(What is is about the day before Ironman which evokes all the deep thoughts? Anyway, here are a couple of mine and I promise to return to a round-the-world adventures recap soon after the race tomorrow)
I look through my Instagram pictures and Facebook posts and I see a life I never imagined living. Elephants and monkeys, absurd amounts of tropical islands, cycling with Kangaroos, a chiseled-looking Australian man (seriously, how did I score him?) and a perfect little girl. Sure, it’s the “best foot forward” tiny little glimpse of my life that showcases the highs and minimizes the lows, but the truth is that those moments are still lived by me and my little family. Never did I imagine in a million years that at 36 years old I would be traveling the world as a professional athlete with my daughter and my Australian triathlete soon-to-be-husband.
|Koala crossing in Queensland|
|Candy the elephant in Phuket, Thailand|
|Lava fields in the Oregon high desert|
In some ways, I’m living out my wildest dreams, but to be completely honest, in some ways I’m scared s$%tless. I was brought up in a family where hard work, education, and helping others were the primary family values. My dad is a doctor, my sister is a nurse, my stepmom is a child psychologist, and my mom is a college professor. Until three years ago, I followed their footsteps and was happy and secure in the future I had created for myself. As a school psychologist, I loved my career, I loved my school community and the families I was able to connect with. I spent 8 years in college & graduate school school to obtain complicated-sounding degrees and solidify my career. I knew that my retirement fund would grow every year and I’d be ok when I was old and gray. And then, I quit. What started as a leave of absence turned into a resignation as it became clear that if I returned to my psychologist position, Wynne & I would stay home in California, she’d be in full-time day care, and Luke would travel around solo to bring home the bacon.
|getting engaged on the Great Barrier Reef|
|sunrise in Melbourne, Australia|
|Cycling the canyons in Utah|
|exploring the woods in New Hampshire|
|paddling with Dad|
Instead, I chose to live a little traveling circus with my partner and our perfect little girl, pursuing my little slice of the triathlon dream and watching Luke live out his big slice first-hand instead of via Skype. Wynne has been to 5 continents & 14 countries (many with multiple visits) before her second birthday.
|ticket to ride|
Life now is exhilarating and incredibly fun and adventurous, but even more so, it completely scares me to death. I cannot board a 12-hour plane flight, ride my bike through a monkey forest, or run through a remote village without wondering what life will be like in 10 years and “what the heck am I thinking?!?”. In my upbringing, you plan for your future. You make sacrifices today that will ensure payoff tomorrow and way down the line. Nowhere in the Gerdes family guidebook was it written that you choose a “career” that most certainly will end by your early 40s, or a partner who is along that same career path.
|bubbles at the Tour de France|
|on island time in the Bahamas|
|twinning in Hawaii|
For me, living in the moment is harder than planning for the future. I wake up (wherever I am) every day completely amazed by the world around me (which in the past 18 months has included Australia, Chile, Panama, The Philippines, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Malaysia, Thailand, The Bahamas, Cape Cod, New Hampshire, Hawaii, California, Chicago and probably some spots I’m forgetting). But before I even pinch myself, I freak out that I should be at a desk somewhere writing a psychoanalytical report or back in the sleep-deprived state of train-work-train purely because I felt deep down I was the hardest working person out there and that gave me some sort of sense of accomplishment that I was doing the "right" thing. I constantly look at what I’m doing now and wonder if my parents are proud of me or if they just think I’m running around the world being silly. At the end of the day, though, even if I never win another Ironman or accomplish my biggest goals in sport, I know my parents are proud of me. They see me happy and in love with Luke, spending valuable time with Wynne, and doing my best to follow my dreams and work hard at "right now". I think they enjoy seeing me live my life in this moment and I hope that they’re confident that when this is over, I’ll find a way to be okay (we are saving, mom & dad, I promise!!!) . We may never be millionaires, but we certainly won’t live life with any regrets over paths not taken.
Tomorrow, I’m racing Ironman Australia, my 7th Ironman start line since I had Wynne nearly 2 years ago. Tomorrow, I’ll try my guts out to go as fast as I can, but I’ll also be celebrating this opportunity, this dream, these people, and give thanks every mile that I get to live this life in this moment.
Thank you to everyone who makes it possible to get to the start lines around the world including my friends, family, and 2016 sponsors. First Ironman of the year, here’s to making it count!
added note: Since the Ironman welcome dinner last night and meeting Turia Pitt at the pro panel, I cannot stop thinking about one thing. And for this race, that's my "WHY". Why are you doing this? When the going gets tough tomorrow, Turia has given me my "why".... Because I want to be the one that gets to give Turia her finisher medal at that finish line... A job reserved for the race winners. That would mean the world to me. If you want to be inspired, read a bit about Turia's incredible journey here and tune into ironman.com tomorrow to support her!