The Tree that Led me to Tri

author : sekhmet
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Two dates are burned in my memory. The day of my accident — and the day I stopped thinking about my accident.

by Pam Beaton

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves,” so said Thomas Edison. What he failed to mention is that sometimes we don’t realize what we are capable of until a catastrophe of epic (oh alright, minor) proportions forces us to. Who knew that something as immovable as a tree would be the transforming force that would alter my pursuit of that elusive winning attitude? It took 28 years to come to this realization and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Finding My Niche

As a child, I was always active in sports and dancing, even if my short attention span didn’t keep me there. I usually managed to participate, but never truly attempted to excel, content with the status quo. When I entered my first real competitive sport, soccer, I tried a little harder, but never wanted to succumb to the pressing “win” attitude that many of the parents had. Eventually I progressed to track and field – hurdling and jumping through my teenage years.

But as I entered adolescence, the effort I put forth wasn’t the best it could have been. Eventually, I left high school an athlete, not a first-place finisher.

Lifting The Weight

In the 10 years since graduation I changed my athletic focus to weightlifting — avoiding cardio like the plague. In weightlifting, I thought I’d found the key to my lackluster zest for winning, by not having to compete.  To further nurture this I obtained my personal training certification. Weightlifting has been sufficient to quell my need for athleticism, and I am happy with my strength gains over the years. 

Despite these gains, I always felt that my body, mind and spirit were capable of more, but I didn’t know what would bring me greater satisfaction. At that time, I was looking towards the future, although I didn’t know it would bring a tree.

Fighting Trees Does Pay

Almost two years ago, I moved from Nevada to Massachusetts because I needed a drastic change. It was a change not just in population and culture, but in vegetation as well!

In Nevada I never saw shrubbery that was taller than three feet or wasn’t of the sagebrush variety. And even when I did I could plow through Nevada vegetation like a tractor through a Missouri cornfield — with much ease. Massachusetts trees, however, are much more vicious.

The details are too lengthy to outline, not to mention embarrassing, but one night I ended up on the losing side of a fight with a tree. The crash left me with minor but temporarily disabling injuries.

Road To Recovery Begins

In medical terms, I had a closed compound fracture of my left ulna and radius resulting in internal fixation to stabilize both bones. In reality, my left forearm was snapped in half, encased in a cast for six weeks and outfitted with extra hardware — two metal plates and 12 screws.

All of my weightlifting progress disappeared the moment I crashed into that tree, and I thought I would never be able to lift again. Eventually, I realized that nothing would keep me from the gym.

After A Tree, Tri’ing Should Be Easy

Because I lost movement in my left arm, I had to leave my job as a bartender, although the silver lining was that I got another job more suited for my education. But to offset the ridiculous cost of living in this great state, I got a second job teaching swimming lessons at the local YMCA. I soon found that teaching squealing children to swim was nothing compared to rehabilitating my swimming technique.

Little by little, I increased my swimming time and tried to lift weights again. In the beginning, it was torture. Every concentric movement was agony, every pull of my hand through the water was painful, and gripping a weight was excruciating. Nowadays, the pain has ebbed, although I still wear my scars proudly. The lifting and swimming has gotten easier, and I have managed to incorporate a minimal amount of cardio.

The passing of my 28th birthday prompted me to pursue a new goal . The fact that my swimming improved in leaps and bounds got me to thinking about doing a triathlon. Regaining my strength after the accident took courage, but pushing myself to such a new athletic goal as doing a tri would take guts. I chose guts.

Two dates are burned in my memory. The day of my accident — and the day I stopped thinking about my accident – that’s the day I decided to do a triathlon.

Hitting a tree has taught me many things, but fighting back has meant the lesson of a lifetime. What I learned is this — the past will always be there to haunt me, try to hold me back, but the future is mine to conquer and astound myself.


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date: September 4, 2004