One of the more embarrassing moments of my childhood was from my fourth grade gym class. It was the mile run day for the President’s Challenge, that horrible week during the year when your fitness was measured and I of course came up short in everything. As I recall I was already 110 pounds at age 10 and my idea of fitness was running to the cupboard to sneak a few Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies before dinner. The one area of the President’s Challenge where I excelled was the sit-and-reach, which measured flexibility. I was always number one in my class, the only advantage of being blessed with short legs and a long torso. Enough of what I was good at, now on to the cringe-inducing mile run…
The mile run was eight laps around a spray-painted loop in a field behind our school. Granted, it’s not like we had Nike technical apparel to change in to. I was most likely running in some uncomfortable skirt and sweater that my mother picked out for me. Anyway, fat kids in skirts don’t run fast. In fact, I came in dead last out of my entire class. I was so slow that everyone was done while I was finishing my final lap. Imagine being a fat kid with a perm (thanks, mom!) and having all your classmates stare at you as you huff-and-puff. To add insult to injury, my shoe fell off as I rounded the final corner. To this day I can still see the 25+ faces of annoyed school children watching me hop on one foot to my tear-filled finish.
Fast forward 21 years to last Saturday. I was attempting my second sprint triathlon in Lexington, Michigan. I hadn’t done any real training and the last time I swam was at my last sprint tri in September of last year. For some reason the waters of Lake Huron terrified me and I immediatley panicked when the gun went off. I couldn’t control my breathing, ended up swallowing a bunch of water, and threw up on myself. Lovely. Luckily the rescue kayaks had swimming noodles for idiots like myself. I took one after a few feet of flopping around erraticaly. While I wasn’t dead last to get out of the water, I was surely the only person under the age of 50 with a security blanket noodle. My ego was decimated. As I ran back to the transition area, I couldn’t help but recall my earlier embarrassing moment in athletic acheivement.
Every day of my life is a struggle against Fat Kid Laura. In my late teens to mid twenties I fought back in unhealthy ways by starving myself and smoking and eventually developing bulimia. At the age of 27 I started training for my first half marathon and finally found out that I was a decent runner after all. I fought against Fat Kid Laura by training and enjoying races, and every once in a while winning my age group. Running has given me more self-esteem than any other aspect of my life. However, there are moments like the Lexington disaster when Fat Kid Laura comes back in full force to destroy my confidence.
It’s easy for me to not feel good enough. I see girls with nice boobs and I feel inadequate. I see girls with good careers and feel I have nothing to offer. I struggle with the math while studying for my Series 7 and I feel stupid. These feelings can utterly consume me if I don’t fight back. So I failed my swim portion miserably in Lexington. I’m not throwing in the towel and letting Fat Kid Laura win this round. I am determined to let Kick Ass Adult Laura reign victorious. On Monday I participated in a tri training group and I even signed up for private swim lessons to improve my technique and efficiency. A bit extreme maybe, but Fat Kid Laura is a tough bitch to beat.