“Well, look at it this way, at least this will make a good story.”
This is what I told my friend as she was lying in a hospital bed in the ER hooked up to an IV last week. The blank look I received made me realize that maybe it’s something I should have kept to myself. We had completed a century ride that day. It was a gorgeous bike ride and everything went perfectly. No one crashed and we only walked away with two bee stings between us. We felt tired but accomplished as the ride came to a close. And then, my friend got sick due to dehydration and we ended up in the ER instead of being home in our beds.
Things did not go as planned. And when things don’t go as planned, I tell myself this very thing. “Well, at least it’ll make a good story.” It comforts me. This phrase had become one of my favorite mantras and I wanted to share. But, maybe not everyone wants to share in my optimism ALL of the time. Sigh. Note to self: keep it to myself.
Think about the last year of your life. Which days stick out in your mind? Most likely they are the ones that something big happened. Some are days or events that you planned. But what makes your life really interesting are often the moments you didn’t plan. Every story has conflict. Without it, there isn’t much of a story to tell.
In 2010 I signed up for the Chicago Marathon. I had heard great things about it, two other friends had signed up and so I was in as well. They were not going to run my pace and so I knew that I would be running this alone. As race day came closer, I started to get nervous. I had done two other marathons but both of them I ran with a friend by my side. Who would I talk to? What pace would I run if I’m by myself? What if I couldn’t finish? What if I got a terrible time? The “what ifs” were terrible the last week before the race. If I hadn’t paid so much I think I would have dropped out. I let the “what ifs?”get in my way of my feeling ready and creating unnecessary anxiety.
It was beautiful the day of the race. I had my gels in my shorts pocket and tunes in my ears. I gave myself the pep talk I needed to get this race done. The first five miles went fine but I really had to go to the bathroom (too much hydrating) so I pulled off at the porta potties. Leaving the porta potties something felt off. I looked down. Every one of my gels that I had carefully counted and stowed in my shorts pockets were GONE! I had nothing to sustain me until the one and only gel station at mile 17. I felt the fear creep up into my scalp as I realized the significance of this. “Stick to what you trained with,” is the mantra of any good marathoner. I had trained to take a gel about every 45 minutes. Without those gels I had no idea how I would do or if I could even finish. Every “what if” that I had before the race did not even begin to cover this snafu. It was something I had never considered. My gels were most likely DOWN one of the porta potties.
I know it’s gross but I went back to see if I could find my gels. Maybe they were on the floor of the porta potty or on the ground next to them. But which one, there were 20 of them lined up and they all look the same and then I need to try to explain to the people who are waiting in line, please let me just look inside to see if I dropped my gels? And then I realized do I want to put something in my mouth that has BEEN on a porta potty floor? After looking in several of them with no luck, with the clock ticking, I gave up and moved on.
I did what I had to do. I did my best to finish the race. It was not pretty. It got hot, I got tired, I walked a lot more than I had planned to and I had a terrible finishing time. But I finished.
That day, not only did I learn that I am capable of more than I gave myself credit for, I also learned that I shouldn’t worry so much about the “what ifs” because stuff happens that you can’t even begin to imagine. And, most of your what ifs never happen anyway.
Four years later and it is the one marathon that will always stick in my mind. I even have some fondness about the memories of it. I have done more marathons since, but this race, I will always remember this race. How I felt, how I dug down DEEP to finish and how I think I began hallucinating at the end about getting a tattoo. I remember being so happy afterwards, like I had cheated death because I completed that marathon despite a pretty big obstacle. I taught myself that I had grit and more tenacity than I thought I had.
And it makes for a pretty good story.
Pictured below. (L) “Me before the real story began” (R) “Mile 25 when I started hallucinating about getting a tattoo”