Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why I Love Triathlon

It’s been a while since my last post where I posed the question ‘Why Do A Triathlon’ and received incredibly heartfelt and inspiring responses. Thank you so much. Your comments, and the events of the past two weeks have caused me to dig deep and truly examine my motivations for doing triathlons.

My motivations now are different from two years ago, when I loved the idea of Triathlon, but had not done one. Two years ago, I thought I was completely cured from the autoimmune illness that had put a serious damper on the previous 10 years of my life. I had been medication-free for over a year, and running 5 minute miles – feeling strong.  Triathlon sounded like an extreme physical challenge that would be my way of saying ‘Hey Life, I’m back!’. I imagined my healed, new body pushing through the limits of endurance, something my sick body could not do. I said to myself, ‘I will know without a doubt that I am strong and whole again when I finish my first triathlon’ (More background HERE).

Well, they don’t call Henoch Schonlein Purpura ‘chronic’ (lifelong, incurable) for no reason.

When I actually completed my first mini-triathlon ('Hoohathlon'), I was sick – in early stages of a relapse. During my first Sprint triathlon, and my first Olympic distance swim the following day, I had barely recovered from yet another relapse (Also read 'First do no harm').  Both at the Hoohathlon and Sprint triathlon, I was happy beyond words that I had crossed the Finish Line, but this happiness was tinged with a bit of sadness. This wasn’t how I imagined it would be.

I had imagined a ‘comeback Grace’ sending a powerful message to myself and others with chronic illnesses that ‘Yes, it is possible to take back your life!’.

Instead, here was a frail and still-sick middle-aged woman swimming, biking and running with the dream of one day being whole again.

I will be whole again!

Here’s why I love the sport of triathlon:

Triathlon has opened up a whole new world of possibilities that has tested not just my physical body, but also my mental and emotional mettle. I am constantly learning how to listen to my body, even as I persuade it to swim, bike or run just a little further, or just a bit faster. I have learnt not to push through pain, but am still learning to read the more subtle ‘enough!’ messages my body sends. Missing these messages sometimes result in relapse. Instead of getting upset ‘my body let me down again’, I reassess what I need to do better, while meekly submitting to rest (Except this one time). I’ve packed in a whole lotta learning about my body in the past year. I’m also more sure than I ever have been, of my mental and emotional fortitude. I know I will get up every single time I fall. I have done that for the past 12 years, and promise myself to keep trying until my last breath.

I love to train. I train as much as I physically can. When I am very sick, walking up the flight of stairs to my apartment can be a huge accomplishment. I’m learning to better manage my illness, so I haven’t been really really sick for a while. When I am well, I love to run. I LOVE to run. For me, running is the most physically strenuous of the three sports in triathlon. Running is also when I feel most alive. My heart is beating, blood courses through my veins, my muscles pump with life. I embrace the ache in my muscles and how my lungs feel like they are going to burst – yet more reminders that I am alive. And I am grateful.  Now, I don’t actually run fast, or anywhere near fast. And I’m not sure if I can actually run far either, because the arthritis that afflicts me may be exercise-induced. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to find out some time. I’m thrilled just to be able to run! When I can’t run (sick/recovering), I can cycle and swim. This brings me to my next point.

I love being able to mix it up (swim-bike-run), and even at my weakest, being able to enjoy a short slow swim. I can work different muscle groups while letting others recover, and the variety in my workouts keeps things far from routine and boring. Since I am often sick, knowing that I can at least paddle about in the pool is something that I can look forward to during these potentially depressing periods. For this, I have to thank Total Immersion for teaching me mindful swimming, which makes every pool session effortless and pleasurable. It feels great to be able to move my body under my own power, in whatever state of health I happen to be in.

I love the beautiful people that I have met and continue to befriend on my journey to triathlon. Various ones of you have extended your hand in friendship, welcomed me without reservation into your circles and allowed me a glimpse of your motivations for your own triathlon journey.  These glimpses have been revelations for me, and my life has been enriched tremendously. A few names come to mind: Raymond, Ida, Cynthia, Dzul, Ena for being the friendly faces at my first mini-tri (Hoohathlon), Kash for kinship despite what little face time we shared, Jen for generous advice to a newbie,  Jaja for your FB and DM encouragement, Cynthia who conquered her fear of open water swimming and inspired me and countless others, KC, Steve, Nurina, Misni, Azizi, Syerol, Paul, Janice, Juliana, Lina, Reza who will also forever be part of my cherished memory of my first triathlon at Port Dickson. Tang, Gin Hai, Hafiz, Kee Tzuen, Shirllin, Bee, Michael, Surech, Vijay, Yip, Yvonne, Kay, Dogbert, Merce and many others whom I have the privilege of calling my friends.

Racing is the icing on the cake. It is the day when I get to come out and have a rockin’ time on the race course, and cheer on other triathletes as they achieve their dreams and goals. I count my blessings as I stand at the Start Line on Race Day, and count every swim stroke, cycle stroke, every step forward… as a joy and a celebration that I am alive!

I love hearing from you! Please leave your comments at the end of this post! 

A click on any ad below this post will put a few cents in my pocket, from the advertisers. Thanks for supporting my blog!

xo Gracie

p.s. And Spencer, thanks for being there, through everything, always.


  1. Grace, you are an inspiration to all of us on how life should be lived. Not only in terms of doing so much physically - certainly many of us can and *should* do more - but also in terms of appreciating what life has given us, celebrating what we ARE capable of, and not whinging over what life has thrown us, but instead *dealing* with it and working around it or with it to reach for one's dreams.

    You are a shining star - keep your light shining bright!

  2. Hey Silver13 (/follower of 'Emma Bishop aka TTH' / possibly The Emma Bishop), thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I do get moments where I wish I could go all out and push myself hard, but then I remind myself that going slow and steady prolongs the fun times! By the way I love Beyond Transition. :D

  3. Grace,

    It is an honour to be mentioned but really; you inspire me as much, if not more. I am reminded that endurance is so much more than a sport or pass time, that it is to live and live well in spite of the circumstances life dishes out!! You are one who epitomises that credo! I will see you in a race again soon!! Live strong!!

  4. Paul, thank you for your wonderful commments. It is my heart's desire to be remembered as a good friend with a ready smile... just as you have been to me. Look forward to seeing you at Desaru!

  5. Gracie darling!! I just love you for who you are and feel so blessed to have met you...It build good friendships...u never fail to give me that "Just-go-out-n-do-it" attitude...a lot of fears thru my head wt regards to swimmg n cycling but heck, I'll be seeing u next year for my first OD bebeh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Misni, you are a total sweetheart! Not to mention an inspiration to all working moms juggling a full time job and family life PLUS running marathons to boot! I am looking forward to being your pom-pom girl as you race an amazing OD next year. :D

  7. great way to live in the moment. nice post Grace. truly enjoyed reading it on monday morning.. and my boss was wondering why do i look so cheerful. inspiring indeed. keep it going..

  8. Surech, thank you! I'm glad my post put a smile on your face!! Hope your nasty cold is gone and see you at TI this Friday :)

  9. Grace I have read two times and I have concluded that you have an amazing life!

  10. Kay, thanks for stopping by! Yes, I have come to the same conclusion too! I have had a colorful and terrific life and thank God every day for giving me another day, and for friends like you.

  11. Hi Grace. I found out about you through Taheera. We studied in ICOM together many, many, MANY years back! :) The amazing part is that through her, I have found someone like me. I have a medical condition which has no cure either. The doctors call me the 'idiopathic anaphylactic patient.' I would love to hear from you. Here's my link:


  12. Hi Eve, thanks for your comment - I'm headed over to check out your blog right now. Take care, Grace.

  13. Your story is very powerful and inspiring. I just completed my first sprint triathlon and googled "I love sprint triathlons" which led me to this blog. Seeing that you commit to this sport through illness is beautiful. I feel the same way as you about running and how it makes me feel alive.

    1. Hi anonymous, thanks for your kind words and congratulations on completing your first sprint triathlon - the first of many many triathlons for you I am sure! Happy running and do drop by every once in a while!


I LOVE hearing from you! Please do leave a comment!