Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Profiles in Mental Toughness I

I swear I was running in 5˚F weather this morning I conceived of this post but when I checked up on Tridaddy this morning, he'd beat me to it!! Oh well...consider it a theme for us all to ponder about...

As I slogged along the snowy roads with the sun rising, I thought how some would consider me tough for being out in this cold at 5:30 am. It was cold...but just getting out of the warm bed and out the door was a lot tougher than the run in the I must be mentally tough too. Truthfully, my mental toughness has a lot of developing to do...just like my skills in the other areas of triathlon. I have a bit of mental toughness...I endure northern new england winters...but I'd like to have a lot more of it...I aspire to be tougher... so as I ran, I focused on three people that totally motivate me when I feel like I'm being a wuss and need to toughen up... thought they might motivate you too...

First, Karen Smyers. I've not met her before but I've met her sister, Donna, thru my friend Kim who swims on my masters team. Kim and Donna are both world ranked age groupers and pretty much win every race around here...and Karen has been racing pro since the mid 90s... and for the past few seasons I've gotten bits of the inside scoop on how Karen is doing...what an amazing woman. Here are her stats, according to Team Psycho:

6 time Pro US National Champion
6 time USOC Triathlete of the Year
2 time ITU World Champion
2 time Pan American Games Gold Medal Winner
1995 1st and ONLY woman (so far) ever to WIN Kona IM
2001 US Elite National Champion
2004 Timberman Half Ironman Champion
2005 Lake Placid IM, 4th place finish
2005 Eagleman Half Ironman, 4th place finish

She's also had two children - born between 1997 and 2001... Crazy, you'd think. It get's better.

In June of 1997, a window shattered at Karen's house and fell on her hamstring, severing most of the muscle. Instead of seeing this as a setback, she decided to use her rehab and recovery time to have a baby..."what the heck - I'm gonna be laid up anyway...I might as well take the time for a kid now too..." She had a healthy baby and returned to racing the following year.

As luck (or bad luck) would have it, in June of 1998, fully recovered from her hamstring injury, Karen was sideswiped by an 18 wheeler while training on her bike. Get this: 6 broken ribs, a lung contusion and a separated right shoulder. She fought back, completely recovered and continued racing. Talk about tough.

Then, just as she was at the top of her sport kicking some serious butt, she was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. She raced at Kona a few weeks later (Thyroid cancer is a slow grower and they caught it early so it was ok for her to put off treatment) and pretty much thought the Dr. was could she feel so ok and be sick? I think she finished 2nd that year...and then in 2000 made a successful bid for the US Olympic Team...she placed 7th in Sydney...and underwent cancer treatment in between making the team and competing.

She also broke her collar bone when a woman in front of her crashed on the bike leg of a race... bet you can guess how she handled that...

Karen Smyers is the definition of mentally tough... I pray I will not be tested in the ways that she has...I aspire to have one tenth of the spirit she shows every day. Keep an eye out for her at your races this summer...I'm sure she'll be out there... and Google "Karen Smyers" to learn more about this incredible athlete...

Dryland and swimming tomorrow...followed by a profile of Dave Denniston - the second athlete that inspires me with his mental toughness...

As always, train hard!!


Blogger nancytoby said...

Karen Smyers rocks! Thanks for that profile. I admire her. Hope she comes back to Eagleman this year so I can RACE her!!! (So far she's always won, but there's still hope...).

5:43 PM GMT-5

Blogger TriSaraTops said...



8:26 PM GMT-5

Blogger Flatman said...

5 degrees is too cold for me. I guess I need to work on MY toughness...!

10:40 AM GMT-5

Blogger tarheeltri said...

Scooped ya! Just kidding! Actually a coworkers husband had cancer and I was thinking about him when I thought of the post. Thinking about what these people go through, just makes me feel so guilty for thinking I have it tough sometimes.

9:48 PM GMT-5


Post a Comment

<< Home