There it was, unapologetically mirroring the woman I had become.
A once energetic, albeit younger woman, now stood 90 pounds heavier, with tears flowing down her cheeks.
Time had slipped through my fingertips, showing the signs of the years that had passed...I barely recognized the woman the mirror reflected.
I tried with everything I had to swallow the lump in my throat and averted my gaze.
I was at my lowest point in my health and a pivotal moment in my life. With a divorce on the horizon and two children to support, I realized I had no idea who I was. I did know one thing though, I hated how I felt.
Was I unhappy with my physical appearance? Yes. But I struggled even more so with the fact that I had lost my identity somewhere along the way. I struggled with the fact that I, at some point, had let go of my goals and dreams. I had hit auto pilot in life.
Fast forward several years of being forced to fight through life’s challenges, raising two children on my own, surprising the heck out of myself in the career world, and purchasing a home, I started to settle into a new me.
However, life has a funny way of offering mountains to climb when you get a little too comfortable.
My family had gathered around me as we read the results of my lab tests. Cancer...it’s such a horrible word. It was the first time I had really realized...I am only human. I was not taking care of the one body I had and it was responding.
In addition, I had gotten so lost in providing for my family, that I was living to work. I was not working to live.
It scared me to think I may never reach the goals or dreams I had set years ago. It scared me that the only examples I had showed my children was to get lost in a career, eat fast food, and use every free moment I had to plop on the couch and watch television with them.
Luckily, the doctor found it very early on. With surgery and treatment, I was able to beat it.
The experience made me realize I had to do better. I had to be better. I only had one chance in life to make an impact, to write the story I would be remembered for. From that moment on, things changed. I promised myself I was going to fight and go after my goals.
I started focusing on my health. If I didn’t have my health, I wouldn’t be any good to anyone. I started walking at the track. My feet hurt, my back ached, but I kept going. Soon, I was able to jog. Then I started to run. I watched videos of individuals finishing 5ks, 10ks, and marathons for motivation. Then I came across an IRONMAN video. It hit me in the depths of my stomach, it pulled at me, I choked back tears. I dreamt of myself crossing the finish line. Then I quickly laughed at the thought of myself having what it took to complete such a race and moved on. I didn’t even know how to swim! I gave up before I ever even tried! Little did I know, a seed had been planted.
Five years in and 50 pounds lost, I met my husband. One month after we married, I had to undergo another surgery, this time on my bladder. I started to lose my motivation. He pushed me to continue to fight. I was not on my own anymore. He believed in me and wanted me to achieve my dreams. So we continued on together and found cross training. I grew tremendously in strength both physically and mentally, and I lost another 40 pounds.
For the first time, being true to myself and the promise I made, I started going after my goals. I forced myself to face doubt and started competing, even though I felt like I didn’t belong amongst the other athletes.
To my surprise, I started to win! I quickly realized I had so much untapped potential. It had been there all along, I just needed to be encouraged to try! From a woman that couldn’t run 200m or do a single push-up...to a multiple podium finisher! I can’t begin to explain how my heart soared when my children held and looked at my first medal. I had made them proud.
I realized the only difference between myself and the other women I looked up to was that they were willing to try! They were willing to face fear and doubt.
So, here I am, seven years into my fitness journey and I AM going after IRONMAN. I have fought hard over the past eight months to learn to swim, bike and run. As a result of the hard work, I just completed my first IM 70.3! I am halfway there!
It is my dream. I’m hungry for it. Am I scared? Yes. Am I guaranteed to succeed?
BUT....I owe it to myself, my family, my friends and all of the other women out there who are where I used to be...to try. I want to show you, if I can do this, you can too!
It is never too late!
Progress will only stop if you do.
Get out there and set goals, not limits!
Written by Michelle Means
Follow Michelle's journey on Instagram @meansroadtoironman and make sure to leave her some love in the comments!