Athlete.

For the month of January, the “blog squad” was writing weekly including one “choose the topic” week. It’s now February and I’m still working on this post. It keeps going around in my head:”when did you first consider yourself an athlete.” I had a few ideas down and then read Laurel‘s version of the same question. The short version: she always thought of herself as an athlete. For me, it was almost the opposite.  Although I know I’m ‘sporty’ now, I really wasn’t always and I certainly didn’t consider myself an athlete.

In highschool I tried all the sports teams and was usually benched pretty early, not having the greatest hand-eye coordination for sports such as volleyball and basketball. I still don’t, and won’t be taking up racket ball anytime soon. I did make it onto the field hockey team, but I’m pretty sure I mostly ran around and occasionally whacked a ball. The finer points of team play were lost on me. Finally, at 15 or so I joined the local sailing team where my older sister and brother were already racing. It took a few years of figuring it out, but by grade 11 and at 16 years old, I was the top of Canada for youth sailing, even winning two national titles. I still did not consider myself an athlete.

Sailing is an odd sport involving tactics, boat-handling and strength endurance. Some skills can be learned, but many of the best sailors in the world are just born with the feel for the water. Looking back now, I realize how much strength I had.  I recall being able to do one-armed pull-ups and carry around my 200lb brother. And abs. Whoa, did I ever have abs. Below is the typical position the skipper of a dinghy stays in for much of a race. Rock. Hard. Yet, I still didn’t consider myself an athlete.

hiking
Leverage your body weight over the water for hours each week for abs of steel.

After my sailing days, I switched in “type 1 fun” sports like skiing and downhill mountain biking. Considering these are both gravity driven, I certainly did not consider myself and athlete.

I did start to swim regularly and started attending masters more or less for something to do in the cold evenings of Whistler. I took up running in 2005 or so and eventually, the downhill mountain biking included more and more uphill. Was I an athlete yet? Not as far as I was concerned.

So when did I finally consider myself an athlete? I’m not sure there was an exact moment, but when a complete stranger comments, “I dare say, you look like a sportswoman” or your co-workers start calling you the “machine,” it starts to cross you mind. I do recall the morning before my first Ironman in 2011. I stood up and caught a glimpse of my 30 year old self in the mirror. I barely recognized the reflection. That girl looked like an athlete and the next day she would prove that she was one and had probably been one all along.

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