Being a Beginner

-In the beginner's mind there are many

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

-Shunryu Suzuki

I choose to be a beginner. I choose to let go of expectations and embrace curiosity. I choose to be open and enthusiastic. I choose to release judgment and be open to possibilities.

And I choose to do all of these things in my race on Saturday.

It’s a race that I’ve done before—twice, actually. Both times I raced as an Elite. I went into the race as an experienced triathlete with high expectations for myself. The first time I had a blast, but last year’s race was a lot less fun. I went into the race with a lot of calf pain. I wished for a pain-free run, but secretly hoped to be pain-free and super-fast. I was lucky enough to experience a pain-free run, but my performance was far from what I had planned for myself. I beat myself up about it, but before I could redeem myself, I had a stress fracture. In my mind, what was supposed to be a fun race came to mark the beginning of a year of injuries.

I won’t be racing as an Elite this year. I’ll be racing as an age grouper. This race will be the second triathlon of my “comeback” season. The first one was pain-free, but nowhere near an outstanding performance. I felt tired—sluggish feels like an understatement. I felt disconnected from my body. I felt lost. At times it was miserable.

And yet it was a gift.

Because of that race (and the week leading up to it), I knew something was off in my body. I sought help and found it—along with an awesome doctor who was the perfect person to help me through this journey.

I had been right. Something—in fact, a lot of somethings—was off in my body. After last year’s stress fractures, I had decided to go off the birth control pill in February. My body was taking a while to get the hang of producing its own hormones after years of relying on synthetic ones from the pill. And my extreme fatigue and sense of “off-ness” at my first race this year was a result of extremely low hormones. But there’s more.

I have a genetic mutation—I’m homozygous for MTHFR. That means I can’t convert folic acid into something that my body can use. Missing this key process leads to a number of things, including low dopamine, low ATP, and even asthma. It also can lead to high levels of homocysteine, which can in turn lead to a heart attack or stroke.

That miserable race may have saved my life.

This isn’t something that I can “cure,” but I can take supplements to support my body’s needs. I’ve been doing that for a week now and I feel better already. But this is a process. I’m evolving.

If I were a professional athlete, I likely wouldn’t race until I was stronger, fitter and faster than I was before my injuries. I would hibernate until I was ready to be seen.

But that’s not how I roll.

I believe in being seen. I believe that we’re all in this together. I believe in playing. And I believe in curiosity.

It’s hard to release myself from expectations. And yet it’s freeing. Yes, I want to have the race of my life on Saturday. That’s how I want to show up to every race. But this time is different. This time I’m committing to racing with a beginner’s mindset.

I’m going into this race with curiosity. I’m freeing myself from expectations and I’m embracing the journey. I’ll be racing with a full heart and a whole lotta gratitude. I’ll be racing with wonderment, wondering what my body is capable of and allowing myself to be open to surprises. Most importantly, I’ll be racing knowing that my body is on the path to getting healthier.