Let’s just jump right into it…
This last Sep I got the chance to compete at the Paratriathlon World Championships in Gold Coast, Australia. Going into this year we knew it would be a long shot to get there since I had to wait for my name to come off of the waitlist, but held out hope, wanting the chance to compete for as many points as I could and rise in the world rankings. I had a realistic goal of getting 5thin the race. I knew my competitors, their times and where I fell among them and was sure I could place top 5. The race started and I swam, bike and ran to the best of my ability that day. I crossed the finish line in 7th, beating only 2 of me competitors and immediately realized how ‘real’ my result was. It was a realistic wake up call that while I was out having my baby girl last year that my competition had gotten much faster. I could no longer strive to be where I was athletically before Rio, I needed much more than that if I wanted to thrive in this sport again.
I traveled home not unhappy with my race, just in awe at my competitors and how fast they had become. I got home to Chicago and reassessed my future goals. The Tokyo Paralympics were less than 2 years away and I was going to be a 40 year old mother of 2 trying to compete against those much younger than I. Could I actually compete with them? Did I want to compete with them? Was I willing to train for the next 2 years and travel for training and racing and be away from my family? If I didn’t give it a shot, would I regret it down the line?
Naturally, Brian and I talked much about this and came to the conclusion that I needed to try. Because we all should live a life with no regrets, right? And honestly, why not? But given my results at Worlds and the need to improve fast in a shorter amount of time, WE decided that I needed to go all in. Giving it everything I’ve got through 2020 so there were no, ‘what if’s’ at the end of the day.
So I applied for the Paratriathlon resident program out in Colorado Springs. A program that has other athletes on the national team training as a team under the same coach. Training out of the Olympic Training Center like I did before Beijing in 2008 and having all the resources there available to me. Strength, nutrition, sports medicine, sports psych, altitude training and the added benefit of training next to the 2 other top US athletes in my class, Hailey and Allyssa. If I wanted to go all in, this program was it.
I was all over the place in my mind if this would be the right decision for my family. We love our home in Chicago. We have amazing neighbors and have made some great friends and I kept feeling guilty taking Dallas away from the friends he has made. Not to mention Brian would have to leave his hockey and golf buddies for a life we only hoped could be as good. I am beyond thankful that Brian was supportive of this decision from day 1. Sometimes I think he was even more excited than I was about the opportunity. He had just gotten a new job and could live anywhere. Our kids were young enough where we could come back to Chicago and they could still start kindergarten there. They are young enough to adjust easily and make new friends. All signs were pointing to yes, do it!
So… I applied. And was thrilled to get accepted into the program. Which means that right after the New year we will be making the move out to Colorado Springs. Renting a home for the next year and a half and renting out house in Chicago with the plans to return after Tokyo. A little overwhelming? Yes. But so very exciting. And I am just so thankful that I get to live my life with my family who believes in me and my dreams.
By moving out there as part of the resident program there is no guarantee that I will make the Paralympic team for Tokyo. There are many unknowns and I need to put in the work, my times need to drop and my ranking needs to get better. But I am so excited to try. To have a goal for one last Paralympic Games and to see if this old girl can make it happen. So the adventure continues for the Tolsma family and CO here we come!
Aside from that big news that seemed to take over everything else the last few months there has been more. In the end of Sep, I went on an epic 4-day trip hiking down into the Grand Canyon with 27 other women. A few friends from college and some of their friends. And 5 brave moms that made the trip as well with my mom being one of them. We started at the top of the Canyon and hiked down 12 miles to Havasui Falls where we would camp for the next 4 nights. The hike down was nothing like I expected over uneven terrain and the seemingly endless miles were not kind to Little Leg. The fry bread that we stopped to eat in the Supai Village helped some but we cheered loudly when we finally saw the campsite and my mom who had taken the helicopter in. The next 3 days were spent swimming in crystal clear blue water, jumping off waterfalls, literally scaling down a cliff to get to another waterfall, hiking 8 more miles over a technical trail and having my friends as part of my team helping me up and around rock formations and ladders and narrow paths. We even had a system at the river crossings where someone would grab my hiking poles and my camel bak and our guide would swing me up over his shoulders so I didn’t have to wade through the water. It was truly teamwork at its finest and I couldn’t have done it without that team. One of the best parts was being with my mom in the Canyon on her 72ndbirthday and being able to celebrate with her. To come around the corner at the end of a hike and see her at the waterfalls knowing that she had to scale the same cliff that we did to get there. My adventurous, up for anything mom in the Grand Canyon with all of us, can it get much better? We laughed till our stomachs hurts, we did yoga by the falls, we didn’t look at our cell phones, we ate way too much food, we had epic birthday dance parties surrounded by nothing but nature and had a trip we will never forget.
So September was a busy month and I was gone from home more than I wanted to be. Once I was home from the Grand Canyon I soaked in every minute with my family.
A soon to be 4-year-old Dallas, with so many cuddles that I hope last forever and ever. His devoted love of dinosaurs and now dragons (aren't dragons just dinosaurs with wings?). His crazy love for his sister, always trying to make her laugh and bring her toys to make her happy. His slowly growing love for hockey which makes Brian happy. (And me too) The silly things that he comes up with and says and the constant desire to go look for worms. He does love his worms. And dinosaurs. Like, a LOT of dinosaurs. We are hoping he will settle into our Colorado life easily but if we bring all his dinosaurs with him, I think he should be just fine.
Millie is the prettiest 15 month old around and she certainly keeps us on her toes. She is ‘fiercely devoted’ to Brian and I which can be a challenge at times but we can never say no to her amazing hugs. We have had a few health issues with her and after too many doctor appointments and procedures, she was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. For those that are not familiar with it, celiac is an auto- immune disease where your body does not absorb gluten and if gluten is eaten, it can cause some other serious medical issues. The positive side is that she was diagnosed young and will never know any different. And it’s a relief to finally know why she has been acting so off. And there are SO many gluten free options out there these days. Although it’s a big lifestyle change, it is manageable and she can still live a thriving life. So yeah. It’s been a rough few months but knowing what the issue is, is half the battle! She loves Dallas (most of the time) and screams with joy whenever she sees him. And oh does the sound of her laugh make our hearts melt. She can cruise around but is in no rush to walk. But she sure does love chasing after balls. We think we might have our hands full with her as she gets older but our hearts grown with love for her every day.
Brian has a new job with Otto Bock healthcare and is enjoying the excitement of working with some high end prosthetic devices. His job requires some travel but when he is home, he is able to be home and be with the kids more than ever before. It also allows for a seamless transition out to Colorado.
Other than contemplating life, I enjoyed a few weeks of off season after worlds and am slowly getting back into the training. I want to be in decent shape when I start training with the resident program so I am working my way there. I have had some travel for speaking and such but my favorite moments are spent with my family. It’s amazing how at peace I can feel just sitting on the floor rolling a ball back and forth with Dallas and Millie. And we all dressed up as The Incredibles family for Halloween, can't beat that...We really do live an amazing life and our hearts are full.
So there you have it. Another few months down for our family and a lifetime to go. Until next time,