Out There: The Endurance Athlete’s Scrapbook

What's in your scrapbook?

Competitor Magazine columnist Susan Lacke takes us through her scrapbook of sporting memories.

Written by: Susan Lacke

Much like documenting every special moment of our child’s lives in a baby book, many athletes keep a collection of their accomplishments in the sport. Some may display their finisher medals proudly on the wall, or have a pile of bib numbers clipped together on the refrigerator. We celebrate our accomplishments with the bells and whistles they deserve, but are we really displaying the entire picture?

The baby books we keep for children document only the good milestones. When reminded of tiny hands and feet and the first cute little words uttered by those cute little lips, it makes it easy to overlook the 3 AM feedings, exploding diapers, and embarrassing temper tantrums in aisle 5 of the grocery store. Looking through a baby book can fill parents with warm-fuzzies, making them forget the time they Googled “boot camp for 2 year-old child.” Instead, they declare, “What an angel. Man…I freakin’ love this kid!”

Our running memories are the same way. Like many athletes, I mostly keep the positive reminders of my accomplishments in the sport. However, I wish I had the forethought to keep a scrapbook of everything that got me to where I am today. It almost seems wrong for my chest to swell with pride without having the reminders of the humbling experiences to keep things in check.

Such a scrapbook would open exactly like most baby books: with a hospital bracelet! I could show off the the identification band from my trip to the Emergency Room after I got hit by a car while running. Then, next to it, you’d see the bracelet from my ER visit after being hit by a car while riding my bike. And the hospital bracelet from the time I was hit while riding my bike…again. Ah, memories! Makes my eyes well up a little bit just thinking about it.

A special section would be devoted to the blister pad from my first-ever Super-Giganto-Mega-Blister (He was a doozy! I named him Harold and talked to him before I went to sleep each night). I’d bedazzle the page with the blackened toenail that fell off weeks after my first marathon. For a faux-leather look, I’d glue in large sections of skin peels from sunburns and dry skin earned during countless hours in the pool.

For posterity, I’d write a detailed account of training bloopers, including the time I was pleasantly surprised to see my boyfriend, Neil, riding his bike down the street where I was running. Being the supportive girlfriend I am, I encouraged him by wolf-whistling and hollering crude sentiments about his rear end. Upon adding a “WOO!” for emphasis, I discovered the man I was treating like a Chippendale’s dancer was not, in fact, my boyfriend.

Lovingly archived on the next page would be a receipt from the convenience store at Mile 80 of my first Century ride, where I learned for the first time what it felt like to bonk. I also learned the miraculous resurrection powers of cola and a bag of potato chips.

I’d exhibit the bib number from my first Olympic-distance triathlon, where I was victim number three in a four-bike pileup. I took my battered and bruised self to the medical tent instead of the finish line. In a scrapbook, at least I could make the letters “D-N-F” with sparkly paint to lessen the sting.

If I wanted to only focus on the happy side of running and triathlon, I could look at the finisher’s medals displayed on my wall. But as I flipped through the pages of this scrapbook, I could truly reflect upon what it took to earn those medals. I suppose I could have (and should have) taken all these signs as a reason to quit…but just like a baby book, every mortifying moment, humbling experience, and reality check brings me to the same conclusion:

Man…I freakin’ love this sport.


Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Look for her print column in the pages of Competitor magazine, and follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.

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