Well – it’s often been said, but the more I travel, the more I realize it to be true: my most productive times are usually while sitting aboard a plane and being high above the clouds. Is it the change of pressure that knocks some sense into us? Perhaps it’s the complimentary (or sometimes not) coffee and seatbelt combination that keeps us glued to our seat but hyped up with caffeine. Or maybe it’s the fact that, for once, our phones are on airplane mode and we can’t default to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Strava, or email (for the record – I’m guilty of all of these). Whatever the case is, as the sun rises above the clouds, and we are soaring at an incredible speed (although funny enough, the clouds don’t seem to be moving that quickly), I’m feeling quite inspired and ready to reflect.
Six months ago today, I was also sitting on a Ryanair flight returning from training camp in Spain. When I had flown to Mallorca for training camp, I had planned to return with the team one week after arriving.
However; I had just moved across the world, and I didn’t have everything sorted out in Belgium just yet. Specifically – I didn’t know where I was going to live (minor details…) Maybe this was bad planning, maybe this was just how it goes, but Mallorca was comfortable. I spoke the language, the sun was always shining, and in that period I could focus on being a triathlete, instead of being a belgo-american moving across the world. So, two days before the return flight home with the team, I pulled the plug, changed my flight, and decided to delay these aforementioned problems for one more week.
Summer was a whirlwind. Record amounts of training. Record amounts of racing. Record-breaking performances. Some winning, some illnesses, some family time, some quiet time. A couple trips back to the US for weddings. If I wasn’t preparing for a race, I was racing. If I wasn’t racing, I was preparing for a race. All of these reasons combined made it for a very quick 6 months.
As I sit here, flying back from my second Spain training camp (is this real life?!), exactly 6 months after my first, I realize how much has changed. For the first time in my life, I am gaining a real insight in what it must have been like for my parents just married, at 22, to move from their home country Belgium, all the way to America. Though I wasn’t there to see it myself, I can imagine their struggles adjusting to the language, the difficulties with the foreign accent, the sacrifices of missing family weddings, birthdays, births, deaths and holidays. At the same time, and maybe more importantly, I understand the “why.” I can understand the fire, the passion and determination to make a big adventure work. The reward and satisfaction of arranging little things like health insurance, or renting an apartment; understanding road signs, and navigating bureaucracy. I can see the excitement of making a big dream a reality. I can also see that their oldest friends are their most loyal friends. The ones who helped them adjust to life in America gave them a lifelong gift.
I see a lot of parallels in my parent’s journey, and I’m very inspired by their bravery and the decision they made 35 years ago. I thank my training partners on Atriac for making my summer so memorable. To the guys for not taking it easy on me during open water sessions, and accepting every challenge for a race ;).
To the girls for being such great friends, giving me rides, lending me clothes/equipment/baking dishes, and having the patience to translate everything from Dutch to English for me. I also owe a lot of thanks to my coaches (Bart and Olivier), the club president (Claude), and of course our team sponsors (Runners Lab, AA drink, Sporting A, Giant Benelux, Ideal Systems, Heavy, Bioracer Speedwear, Ohr Cycling), and individual sponsors (Flatout, Dolfin Swimwear) for doing everything they could to help me adjust. Thank you to those who have hosted me in and outside of Belgium (specifically Bart Decru and family, Mommy Hilde, Sofie Goos and Jef, Eric Justus, and Ines and Eric in Antwerp). Those who helped us move between each of our 3 apartments (a big shoutout to my cousins, Aunts and Uncles). I’m so grateful for this triathlon community and I’m so looking forward to continuing this journey together!