By, Lizz Bennett

Three years ago I quit, gave up, walked away. I thought I would never make it through and so I took off my race number and turned in my timing chip before the race was even over. I ended it in T2.

It was my first race as a sponsored athlete, I felt pretty confident.  I got there early, got set-up, marked-up, and ready.  It was a spring race in an outdoor pool but the clouds had darkened and the wind picked up so by the time the gun went off we were all shivering as we shuffled to the staggered start.  Steam was coming up off the water and the last thing I wanted to do was get out, it was so warm in there. But I hopped out feeling strong; no one had passed me at this point.

Running to T1 it started to rain and I was unprepared. As I biked out onto the course I was dripping wet in a tiny tri-kit, then the wind and the rain got harder. Within 5 minutes my fingers and toes were numb. Things went down-hill fast, the course felt like it would never end, at one point I was so cold and shivering so bad that I started weaving back and forth in the road and almost caused a cyclist to crash.  I felt horrible, out of control, demoralized and wishing this day had never happened. It seemed like eternity until I was able to pedal into T2.

I couldn’t unclip my feet or uncurl my hands from the bike and I tipped over miraculously pulling out a foot to break my fall, that didn’t stop my bike from crashing to the pavement. Fine motor movement was out of my reach, I couldn’t figure out how to clip on my race belt, my fingers wouldn’t do what I was asking them too.  And the whole time it felt like every athlete that had shown up that day was progressively passing me one right after another. I reached up to take off my helmet and couldn’t squeeze the clip.  I could not get my helmet off. My hands dropped to my sides. My head bowed.  In that single moment I would win or lose this race, regardless of the amount of people that would finish before me.  This single moment would define this race.

I mindlessly walked over to my friend, Tawyna, and she helped me take off my helmet.  I told her I was done. She asked if I was sure. I said yea. We walked over and cleaned up my transition area. She dropped off my timing chip, and we drove to the gas station to get hot chocolate.  It tasted like sour, hot defeat.

For weeks I doubted my efforts, justified my attempt and contemplated the point. I blamed the race directors, I blamed the other athletes, and eventually turned the blame to where it belonged.  It wasn’t that others were better prepared, that they were better athletes, that the course was hilly, and that the weather sucked. It wasn’t anyone else, it was me. It was my fault. I wasn’t prepared for the variables. I was behaving like the over-confident, inexperienced athlete I was. And then I quit because I wasn’t willing to suck it up and finish despite what my finish time was going to be.  I couldn’t handle not living up to the expectations and so I made excuses.

Every victory or failure I earn.  Quitting and walking away earned that failure.  And I own it. It was my failure; no one else was to blame.  I could’ve walked the run, I could’ve focused and just kept going. It wasn’t the elements that beat me, it was my self-doubt.

I never want to feel that way again.  I want control over how I handle the variables, how I deal with the unexpected, I want to always be able to beat the real failure-giving up.

So despite the perception of my inadequacies, I will rise. In the face of difficulty I will be unafraid of the pain.  Regardless of my limitations, I will break them. And if I ever get to the point of quitting, I will remember how it felt that day to walk away with my head down and my spirit broken, then I will pick up my feet, lift my chin and keep walking. Because I am more than that feeling, I am what I decide in that single moment.

"Look up, get up, and don't ever give up. You tell everyone or anyone that has ever doubted, thought they did not measure up, or wanted to quit. You tell them to look up, get up, and don’t ever give up."-Michael Irvin