Making it all worth while

| August 26, 2012

by: Joella Baker (newsletter 8/13/12)

I’m often asked how I continue to train day in and day out, meet all of you early every morning, and not stop. I wish I had an easy answer for you, but I guess the bottom line is I love the sport of triathlon, but most of all, I want to be healthy. Those of you who have been diagnosed with a long term illness understand the importance of staying healthy.

Once you have a disease kick you in the butt, bring you down, change who you are as a person, you realize it’s time to take your life back. Triathlons have done that for me. After being overweight and out of shape for several years, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer. I realized quickly that training and racing again was just what my body needed, but mostly what my mind needed. Mentally, I needed to feel good about myself again. I couldn’t be a good wife, mother or friend unless I was happy with who I was as a person. Running and triathlons gave me the strength I needed to fight the disease and feel good again. I wish I could say it was easy, but it never is. It doesn’t matter if you’re healthy or if you’re plagued with an illness, training hard and racing is never easy. We all feel pain, we all have days when we don’t want to work out, but I know from personal experience that I feel so much better once I step out my front door and do something.

Three weeks ago, I had the opportunity of a life time. I traveled to Spain to compete in the Long Course World Championships in Vitoria Spain. Representing the United States and Team USA at this race was an incredible experience and one I will never forget. I was training 20-25 hours a week, swimming in open water, living on the bike, running 30-40 miles a week and countless hours of core, strength and balance work. I spent hours from my family, I did not have the chance to plant flowers at my house this summer, or keep my house very clean for that matter. I missed time out with family and friends so I could train and do my best in Spain.

Was it all worth it? I’d have to say yes. Sure, I wish I had more time to do things at home and with Scott and Zachary, but in the end, I competed in Spain. I was a member of Team USA and even with a flat tire on the bike, I was the second US woman to finish in my age group and 18th overall in my age group. I beat women who easily beat me at Nationals and I had a race where through the entire thing I really felt pretty great and when I came through town on my last loop of the run with thousands of people screaming for me, and Scott and Zachary there the entire time, it was all worthwhile. The trip I made to Spain was incredible and if given the chance to compete for our country again, I will do it in a heartbeat. I had the chance to watch two double amputee men race at Worlds. I watched a blind woman who completed the race and an 80 year old man from the US. I bet their journey was far from easy. The other day, I had my mentor and friend, Tom Murray call me to see how the race went. Just talking to him about his experience at Lake Placid, after all of his training and races and all he’s done for the sport, it made me realize that you never know when things may really change.

I know, that with having Lupus, I have no idea if the next race will be my last. However, I have to tell you, seeing these people race and compete made my health problems seem minor. I admit, I’m not healthy all the time. I get sick easily and Lupus has a way of attacking my internal organs: at any time, I could be hit by something that may prevent me from competing again. But, I promise you this, I will continue to work hard and do everything I can to compete until I get to the point that I may no longer be able to race in long distance events. I will continue to work hard, eat healthy and make sacrifices for the sport I love, and I will do my best to treat every race like it may be my last. I believe if I continue with this attitude, I will be racing for many more years and I pray in the meantime, we find a cure for Lupus and many other diseases that prevent some of us from doing the things we love to the best of our ability. I’m so grateful for my family and my friends who supported me on this journey. Scott and Zachary were perfect in Spain. They kept me as calm as they could leading up to race day by keeping things fun and making me laugh. I’m thankful we stayed out of town and away from the race venue. It allowed me to focus on my race and not focus on the competition as much. To my parents who made it possible for Zachary to join me on this amazing adventure.

To all of you, my training partners, I wouldn’t be nearly as fast or efficient if it weren’t for all of you. Thank you for the hours you’ve spent with me in the water, on the bike and running. This group has been significant in my success and mostly in motivating me to work hard and to always do my best. To Tom Murray, Bob Stanionis, Stacy McCandless and Hot Harry Kirsch. The men who inspire me to keep on going and have taught me more about running, racing and challenging your body than anyone I know. To my sponsors. As I start my new business to help others fulfill their dreams and be fit and healthy, you all supported me to help me live my dream of representing our country in Spain. I hope that I made you all proud. All the sacrifices I’ve made to get to Spain were worth it. I raced hard and I did my best at my biggest race ever.

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