Monday, February 1, 2016

Cresting the Wave

by Sue Aquila

I completed a race in January in the Cayman Islands (70.3 miles) called the Mercuryman Triathlon. We awoke on race morning to the the winds howling and the surf crashing onto the beach. An uncommon occurrence in one of the top open water swim locations in the world.

In the U.S., I believe the race director would have canceled the swim. Not a single person warmed up in the water before the race. I have never experienced a terror-inducing triathlon swim in those conditions.

The race started and we had a current that was so strong we looked as if we were standing still. I am told the spectators were laughing at our inability to move! Waves crashed over our heads making the buoys disappear in the troughs. People who had veered off course were saved from wandering by the intrepid kayakers. And that was just the first loop!

After finishing, I giggled, happy to be on the right side of my mortality. The swim was challenging, impossible at times and yet I felt wonderful. I completed something hard and I lived to tell a great tale. As did everyone else.

The swim made me question whether in our effort to protect everyone, we deny the chance to attempt the impossible. We create events shrouded in safety protected from liability with a certain outcome preplanned. I don’t want people to die for a hobby. I do want people to have the opportunity to soar.

The swim from hell taught me that I missed the instinctual feeling of overcoming a huge limitation. The ocean. My fears. Even death. I missed the exhilaration of accomplishing something I thought impossible -- of being stunned by the simple joy of being alive.

Now that I am in my mid 40s, I find people often wake up in mid life tired of the routine, the aches and pains and the mindless work. A moral intersection appears. Do I have an affair? Take up a sport? If you are considering the affair, I would suggest that an epic sport event is much cheaper than the cliche of a mid-life divorce!

In the past, people went on pilgrimages to find themselves or asceticism through religion. As a modern seeker I chose an endurance event. The journey can be different but the answers may be the same.


Sue started her triathlon journey with a 50 pound weight loss and continues as a multiple Kona qualifier. In 2013, she was named the Overall Ironman All World Athlete Champion in her age group. As a successful entrepreneur, she believes that, “You can run your business like your training and your training like your business!” As a coach (USAT Certified), she helps athletes to develop success in all areas of their lives: family, health and work. She blogs regularly at fewoman.com. You can find her on Twitter @fewoman.
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