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  • Writer's pictureJustin McLennan

Attending to my Sidekick

I was now standing at the bottom of the beach with the ocean water just yards ahead of me. Race day had arrived! The moment I have been preparing the last 30 days for was seconds away and I couldn’t have felt more prepared. My body felt strong, muscles were loose and my sidekick was confident whispering positive thoughts through my mind. “We got this.” “We are ready.” “Lets go!”

The race had begun. It was time to put my physical and mental training to the test. Wave after wave, literally, the battles had begun. First, it was a battle with the ocean current trying to push me back to shore. Each stroke became harder than the next. With the first line of defense concurred, the next battle was between me and the other flailing feet and arms taking on the ocean. It seemed as though the splashes of my competitors had become allies with the taunting current. I continued to stay strong and push forward. The first buoy to start the half-mile swim was now only a few feet away. I had successfully defeated my first two battles only to quickly realize they were just the beginning. Exhaustion had been waiting for me at the buoy and it gave me everything it had.

Only eight minutes into my first Triathlon and I felt defeated. I was floating in the ocean, gasping for air and barely a third of the way into the swim. All I could hear was my sidekick telling me, “You can’t go any further, just quit. It’s easier to give up and just go back to doing what we always do.” I was angry with myself and used that anger to argue back at my inner child. I started swimming harder and faster just to prove him wrong, but after about 15 strokes, I found myself floating again. I became even angrier with myself, started believing my inner child. Maybe I should quit; maybe I just wasn’t ready? This was the first time I had ever pushed myself to the breaking point, where quitting was the next best logical step in my mind. I looked left, looked right, and found the lifeguard to swim to.

But, then I remembered! I wasn’t using the tools I learned during training! It was time to listen to my sidekick and take care of him. After taking a moment to listen, I quickly realized that my sidekick didn’t really want me to give up. Rather, he was just scared. It was time to take care of him and let him know that I was there for him, everything was going to be alright and we were on the same team doing this swim together, just like in the pool.

Becoming one with my sidekick, I had found peace of mind. I no longer had an anchor, I now had a swimming partner. I became one with the moment; focusing on one stroke at a time and controlling my breathing pattern. Arriving to the midway buoy, I noticed the voice in my head started to think negatively again. It was time to take a break and use my tools. Since I had consciously made the decision to take this break instead of exhausting myself until I felt I couldn’t go on, I was able to appreciate the fact that I had made it half way. Stroke by stroke, I continued to the final buoy. After making into onto shore, I realized I had completed the hardest leg of the triathlon for myself…the battle between me and my sidekick. It may not have shown on my exhausted and fatigued face, but I walked out of the water full of joy. I was proud of myself for reaching my breaking point and being able to use my tools to accomplish my goal. This swim was the most physically and mentally draining challenge I have ever endured, but it was also the most fulfilling experience I have had yet. If it was not for my tools and attending to that voice in my head, I would have never succeeded. It all comes down to mind over body…pushing yourself to the next level. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So the next time you challenge yourself, challenge your sidekick

to take you to your next journey. Be able to push yourself to the point where you don’t think you can go any further and give yourself a few moments. Take three deep breaths and attend to your fears, your inner child. What are they saying? Can you take care of them?

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