive athlete and stopped doing triathlons?

I did it. Only now, 18 months and one pandemic later do I really feel how free my life is without racing, how much more room there is suddenly. There is nothing good to say about Corona but certainly about self-awareness, change and new paths.

In my blog I will talk about what happens if you let go of something that once meant so very much to you. How much strength such a Good-bye can provide, and also the insecurities this brings with it. And then I will write about new goals and how exciting and alive it feels to indulge in something unknown.

Saying “never again” and meaning it

Who would have thought that 2019 would be the last Ironman year for a while? 

When I said, “never again” after Ironman Hawaii 2019 I really meant “never again”, and I didn’t have a clue then about an impending pandemic that would prevent all races. I know, everyone cusses at some point during an Ironman: “Never again!” 

At the very latest that happens on the run course at about mile 13 when your quads are screaming with pain, when your blood sugar found a new definition of ‘low’ and you are completely unable to down anything sweet anymore. When the simple thought of Cola, gels and isotopic drinks makes you gag. 

That would have been a completely normal triathlete – never – again reaction. One that you didn’t really mean. That one is like this: Once finished you’re happy, staggering with delight: “Finished!” “You superhero!” You gobble up a bag of chips, take the next day off from working out and two days later you’re already thinking about a dreamy bike ride straight out your door. And the next race.

This wasn’t that kind of “Never again”.

It was my tenth Ironman, my fourth time in Hawaii, this time it was a different kind of “never again”. One that already settled inside of me long before the big race on the dream island.

I had two extremely hard and ultimately disappointing Ironman races behind me, Hawaii 2017 and Frankfurt 2019. I couldn’t see the purpose in my doing anymore and even asked myself if there had ever been one. (Spoiler alert: Yes, there was one. I’ll write more about that somewhere else.)

Realistically I didn’t even want to go to Hawaii. Wanted to cancel everything, leave things well alone, not feel the pain anymore. I asked friends what I should do. After all I had qualified. Ironman Hawaii, every triathlete’s dream – in the end that is what it’s all about, right? I had trained so hard, invested so much time into it. Should all that have been for nothing? Nobody was able to give me advice. 

And so I dragged myself along the course once more. Swam 2.4 miles in the Pacific again, rode 112 miles through lava fields again, ran 26.2 miles in black asphalt heat again. No shade, nowhere. I knew it would hurt, and it did hurt. More than ever.

The joy upon finishing was limited.

Yes, I had done it again. And yes, I was proud of that – somehow anyway but the overwhelming joy of past triathlon days was totally missing.

I was just done.

This was already the third Ironman in a row where I’d schlepped myself to the finish line in great agony. Three absolutely dreadful races I had endured, three times I had been through hell. Evidently it took this all-encompassing feeling of exhaustion for me to understand this had to end.

But how do you end something that meant so much to you for 25 years? Why is it better sometimes to leave such a familiar world behind? In my next blog entry I’ll write what helped me to cut the ties.

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