Why Ironman? (#WhyITri)

Things are constantly shifting but my ability to troubleshoot has remained consistent. My ability to find a solution to re-spark the magic is kind of ridiculous. My ability to soften explosive situations should warrant a PhD in AWESOME. So today, I’m opening another layer to share why I picked Ironman.

I grew up with a supportive family. I will not taint my upbringing with falsehood. The motives could potentially be questioned but the physical, emotional and mental presence of both my parents growing up was always there. It’s just as an adult that things started shifting. Dad was my first coach and favourite sparring partner. On a good day, I can empathize with the overwhelming amount of pain that he’s dealing with but I have zero respect for the tools that he chooses to use in order to deal with such pain.

In college, senior year, I was part of a team that qualified for Nationals. This is kind of a big deal. For someone that is hardly taking a moment to take in personal accomplishments, this is something that was pretty big. Nationals is the highest level of athleticism that one can achieve at the college level. The next step would have been going professional. So Nationals in college was huge.

Nationals landed on the same weekend as mom & dad’s 25th wedding anniversary. Mom wanted to re-vamp the love between husband and wife. I understood that. She wanted to shift focus from children (Michael/Me) to them (Dad/Mom). This was a chance to be newlyweds again. Remember all that was achieved in the 25 years of marriage. The good, the bad, the ugly. It was all part of the beautiful journey and what brought them to this exact moment. I didn’t know but I knew. It was something that was important to mom. I can count on one hand the number of times that she asked for anything let alone expressed interest in it so how could I possibly begrudge her happiness. Who am I to demand they attend my national meet when I knew it would cost a memory for them?

So I didn’t. I didn’t put up a fight or even question why. We had a family discussion on the matter. The agreed solution was that Michael would go to the meet. He would be there to share my moment and have a few friends to stand in for mom/dad. Mom/Dad would then be in Vegas, having their wedding vows renewed by Elvis and celebrating 25 years of being a team. Everyone was happy with the arrangement. Everyone.

Wrong.

What I thought was a family discussion and agreement ended up being the root cause of nearly 10 years of trouble between me/dad. Every fight, he would throw it in my face that he missed Nationals. I didn’t care. It wasn’t important to me that he wasn’t physically there. I never once mentioned it. But each time that dad got upset, he looked to me to reinforce that he was a good father. And by trying to get me to remind him that he was a good father, came disguised as a fight about Nationals. So to end this long-standing soft spot, I opted to create a new one.

So what type of sports challenge can I do? What do I actually have to spend time training for? What is something that is outside my comfort zone? Something that I didn’t necessarily know I was capable of accomplishing at that exact moment? Ironman. I was a seasoned runner. My life was 400m at a time. I lived and LOVED the quarter mile. To this day, I can feel the confidence build and love explode with each step around that magical oval most call a track. Running a 400m is my magic place. It’s my safe place. It’s the place where I can fall into the zone just as easily as taking a breath. I’m optimistic and realistic. So I know that I would never make it to a global stage in the 400m. BUT why not for the Ironman. I didn’t know how to swim. I didn’t own a bike. I knew about running. I knew about nutrition. I knew about priorities and setting goals. I knew this was an opportunity to learn something and rebuild with dad.

Crossing that finish line was my way of giving him Nationals. Ironman was an intentional journey to build a machine of physical excellence, test my machine of unconditional love, and expand my machine of mental tenacity.

Ironman was Nationals… 10 years later.

And once I make a decision, it’s as good as done. So I picked 3 races that were right around the time of nationals (May). I explained this to dad and asked him to pick a race. It was between a 70.3 in Florida and then full in either New York or Texas. Texas was the American Championships so it was fitting that was the race that dad picked.

Now that the race was picked. The training needed to commence. The goals were set and the journey began.

I stayed in Singapore and dad and I built consistency with a Friday night date night. I was usually making a big pot of sauce and dad was running errands or in the midst of some home improvement. Conversations were controlled and circled around training. We naturally steered clear of explosive topics (dating, traveling, having half the world between us…). Our Friday night date night was our way to be close. Dad was my coach and I was his athlete.

I think during that year of training, we only locked horns once. I called in a state of panic. I was in a fairly severe bike accident and could see my hip bone. I more than likely needed to go to the hospital but I decided to call dad and keep him on the phone whilst I patched myself up. He was not happy and I understood that he felt helpless. Answering the phone and remaining calm was the only thing I needed. And perhaps a kick in the pants of don’t cry over spilled milk. So under his guidance, I removed my cycling kit, cleaned the areas with warm water, then with mild soap, then with antibacterial… The nerves had been scraped off so it wasn’t painful. Or perhaps I was still running off adrenaline. Either way, dad was comforting. He insisted that I get tetanus shot the following day and I agreed if it meant that I didn’t catch fire for not going to the hospital. But this situation was literally the only time that we even so much as agreed to disagree during an entire year. Journey to Ironman was filled with trials for us to demonstrate understanding and love towards one another. This is what I missed. This is the dad that I know and love… and miss.

The other dad that I speak of IS dad’s body but not his mind or his soul. It’s him but not him. And doing Ironman was my way to help dad be in his comfort zone (as a father, a coach, and a guiding light). More importantly, doing Ironman was my way to have my father back. It was my way to remember the person, the humanity… and not the illness.

I love dad very much and part of why this journey to peace is so difficult is because it’s the struggle to remember the humanity. It’s the truth that when dad is abusive, it’s because he’s failing at managing his own pain. It’s not because of me. It’s because the pain is literally killing him. Dad doesn’t have the tools to express himself. It’s not my fault nor does it have anything to do with me. That’s the part that I struggle with. To remember that it’s not my fault. The abuse is not.my.fault. It’s dad’s decision. Not.my.fault.

It stinks that until he’s honest with what hurts? Or what is the root cause? I cannot do anything but let go. One of our last conversations was him screaming that I’m the cause of his anger. I’m the cause for all the trouble. I’m the cause for the pain. So I do my best to let go. I remove myself. I accept that I’m a tool that reinforces that he’s ‘normal’. I’m a tool that proves that he has brought good into the world. I’m a tool.

I’m a tool. I’m not a daughter. I’m a tool. I’m not a child. I’m a tool.

Ironman was my way of being a daughter, even if only for that year. I was the daughter and he was my father. Ironman was my way to give something back to dad, even if only briefly. I wanted to remind him that I am his daughter. Fathers should never abuse their daughters. Ever.

For an example of domestic violence, check out The day my childhood bedroom turned into a crime scene.

#WhyIwrite #MentalWellness #DomesticViolence #Healing #WhyITri #Ironman #SelfLove #JourneyToPeace

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