"There is a Lot to be Grateful For"...


ED. A perennial member of Team MInnesota, Elaine Nelson has been Duluth's most successful female triathlete for the last decade.

By Elaine Nelson (April 22)

This morning, my kindergarten son’s school art assignment was about “Gratitude”. He was to draw a picture illustrating what gratitude means for him. He drew a picture of our garage / house fire and the firemen putting out the fire. It’s been almost 2 years since that event. Our attached garage and mudroom have been rebuilt, for which we are truly grateful. Then COVID-19 turned everyone’s lives upside down. Fortunately, we are still healthy, but we realize how devastating this virus can be as we read stories online and have a coworker’s family affected with this disease.

At first, I assumed that school would be cancelled through the rest of the school-year and things would get back to “normal” by summertime. Even though the YMCA closed and I couldn’t swim in the pool, I wasn’t too concerned. (No, I’m not brave / crazy enough to swim in frigid Lake Superior in the spring!) I hoped that we would still be able to train and race as usual. Then the race cancellations began: Grandma’s Marathon, Lutsen Spring Trail Race (in May), Apple Duathlon and Buffalo Triathlon, etc. With each cancellation, it quickly became apparent that our summer wouldn’t be the same.

I have still been working, but only 2 days a week, because my husband and I needed to switch off working and taking care of the kids. Our son, Micah (6.5y) is in kindergarten and our daughter, Annalise (3.5y) is in preschool. Learning how to navigate Distance Learning while keeping both kids occupied and entertained presents it’s own sets of challenges and frustrations. Training is also more challenging with both kids. Gone are the days where I would put baby/toddler Micah in the chariot and go for a 2 hour bike ride during his...

afternoon nap. Now, I doubt both kids would even fit in the double-chariot! I’m at that awkward stage of athlete-mom where the kids are too big to “pack along” for the ride and too little to keep up on their own! This means my husband and I usually switch off training and kid-watching (so the training is before work or after the kids go to bed). Fortunately, the work-schedule right now for my husband is lighter, so on the days he gets home earlier, I can go for a bike ride outside in the afternoon.

My in-laws asked me if I was still training. When I said “Yes!”, they countered with, “What for?” It’s an interesting question. I don’t actually have any races that I’m training for (the ones I signed up for are cancelled). I suppose I’m training for my sanity and health more than anything. With all the anxiety and stress that a viral pandemic brings, it’s important to find a healthy way to release that stress and I’ve found my safe haven in training. I may be getting older and slowing down as my body finds a new hormonal equilibrium, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still need that endorphin release! I'm still hopeful that there will be races later in the summer that we can train for and compete in.

Training brings me peace and comfort during this uncertain time. I’ve been able to reflect on what I’m grateful for and it is this: I’m grateful for my family’s health. I’m grateful for all the healthcare workers and essential workers (grocer, garbage/recycle, truck drivers, Amazon workers, etc) who truly are the cogs in the machinery of this economy. I’m grateful for all the teachers who are having to learn and implement “Distance Learning”. I’m grateful for extra time to play my piano. I’m grateful for the beautiful city that I live in (Duluth) and the many parks and trails practically in our backyard that we have access too. I’m grateful that I can still train (bike, run) and enjoy the outdoors. I’m grateful for more time with my kids (even with the Distance Learning challenges!). Even though our lives will never be the same, hopefully we can take a step back from our daily grind to realize there is a lot to be grateful for and find what is truly important in our lives.

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