Growing up, I never dreamed of being Miss America, a CEO, a doctor, astronaut, or teacher. My dream was to compete in the Olympics!
When I was younger, I didn’t care what sport- figure skating, diving, basketball, gymnastics, bobsled… I just wanted to be there.
Once I started running Track and Cross Country in middle school, my dream became more specific. I wasn’t the slowest, but I definitely wasn’t the fastest. I struggled with committing myself to improving, distracted by all the things teenagers are distracted by. All too soon, I realized my dream would never come true. It was okay, though, after all, not everyone can make it to the Olympics or they wouldn’t be what they are.
In January of this year, I participated in a Sprint Triathlon. I trained for about a month, kind of half-heartedly (I mean, come on, what mom has time for serious training?).
Despite my lack of training, I competed and I finished first for women!
The officials asked if I would like to represent American Samoa in the Pacific Games.
Before I go any further, I have to clarify. I came in first for females, because I was the only female to compete. haha I came in first because there was no one else willing to try.
Now, here I was, being asked to train and race in an international, elite-level competition… because I was the only option.
I was completely intimidated, but incredibly excited!
Time to get to work.
Jumping in head-first and fully committed, I re-prioritized and moved things around in my schedule, and, surprise, I was able to fit in my training. I spent the next six months swimming, biking, and running my heart out.
I participated in all the Tri’s and 5k’s that I could. In May, I traveled to Apia, Samoa for the Samoan Triathlon Championships and finished 2nd in Females! (Out of two)
Coming in last for Female’s didn’t feel great, but I was happy with my time and I loved the experience of the competition.
Plus, I was motivated to train even harder.
Over those months, I had good days and bad days. I experienced burnout. I wrecked my bike and did something to my hand, that made it incredibly painful to put any weight on it (no, I never went in to get it checked out, for fear of them wanting to put it in a cast, which would ruin my training and possibly the Games). At times I held myself back and other times I pushed myself past my self-imposed limits. I developed a fun skin issue, where I would break out in hives every time I started sweating (I sweat a lot, here on our tropical island).
But through it all, I kept going. Whenever I felt like I wanted to give up, I’d repeat my mantra, “This is the race, Melinda. This is your chance.”
At some point, that dream from long ago came back to me.
The Pacific Games are a far cry from the Olympics, but it felt pretty freaking similar to me! 8 y/o Melinda, 12 y/o Melinda, and 16 y/o Melinda were all cheering me on and I knew I couldn’t let them down.
The day of the race came. After 6+ months of training and anticipation, it arrived.
Somehow, I’d been talked into doing the Aquathlon (swim and run) the day before. I felt a little tired, but still ready to give it everything I had.
Guys, the atmosphere that morning was electric! This was the day we’d all been working toward.
I felt excited, panicked, nervous, happy, sad. Everything I’d been working toward would be over in just a matter of hours. Whatever the results, this was it.
The female triathletes lined up at the starting line. I took one more deep inhale…
One hour and twenty-seven minutes later, I crossed the finish line in last place.
I was so exhausted, I couldn’t even process this. Obviously, I was disappointed, but also relieved. All things considered, I hadn’t died. I hadn’t belly-flopped, diving into the water at the starting line (like I did the day before for the Aquathlon, yes, there’s video evidence lol). I hadn’t wrecked my bike or tripped and fell in front of everyone. No flat tire on the bike ride. And now, I could finally rest.
It took me a few hours, maybe even a full 24, but eventually, I realized I’d won.
I had PR’d (finished the race with my fastest time ever). I knew I had given it everything I had to give.
The support and love I received from family, friends, and complete strangers before, during, and after the race was more than I could have ever wished for.
Knowing that my kids had seen me work so hard, sacrificing blood, sweat (lots), and tears to do my best. Then, to lose and still feel so proud of myself was a lesson I could never teach them through words alone.
I won, not because I earned the gold medal, but because I had done it and I had no regrets.
Before I finish my tale, I’d like to express my gratitude.
For the Opportunity
I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to take part in the Pacific Games. Living on this tiny spec in the middle of the South Pacific has it’s challenges, but I owe my place at the Games to living in a place where I was the only woman who tried. A special thank-you to my teammates and coaches! To all who talked me into competing- Thank-you! To all who worked to make Pacific Games 2019 a reality and a success- Thank-you! And to the athletes and officials who made it an unforgettable experience- Thank-you!
To My Friends
I’m grateful to my friends who have listened to me talking about this ALL YEAR LONG. To those who have honked and waved as I was out running, you put a smile on my face and made my run a little easier- Thank-you!
To My God
I’m grateful to my Heavenly Father, for blessing me with a strong, healthy body that can do hard things and for a strong mind (sometimes referred to as stubborn), that won’t allow me to quit. Thank-you!
To My Family
My family who are far away, I felt your love and support from across the ocean. I know if you’d been close by, you would have been right there on the side lines, cheering me on the whole way. Thank-you!
And to Nate, Hadley , Holden, and Kip- The biggest thank-you!
The kids have put up with a mom whose focus was divided in so many directions. I’ve been tired, I’ve been cranky. I’ve been impatient. But I hope you know how much I love you and appreciate your patience and support for me. Nate has been my #1 cheerleader, swimming coach, drill instructor, my rock, and my bank roll. He’s been keeping our house, family, and sanity in tact. And all without a single word of complaint, rather encouragement to keep going. THANK-YOU!! I couldn’t have done it without you.
A spark has been reignited and I’m not ready to let it fizzle out just yet.
I learned a few really good lesson through all this:
I hate swimming! Plus, I suck at it!! I love going snorkeling, taking my time and enjoying myself. I love spending the day at the beach. But I do not enjoy pushing myself to swim faster. I swallow too much water and it’s monotonous. I’m hanging up my goggles and swim cap. Maybe one of the kids will find use out of them one day.
I enjoy cycling, but not stuck on a trainer, in my hot, stuffy, boring living room. So, until we find ourselves in a more bike-friendly place, where I can enjoy long bike rides outdoors, I’m on a hiatus.
I love running! Running is where I find myself. It’s where I feel strong, centered, free.
But I know I’ll get lazy, or busy, or whatever lame excuse I make, and eventually I’ll find that I haven’t run in months.
So, I’ve set myself some new goals. I’m having fun researching how to run better and faster. I’ve given myself a little break, but before I lose my momentum, I’m getting back to training, to pushing myself, to working hard and seeing my efforts pay off.
Once I’ve reached my distance and speed goals, I’ll set my sights on some races (RUNNING races) where I can compete and actually have a chance.
So, keep your eyes open for reports of my progress and if you don’t see any, give me heck. Really, please! Keep me accountable.
And remember, we can all do hard things! It might not be in the form of racing, but we’re all so much more capable than we give ourselves credit for.
What was a dream that you had once upon a time? Something that you let go of, not believing that you could accomplish it. Channel your younger self, dig up that dream, make a plan and go for it!
You might win or you might lose. But as long as you try and give it your best effort, you won’t have any regrets either. And who knows, it just might lead to the next big thing.
Tell me below what your big goal is and I can help keep you accountable, too.