Hello readers!! This note is just a simple “Thank you!” Thank you for trusting me and reading An Unlikely Champion: Finding the Path to Fulfillment and Winning in Life.
Over Christmas and New Years, I found some time for deep reflection. I looked through old photos, came up with my favourite memory of 2022 and created some actionable items for 2023. And in that process, I realized that it was 5 years ago that I wrote An Unlikely Champion. Each week, I send out “mini-inspirational” notes to the athletes we coach. I also try to post motivational ideas on social media. But I have never followed up with you – my readers – to share ideas or inspiration or gentle “let’s do this” nudge.
And so, I went through every single book order! I smiled as I saw that my book had travelled to New Delhi, Hungry, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Croatia, Poland the UK, Dominican Republic, Australia, New Zealand, across the USA and every province in Canada and really all over the world. As I went through each of your names, I remembered signing your books. I saw names that I hadn’t seen in years and I just smiled. It took ages BUT the journey was so worth it! Just like it is tough to get out for a run or a walk or start an exercise program or a new career or re-locate – the journey is the story and it is that story which defines us. And so my story the past few days has been a story of thanks. Thank you all for reading An Unlikely Champion. I loved writing it. I just met someone at the pool today who said he has read it twice. That makes my heart sing!
I will start with a highlight reel of the past 5 years:
I did my first ever TEDx talk in January 2019. My theme revolved around the idea that peak performance is not just based on talent, but that peak performance is a combination of being competitive and being compassionate! Here is a link if you are keen – TEDx talk But here is my closing in case you need a quick hit right now: “..we all have different start lines. For some of you, it is an office or a school or a mall or your own home. We are all running different races. But a world class athlete is no different from a world class parent or a world class teacher or a world class custodian or world class CEO. We are all competing with ourselves and against others every single day. But we will only win when we act from a place of love and compassion. We must accept who we are and have the courage to make the changes to be our best selves. Wholeheartedness trumps talent every time. When you are driven by what is inside, peak performance is possible. “
Do you remember the story about Tracey Richardson and her two kids Makena and Cameron with CF? Tracey raced the Ironman World Championships for the Breath for CF Foundation. Both Makena and Cameron had double lung transplants in 2018. Makena had a challenging transplant. She was in ICU for 2 months and then had to have dialysis 3 times per week because her kidneys shut down post transplant. She then had a kidney transplant in 2019. I know this all sounds horrific but Makena would not be alive today had she not had the transplant. Now 3 years removed, she is living full and healthy and happy. Meanwhile her brother Cameron also had a lung transplant in August 2018 and he was literally in and out of ICU in a few days and at home in 3 weeks. The whole family is thriving and Makena is now 30 years old!
In February 2019, we welcomed our new pup, Hadley! We picked her up in South Carolina and Fenway (our 9 year old pup) was not impressed at all. She was looking for an exit strategy the entire drive home! But they bonded of course and Hadley kept her 9 year old sister young and playful.
In August 2019, I tore a very important tendon in my foot (posterior tibial tendon). It was actually a few decades long tearing process thanks to my flat feet that culminated in a “yup, you have finally done it”! And that led to the debate of having surgical repair or not. Surgery is not always a cure since rehab after a tendon repair is lengthy and the outcome is not always favourable. It took several months to walk pain free and during those months, I did much internal debate and great advice. Ultimately, “we” decided to leave it since I was quite happy to just run short, easy and with our dogs. I was just so happy to be able to walk pain free that I promised never to do speed work or hill repeats or strides or run up on my toes again!! I accepted this new path and I was determined to be the best runner/walker that I could be with my less-than-perfect foot. I was grateful for my flat feet that had given me more miles of joy than they should have. I became grateful for an injury that I never wished for. I was grateful to the opportunity to jog without regard for pace.
My first run was a walk/run in February 2020. I jogged the downhills and walked the uphills. By May, i could run 3 km. Now I can run over an hour. The tendon is still torn. But I am running healthy and with no expectations. Can you be grateful for something you never wished for? It is not our conditions that define us but our decisions about those conditions.
Of course, we all know what happened in March 2020. Uncertainty. Fear. Isolation. Suffering. Loss. But it also made us resilient and taught us to problem solve, adapt and thrive. We had no choice! For me, sporting and speaking events were cancelled which narrowed the scope of my work. But coaching our athletes took on greater significance since we wanted to keep them moving and finding purpose beyond racing. We knew the power of exercise especially regarding mental health and happiness and so the focus became finding fulfillment through daily exercise and getting fitter and stronger and celebrating personal goals rather than trophies and medals. We had fun “races” for our athletes so that they had targets in their calendars. We focused on at-home strength training circuits with and without equipment.
Personally, I added rowing to my exercise routine and created fun strength/rowing circuits for our athletes. We created virtual racing options and DIY races. I created a virtual speaking package and pivoted to speaking on a variety of online platforms. There was no question that the pandemic brought pain. My brother died in January 2021 from Covid complications. My mother lived in quarantine in her retirement residence for so many weeks . We all had our own personal tribulations. We are all “veterans” of the Covid war and likely have a bit of PTSD. But I am absolutely certain that most of us have a moment of pride from when we endured more than we ever imagined that we could or when we grew our business or found our true path to fulfillment.
Our pup Fenway went to heaven on April 1st. She was an incredible pup and is still missed. Her many “jobs” over the years included
CF therapy puppy – coming to our family when I had retired from sport and had a rough few years of lung health. She was a great focus and source of joy for me.
Dave’s back injury/surgery/rehab dog. She saw him through 2 major painful times and 2 rebuilding times.
She was a terrible retriever but an amazing swimmer. She surely would have qualified for many doggie swimming Olympics if she could have just stayed on the blocks without false starting.
She had been my assistant triathlon expo manager and sponsorship coordinator when I worked for Ironman (“you will be able to find me on site attached to a brown dog”)
She was a savvy traveller being a many-time guest at Fairmont Mont-Tremblant and Deerhurst when I was working at events.
She was an 11-year member of the SnowBirds Association having never spent an entire winter in Canada.
She spectated countless sporting events and cheered for all of our LBT athletes personally on site.
She was a Croc connoisseur – chewing multiple pairs.
She was a detective – able to find our Christmas stocking in the storage room at any time of the year.
She co-authored my book, sitting beside me for hours while I wrote.
She co-signed many books, sitting with me at every book signing.
She shipped many books (here is her video which she sent following each book order – Fenway has shipped your order – Check it out here!)
In August 2021, I did the Olympic television commentary for CBC. This was my second Olympic commentary opportunity having done the 2012 Olympic Games. I covered the Open Water 10 km Marathon Swim and Race Walking (20k and 50k). I loved learning the new sport of race walking. And while I do not plan to become a race walker, I developed a huge respect for the athletes. It is an endurance sport which requires tremendous focus and attention to detail and technique. Open water swimming is in my wheel house but I was still in massive awe of the capacity of the swimmers to train huge mileage (120km + per week), the focus required to swim hard and fast for 2 hrs and do all of that based on a perceived effort that has been learned after tens of thousands of kilometres of swimming. Imagine going cycling and running without your watch to check for pace, distance, time etc .. imagine it for a day, a week or a month? That is the the open water swim racer. No data – just a complete understanding of internal pacing and effort. We don’t need watches to tell us we are “productive” or that we need to “rest” or that we “need to move” or that we ran slower than yesterday. We need to find those internal cues to say “hey great effort today on a day where you would have rather sat on the couch” and to say “I think I need to go to bed early tonight because that bike ride really zapped me today”. Just a great message to trust your own personal instincts even though wearable technology is wonderful and the leading fitness trend of 2022.
Athletes got back to racing that same August so the event calendar got busy. I was off to the Collins Cup in Slovakia where I was the captain for the International Team alongside Simon Whitfield. In case you are wondering what the Collins Cup is all about, here is a primer that Simon Whitfield and I did for Triathlon Magazine Canada – https://youtu.be/o_w1LxPBBTg Essentially we had Team International (Simon and I were co-captains) vs Team USA (Mark Allen and Karen Smyers were captains) vs Team Europe (Normann Stadler and Natasha Badmann as captains). The top 6 male triathletes and top 6 women triathletes from each region were on a team and went head to head with the other teams. So there were 3 athletes in each race – a total of 12 races. It was televised in 100 countries. You can watch the highlights – here and the opening ceremony – here. It was an amazing event.
Other highlights included a return to in-person speaking in 2022 and thankfully a busy start to 2023. Speaking is so similar to racing. I prepare for a few weeks. I cannot sleep the night before because I am so excited. I sweat a little. I throw my whole heart into it. I am hungry and tired afterwards and then eat as if I did an Ironman but I still cannot sleep because of the endorphins coursing through my body!! Then I go back and refine my notes and come up with ways to improve my keynote the next time just as I would improve my swim/bike/run/transitions/nutrition post race.
And now that we are all caught up, it is time for a bit of goodness especially as we embark on 2023.
Take some time over the next 24 hours to go through your photos and jog your memory to find your happiest moment in 2022. What filled your heart with joy? I think “joy” is when you are so darn happy and content that absolutely nothing feels scary or daunting or nasty. Here is my happiest moment in 2022:
It was August in Mont Tremblant. I had been at Collins Cup in Slovakia from Monday to Friday and I travelled on Friday to Tremblant to do a talk for Subaru and to coach at Subaru Ironman Mont Tremblant. Dave drove from Caledon with Hadley to meet me there. I flew from Austria to Montreal. So after a very long day of travel that started at essentially 12 am EST, I arrived to my smiling family sitting on a bench in front of the Fairmont Hotel at 5 pm. I was over the moon to see them. And we did what any good mom and dad would do. We took our puppy for a hike and swim! All of a sudden, I wasn’t tired in spite of a 17 hour travel day and 6 hour time change. I had to do a speech at 7 pm EST in front of all of the athletes. None of that mattered. I was with my family after 5 days away and I could not have been more full of joy.
What is your happiest moment of 2022??
Let me leave you with an excerpt from one of my keynotes:
We all have a story. Here is my story in highlights:
As a child, my family doctor told me to be “less smart” in school to avoid intimidating the boys. Apparently smart girls were less attractive.
My high school track coach told me I had no talent.
My sports doctor told me that I could never be a runner with my flat feet.
Oh yes, and I have Cystic Fibrosis and according to statistics, I shouldn’t be alive.
I ignored everyone and took my brains, my flat feet, my CF and my lack of talent to the University of Waterloo. I ran varsity track, graduated with honours in math and computer science, taught high school, got married, won 11-Ironman races and 16- Ironman 70.3 events and now I get to speak to you. Was I afraid? Yes. I was afraid at 3 pm before I started to speak to you. But I was brave and courage beats fear every time. And when you feel like giving up, remember, courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it can be a little voice that says “Let’s try again tomorrow.”
Ok everyone – what is your story?
What are 3 of your most proud moments in 2022?
What are 3 things you learned in 2022 that may or may not spur changes for you in 2023?
What are 3 of your best assets (remember the asset list exercise in An Unlikely Champion?
Thank you for joining my book family over the past 5 years. I don’t know if another book in my future but I am going to keep finding ways to share insight with you by notes like this or on social media.
Remember, the good stuff happens outside your comfort zone. And in the words of the great baseball player, Mickey Mantle:
“During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. A ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without hitting the ball.”
Continue to lead with heart and finish what you start! Lisa