Monday, October 15, 2012

Personal Victories - Finding the Glass Half Full

A Glass Half Full with an amazing view of the harbour in Bermuda

Amelia Island Triathlon Weekend
As many of you who follow this blog know, second only to art – and maybe fashion – athleticism is very near and dear to my healthy heart and part of my everyday routine. 

Yesterday was my last race of the season, supposed to be anyway. I had wanted to go out with a bang, end on a high note. After all, that's what we all aim for right? 

You Gotta Start Somewhere
I had registered to compete in the Olympic distance of the Ameliaman Triathlon which took place on beautiful Amelia Island, FL which coincidentally is where I gave my very first Paper Paintings collage workshop EVER! I went on to teach my class there for three years in a row. The first year was pretty amazing because learning how to teach others what you already know can be a little confusing.

When I agreed to teach workshops, it was kind of like when I agreed to compete in my very FIRST triathlon with my sister at 40 years old. I had NO idea what I was getting myself into, but I decided that the best way to be a rounded person in art and in life, was to branch out and try new things. You can't grow if you don't branch out once in a while. 

The Amelia Island workshop, my first class ever

Believe in Yourself
Now that I am a seasoned triathlete, (and workshop instructor) having moved up from Sprint distances to Olympic, my daily routine consists of swim/bike/ run or some combination of two. I love to inspire my workshop students to get up off the couch and get moving! There's nothing that makes you feel better about yourself than being in shape and making some YOU TIME to fit exercise into the routine. I have so many students who dust off their sneakers and register for a 5K walk or run! I love to inspire people to get motivated, in art and in fitness. 

Have you gotten any exercise yet today?

I headed up to Amelia Island on Saturday afternoon. Racked my bike and picked up my race packet. I could hear the waves pounding but didn't think much of it, it's the ocean after all. Before heading to my hotel I walked down to the beach, it's so beautiful I wanted to have a look. Once down there I met a Half Iron Man competitor who told me that he had heard they were going to call off the swim. "Look at it out there!" he said "Do you REALLY want to swim in that?"

The surf was looking pretty rough on Saturday afternoon

Some of the locals told me there had been small craft advisories in the water for a week. Come to find out, there were "life threatening rip currents" and six foot waves. Yikes. 

I checked into my hotel and headed over to the Athletes Pasta Dinner and Pre Race Meeting where we were all disappointed to find out that they were calling off the swim

As much as I HATE SHARKS and was dreading the open ocean swim, I likened the swim being cancelled to using scissors to cut my collage papers or adding paint on top! (OMG NEVER) it was kind of like a cheat to have a Triathlon with the swim portion ripped (cut?) out. But..."no Half Iron Man, I don't really want to swim in that!"

So I ate my pasta and went to bed early and figured I'd kick some serious butt in the bike/run, especially without the dreaded transition time of trying to get out of a wetsuit and onto a bike. All my Facebook friends and my family encouraged me and cheered me on and made me feel confident. 

My bike on the rack and ready to go Saturday afternoon

Preparation is Key
I had gone into this race NOT feeling so confident. I told my son earlier in the week that I was feeling kind of like I could have been better prepared, could have worked harder, pushed more. 

Ever feel like this about your art? Often times before a show or a competition I start to doubt my work and think the very same thing, "could I have done more work, better work, been better prepared?"

I think we all suffer from some self doubt now and then, I know that sometimes I look at my own artwork and say "Is it good enough?" The key is to BELIEVE in yourself. Have CONFIDENCE that
you can do it. You know half the battle is in your own head. 

Transition area on Sunday morning

Giving it Your Best Shot
All you can do is your best. Your best artwork, your best attempt at teaching a class, your best effort. You should be able to rest assured knowing that you gave it your all. I did not do a lot of resting or sleeping on Saturday night, but that's a normal pre-race scenario and everyone will tell you so. 

Yours Truly very early in the morning, just before the downpour

Personal Victories
So here comes the best part. I hope you had the attention span to make it to the end of this post. On Sunday morning the rain was POURING DOWN in Amelia Island. The athletes were all huddled under any shelter we could find to protect us from the downpour. I huddled under a very small overhang from the roof of the restroom building on the beach. Standing next to me was a man I had met the day before who drove all the way from Pensacola. "I switched out of the Half Iron Man to the Olympic" he said "I just could not imagine biking 54 miles in this rain." I had to agree with him, but I was not sure I was willing to bike ANY miles in this rain. The start was delayed, delayed, delayed as the rain kept on pouring down. At one point I even though about going home. And anyone who knows me, knows it takes a LOT for me to give up. 

I have been promoting my artwork and pushing to make a living from fine art for several years. I never give up even when the going got rough. (My Dad loves that saying) I pushed harder and stronger when sales were down and galleries were closing. When workshops were cancelled due to poor attendance, I pushed to promote the next one on the schedule. You have to have drive and dedication to be a fine artist. You can't let it get you down when things don't go your way, and you CAN NOT take critique of your art personal in any way. If you don't get juried in to this show, submit again!

Finally the rain let up, but there were puddles everywhere and the course was slick. They told us there were at least five roundabouts (in MASS we call them "rotaries:") and we were advised to get out of our "drops" (aero bars) and hold on to our brakes as we rounded them.

Without the swim, they had to stagger start the bikes in a time trail manner, letting one bike go every five seconds. I shot out of the gate and never looked back, I had my bike up to 20/21MPH in no time and I was flying through the puddles. I was feeling good, pushing hard and was pretty darn proud of the fact that I was able to keep a good average pace without struggling. 

Well about 11.5 miles in it happened, I heard a noise that sounded oh so familiar coming from my back tire. My BACK tire, the worst wheel to have to remove off the bike. A flat tire. A flat tire. That's it, you're done. You can get off and change it and get back on, but your time is shot. Totally. 

There is a LOT of grease on the back wheel of a bike. 

I Did It!
Some folks will DNA (did not finish) with a flat tire in an Olympic race because you can no longer be competitive when you factor in the time it takes you to change a flat. But the idea of not finishing what I started did not ever occur to me. And guess what? I have NEVER successfully changed a flat tire on my own! I have always reverted to the help of my husband or the bike shop. I have tried, and failed. I even spent over an hour with the bike shop guys teaching me how to do it! In the end it was THAT training that helped me to successfully change this tire on the side of the sandy, wet road in Amelia Island. I DID IT!

Can you imagine just giving up because you didn't get your art juried in to the show(s) you submitted to? Do you know that I submitted every month for a YEAR and was turned down every time for a YEAR before ever being accepted to the Orlando Museum of Art First Thursday Show? I was, and it was discouraging to say the least. But I never gave up. And in the end, they accepted me over and over and asked me to be a featured artist in the Museum Shop Gallery. 

I got back on the bike, got back up to 20/21 MPH (or faster) and powered through the second half of my 26 mile ride. I felt good about myself for remaining positive and changing that tire. I felt good about the speed I was maintaining regardless of the fact that now my computer was not working either, and I was out of the competition anyway (what ELSE could go wrong, I was afraid to ask). I also started to feel really good about the upcoming 6 mile run. I started feeling very confident and ready to rock-n-roll. 

I dismounted the bike, changed my shoes, put on a visor,  and headed out of transition. As I made the turn into Fort Clinch State Park for the fully shaded and most beautiful run course, I started running, and thinking....

I finished strong passing folks younger than me and even some men on the run!

How Lucky Am I?
I mean really, how lucky am I that I am physically ABLE to do this in the first place? I started thinking about my childhood friend who was paralyzed from the neck down two years ago. Cherie. How she would love to be able to even walk, let alone accomplish what I was doing today, competitive or not.

How awesome was it that I actually changed that tire, for the first time? and it worked! 

How lucky am I to be able to make my living as an artist and a graphic designer, working for myself and doing what I love? 

How incredible is it that I am able to teach classes and travel to new places and meet new artists all over the country? the very BEST part about teaching art workshops is all the wonderful people I get to meet, hands down. I even meet wonderful people at races, huddled under the overhang, concerned at the beach, and comparing pre-race notes with the 27-year old "kid" who's bike was racked next to mine. He was born and raised in Houston, then lived 12 years in England, and now lives on Amelia Island. He has competed in at least seven Olympic races and plans to push on to the Half Iron Man distance next year. "You were FLYING on the bike" he said to me "I couldn't even come close to catching you!" boy did that make me feel good. I mean really. 

461 was a winner, in the end. 

The Moral of the Story
The moral of this very long post today (and give yourself a gold star if you made it to the end) is to recognize personal victories. Even if you don't win Best of Show or place in your age group, there are personal accomplishments along the way that should not be glossed over. 

My son reminded me when I came home on Sunday afternoon that he never lost faith in me. He said he was proud of me for competing and for finishing strong. He reminded me that he knew I was not feeling very confident going into the race, but my positive attitude about my performance was awesome, and really what matters most in the end. My son is 12 and about as tall as I am, this kid is really growing up fast. Thank you Connor, for believing in me. 

I never won anything in the juried shows I was accepted into with the National Collage Society, but having been juried in to three, I am now a Signature Member of this prestigious group, and that's something to be proud of. And lets not forget all the wonderful people and artists we all get to meet in classes and workshops and at opening receptions.

AND all the great shoes you get to wear along the way.


  1. Hooray I finished! I love this post and I read it at a time I needed a little boost! As a busy mom it's sometimes tough to keep going even when that's your personality. I took a vacation day from the day gig tomorrow to stay home and paint!! Filling up the glass. Thanks Elizabeth I enjoy hearing your perspective.

  2. Hooray I finished your post...defintely worth the read. I appreciate hearing your perspective along the way and staying focused and believing in yourself! Busy moms sometimes forget that so thanks! Tomorrow I took a vacation day from work to stay home and paint in my studio...filling up the glass! Thanks Elizabeth!

  3. A vacation day in the studio! I can't think of a better way to spend the day. GOOD FOR YOU and thank you. Sandy! ;-))


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