This morning, I woke up early, about 05:00. My busy brain set in at my normally programmed wake up hour of 04:00 which caused me to lay in bed for an inordinate amount of time trying to solve the world’s problems. Today is Friday and I am two days out from my first 70.3. Today, for the first time, I’m actually starting to look forward to the process.
Last week was a whirlwind of emotions with lots of things to do and not enough time to do it. Between working 4- 12 hour shifts, training time, getting the kids ready for back to school, dogs, grocery shopping, meal prep, laundry (Nope, it hasn’t let up) and family time I felt like my emotional gas tank was running on fumes. I began to second guess all of my training, why I was doing this to myself and most of all: If I stopped now and walked away, would anyone even notice or care?
Then, kind of like a message from the universe being delivered straight to my door, the screen of my phone lit up and I got a text message. Perfect timing....but more on that in a bit.
I was born and raised in Wall Township, New Jersey which is located right in the middle of the Garden State on the East coast about two miles from the beach. As far as childhoods go, I had everything a kid could have wanted, two amazing parents, loads of siblings and a few close friends. From Kindergarten to 4th grade I went to public school and in 5th grade my parents transferred me to parochial. Being the new kid, I was bullied and picked on relentlessly. I was bullied because I was this super small, painfully shy kid who had bad teeth (fixed courtesy of 6 years in braces) and was unable to defend myself as I had not yet found my voice. I managed to make it through 4 years at this school, each becoming a bit better than the last and finding some solid ground to stand on. Then, as a Freshman at public High School, it started all over again. This was 1984. The clothes were terrible and the hair even worse. (I should have bought stock in Aqua Net).
When my parents set up shop here in 1969, Wall was a “small” farming community with about 16,000 people making up its less than 32 square miles. I hit High School, in September 1984 with about 300 other Wall kids. As each of us figured out which was was up, we tried to not to get trampled by the older, bigger kids and not get stuffed in our lockers. I got picked on now not just because I was “the new kid” but because I stuck out like a sore thumb suffering from a raging case of “Preppy”.
Popped collars, Izod, plaid prints and Sperry Topsiders, OH MY. (No, no big hair yet. That didn’t happen until college)
I made up my mind about two months into my Freshman year that I would never treat anyone like that and more so, If I saw it happening to someone else I would stop it. I hated feeling inferior and at the mercy of anyone. I made it a mission to be friends with everyone and to treat everyone the way that I would want to be treated. I became involved in sports, band, drama, art anything I could and I treated everyone like they were my friend. Kids who were older, kids who were younger. I became a good listener and provider of advice only when asked, I never arbitrarily offered. We were in fact, all just teenagers all in the same boat trying to figure out life and stay afloat. Little did I know that after graduating, how much life would change but still stay the same.
Most of the kids I grew up with spread their wings and left for school, some never moving back to the State. I went to school, travelled the world like my Mom and Dad wanted me to and learned that there is so much more out there than Wall Township, NJ, but here in Wall Township is where I made my roots. The way I looked at it, if this was a great place for me to grow up, then most certainly it would be for my kids as well. Life happened. After my Divorce I moved from the North end of town back into the South Wall neighborhood I grew up in and suddenly, I felt grounded. My kids were moved from a Parochial school back to a public school (Allenwood) which, coincidentally was where I went. Jake and Ladybug started making new Friends, I was happy but I still hadn’t found my tribe and it was painful.
One day, Ladybug came home from school and announced that she had a “bestest Friend” named Emma. I heard all about Emma, how funny she was, what the goings on of the day were at lunch and mostly I got to hear this incredible little giggle when they would talk on the phone. The most natural of progressions, of course is for the Mommies to get in contact with each other and arrange playdates. We exchanged numbers and texts, “Hi, I’m Jeanine, Emma’s Mom. We would love to have Courtney over for a Play-Date” “Sure!” Followed by “Emma has her First Holy Communion and Ladybug is the only person she wants to come, is that ok? We can come pick her up” “SURE! Let’s meet and I’ll have her ready”. Jeanine’s car pulls in the driveway and both of Emma’s parents get out to introduce themselves.
It was kind of surreal, actually. Immediately, as sense of recognition washed over me. “Wait. Jay? Jay Tiedeman??” You see, Jeanine and Jay were high school sweethearts that grew up together in Wall, got married and made roots in their hometown also. We were kindred spirits, per say. I knew Jay’s family well as I went to school with his siblings. This is it. This is how it’s supposed to be, THIS MAKES MY HEART HAPPY. Jeanine and I quickly found our Friendship and it was so damn easy. Our girls did everything together, played, slept over, soccer, soccer and more soccer. Then cheer and more cheer. I had Jeanine’s back, she had mine, we started moving our way through girls and their hormones together and there it was...the first members of my tribe. Just a couple of Wall girls making their own traditions and reliving some of our own.
Then as life should have it, Jake entered High School and started playing soccer. I moved through the town’s travel soccer circle pretty easily. There were alot of Mom’s and Dad’s I had grown up with that had played and now their kids were also legacies, like Jaker. I quickly knew who my Friends were and it was almost like we picked up where we left off 20 years before. More members of my Tribe.
At some point, three years ago I crossed paths with two Wall Alum who were two years behind me in school but we had always managed to be friends. Karen and Kerrin. Two of my all time favorites. These girls are just amazing humans. We could laugh together, bitch about soccer shenanigans and other overbearing parents and we loved to hear about each others kids and how well they were all doing. Most importantly, I think we just really liked that our boys were friends like we were without any help from us. I mean, how cool is that??
At some point, in 2015 I had a pretty significant health scare which rocked me to my core and forced me to re-evaluate my priorities. I distinctly remember forcing myself to maintain some semblance of normalcy after some pretty intense, life altering surgery. I decided one night in mid May 2015, with my surgical drains in and all to go to the soccer fields to watch Jake practice from his travel team. I wore baggy clothes so no one could see and slowly walked down the asphalt path to the fields, with the warm Spring sun on my face. As I made my way closer, I saw my two friends on the field next to Jake’s watching their boys.. I smiled, they smiled back and we said our “Hello’s”. Karen and Kerrin immediately knew my body language and protectively circled the wagons. They asked and I quietly told them what had happened. They hugged and we cried a bit but then the “Wall” girl came out. “Whatever you need, we don’t care what it is. We will help”. You did girls, just by saying that. You helped more than you will ever know and for that, I will forever be grateful.
As My circle of Friends began to widen, the longer my hometown roots stretched. My tribe grew, not just in quantity but by quality. Suddenly, I was more grateful than ever. .
Fast forward to Monday, September 3rd at 10:35. I was in full freak out mode, internally. “Why the HELL am I doing this?? If I walked away now, would anyone notice or care??”
The Universe at 10:36AM:
“Breathe. In. Out. Don’t let the distraction of fear, anxiety, doubt take a second away from your focus. Weakness comes from within. Reject all doubting thoughts and feelings. Replace them with positive statements. Breathe. In. Out. I’m not going to say good luck because you don’t need that. I’m going to say...Make way for the badass that you are!” - Kerrin.
I sat on the edge of my bed, re read the message, covered my face and I started to cry. I guess there is my answer. Someone would not only notice, but they would care. A lot. I answered Kerrin with a text explaining that at that time, more than ever, I needed to hear those words.
Over the course of the next few days, when I least expected it, my phone began to light up with text messages. Words of encouragement, love, support and praise. Words of hope. “Thank you for reminding me that no matter what it is, don’t ever give up on yourself” Mostly people from my hometown but people from all over. When I least expected it, people were paying attention to this small town girl and her big dreams. People were rooting for me and my “Ironman” dream and in turn realizing they could too pursue something amazing. I have lead by example, treated people with kindness and most importantly: inspired people to pursue the sport of triathlon.
So, now I am going to travel into the Village of Lake Placid and do the “Athlete Check In” portion of the day and be briefed at 3pm. I am here, where I will soon be establishing a second set of roots and awaiting the arrival of the President and CEO of the Tracy Tribe, Mel who is coming tomorrow to root me on. Have a great day, stay safe and be good to each other ~ T