Choose Your Own Adventure story books. I used to love reading these books as a kid. The personal choice and risk I owned over my own destiny was fascinating. Engrossed in the possibilities, when faced with a fork in the road, I could choose to take a comfortable left to go straight to the castle (“turn to page 76”) or take a challenging right to the murky swamp where alligators, pirates, and uncertainty awaited (“turn to page 91). For some kids, the immediate response was simple—choose the castle!—as materialism and immediate gratification are often the popular choice. Still, other kids had the insatiable curiosity to explore, take risks, learn from mistakes, push the limits, and be uncomfortable for a while with hopes that their story would be a “good one”.
When faced with dilemma, it is easy to confuse comfort as the “right” choice. We resist struggle. We avoid danger. We want to win…now. However, the hidden costs of “the easy route” can be significant and unfortunate. It can stymie character formation and make the story, well…boring and anticlimactic. Wide eyed, jaw dropped, and in a celebratory dance upon arrival to page 76 (castle), the youthful protagonist looks around at the vast quantity of easily achieved material treasures. Perplexed by her unhappiness, she also finds herself discontented, less skilled, underdeveloped, and far from self-actualized. Never challenged to reveal heart and courage, the character lost the opportunity to hone her sword fighting skills, learn how to defend herself, build fortitude, and most rewarding, engage with inspiring people that would make her a better person along the way. Without a doubt, life’s true and priceless rewards lie with the alligators. Courage, bravery, security, resilience, teamwork, and faith reliance—the fight itself makes our character complete and our story worth reading.
Believe it or not, I think of my own “choose your own adventure” life story quite regularly. Big and small, I think of my personal and professional choices and the impact they might have on my own life story—my family, my career, friends and strangers, and my own character development. I reflect upon my own decisions and reactions to adversity as though I am reading my own complete biography in the future. What type of character do I want to read about? What skills and gestures of compassion do I want my kids to learn from the story? What adventures would I be relieved to read that I had the heart and courage to overcome? Would I gracefully deal with the good and the bad in my life? Which impactful individuals did I choose to learn from and keep within my hard cover? And, in the closing pages, would God say, “You did well.”
Think about it. We are all writing our own biographies by our decisions, by how we spend our time, by what we read, by how we cope with life’s major stressors, by the life experiences we have, by who we allow onto our life ‘team’, and by how we treat, help, and connect with those around us. I bet we would all agree that we want to be proud of our main character—the one who made it through the worst of battles and the murkiest of swamps. Actions speaking louder than words, whichever route we choose, our kids to learn from that character—what a responsibility.
Back in March, my coach and I had a rich conversation about CYOA books and how I wanted my life story to read. At the time, I was grumpy. I was struggling. I had lost my “muchness” while going through the motions and questioning my life path. I was lost in the swamp…somewhere near those alligators and a few nasty pirates. I wanted to flee, take that left turn, and head straight to the castle. For a week long eternity, I took a break from structured training, reflected, prayed, talked to my unconditional husband, my unwavering and rock solid coach, and my dear and honest close friends. In psychology, we call this a critical moment—a moment that can potentially bring tremendous growth to your life. You must decide your path and reclaim the childlike ‘you’. My life team threw me a rope when I was sinking like Atreyu’s horse, “Artax” in the swamp. Thankfully, my supporting characters know me well. They just held and stabilized the rope, it was my job to be vulnerable, ask for help, and use my own strength to pull myself out. I have grown tremendously thanks to this opportunity to hone my sword fighting skills and learn more about the depths of my inner drive. Intentionally not delving into detail, it certainly wasn’t pretty, but I’m back on track with deepened relationships and a truly deepened passion for my adventure story. I have the best support team imaginable.
“Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. Its built on frustration. Sometimes its built on catastrophe. –Sumner Redstone
So, with the hunger back in my heart, I raced Chattanooga 70.3 in May, and accepted my position of 8th place with a deep field of talented athletes. Shortly afterwards, a sudden strength training injury made its way into my plot and had me had me sidelined from 100% training for 8 weeks—swimming was the worst! It was my own darn fault–poor form when fatigued and I knew it. Live and learn. Initially, I was convinced that my strained lower back would take no longer than 2-3 days to heal, and I would be healthy for Racine 70.3 in July. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into two months. C’mon! I’m unsure if this RBM adventure story is getting better or worse! Backs are finicky! Race goals were put on hold, and I threw all of my energy into cross training, water running, mobility work, and daily communication regarding injury status with my coach. My new goal: get healthy. With a keen understanding the body’s tolerances and how a back injury would affect training, Coach AC fixed up the perfect return to sport progression plan. I was so impressed. We stayed conservative, but tested it appropriately when safe. Upon a return run fitness test, it turned out that we BOOSTED my run fitness by water running! Yeehaw! Thanks AC!
Competing in triathlon for my sixth year, this injury was anomalous. I’m rarely injured. This was the first major injury in my career and there are very good reasons for that—smart methodical coaching, excellent athlete-coach communication, athlete maturity, no bargaining with injuries, taking days off when needed, having a keen ability to recognize and be proactive about pre-injurious sites. All of these controllable factors, combined with my partnership with a highly educated, technically gifted, and contagiously positive physical therapy group, called Active PT in Rochester, MN. Attention world: this group of professionals embody the definition of success. Consistent with the theme of this write-up, the people we choose to walk alongside us matter. See my last post on coaching non-negotiables—it sure matters to me!
When required, I have been seeing Active PT since 2011, as an unsponsored age-grouper and now in a fortunate partnership as a professional athlete. Back then, my treatment was no different. It was exceptional then, exceptional now. I get in to see them as soon as a slight irritation arises, and I’m typically back to my activities pronto! Mobility and active treatment techniques replace useless packets of information that nobody reads anyway. I am proud to share a glimpse of the care I receive but please note, this will not do them justice.
ACTIVE PT and Sports.
Entering through the front doors of their beautiful new space, I am met by the office staff (Emily, Jennifer, Alicia!) who appear focused and preoccupied with appointment bookings and office needs. They look up, offer a day brightening ear-to-ear smile, and greet me like family. Certainly not unique to me, their professionalism and warm, friendly nature would make anyone forget their injury site for a brief moment. Not even in a therapy room yet, the vibe is a psychologically healing one.
Then, the providers—Joan, Brian, Kim, Jake, Courtney, Robin, Jill, Kayla. Their care, knowledge, and treatment is consistent and interchangeable. Each owning their own specializations, Active PT’s 11-player team is actually much like a championship team. Everyone is playing their key position, making clutch plays, loving and embracing their role, covering for each other, dedicated to learn, and there is no one player who is valued more than another. Their personalities are warm, fun, and complimentary. Many of them were high level athletes–they get it, folks.
This A-team values challenge. They thrive on learning and engaging with one another. I’ve heard more than one therapist say, “We challenge each other every day to be better.” They are compassionate teachers and instructional coaches with their patients. Unimpressed with fads, their practice is progressive and is solely based on current literature. They know their anatomy and physiology like MD’s and, did I mention, they love to teach. Gifted diagnosticians and technically adept, they can find the pain culprit within a few minutes after a thorough patient based evaluation. If they don’t know the answer, they will consult without hesitation. Effective (and safe) manipulations, Active Release Technique (ART), and soft tissue work are superior and their patient relationship skills are real, honest, and hope inspiring. A unique healing force within a community of powerhouse medical professionals in Rochester, MN—this small business team embraces the medical community to raise the bar for their own performance. Grateful for their competencies, I’m incredibly proud to have these professionals in my adventure story. My observations of their work and care that I receive make me better in more ways than one. Active PT, thank you.
Originally planning to race Ironman Wisconsin at my alma mater in Madison on September 8th, plans have certainly changed. Flights are booked for Timberman 70.3 on August 21st (joined by my adored friend, Teri J!). Then, Augusta 70.3 in September, and we will be finishing the year with Ironman Arizona in November. AC and I have shifted our season, and we are both incredibly excited to create a great ending to this year’s chapter.
Thank you for reading.