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The space between

photo of clouds during dawn

Those of you who are Dave Matthews fans will recognize those words. Besides a great song, it’s also a phrase that came up in a conversation I had with my coach. (My coach’s name is the same as my brother, and his wife’s name is the same as my sister. That is weird for me. Turns out it is also weird for him, as I learned when I impulsively overshared.)

We were discussing my triathlon career, short and long term. I asked if he was ready to admit I could qualify for my professional license and what that would mean. When we started working together last year, I told him my goal was to “go pro” as the expression is. He shrugged it off, said we’d work with what we had, get a season under our belts. As my performance has improved I’ve seen a little light in his eye so I decided to call him out on it. He said yes! He then said becoming a professional doesn’t mean you automatically are awesome. We talked through some scenarios and bottom line: we agreed my goal for this season is to qualify for my license. Whether I choose to take it and move into that field or not, is to be determined.

Why would I not take it, you ask?

See, there are advantages to racing in the amateur field over pro. Pros compete in their own heat of a race. It goes pro men, 2-5 minutes, pro women, 5-10 minutes age group men and women. Within the age groupers (AG) there is a whole category of athletes referred to as “promateur.” These athletes are good enough to be pros, but choose not to, because racing at the age group level means they’re consistently winning races. If they raced in the pro heat, they would probably finish middle of the pack or last. If you have companies that sponsor you (give you free gear, stipends if you place in a race) they want exposure, they want you on the podium. You get more media being on the podium than finishing in the rear of the pro field.

Coach said, “if you go pro, you might be stuck in the space between – the very fast pro women up front, and the very fast age group men behind you. The space between isn’t always great.” Then he thought about it and said, “except now I realize you’re already in the space between aren’t you? When you race, you’re pretty much on your own, with a few dozen women ahead of you and a few scattered men around.”

This is true. I think about my last IronMan, I pulled so far ahead on the bike, that all I saw was men, and I finished 35th, that means during the run I only saw 34 women ahead of me. I told him I’m okay with the space between. In fact, life is full of the spaces between.

The space between swimming sets in the pool. The space between intervals on the trainer. The space between school’s out and the bus is here. The space between night and first light. The space between a child’s birth, and his first cry. The space between the last word in a prayer, and the Amen. The space between can feel long or short, it can be good or bad. It can be big for God to move mountains. It can be small for the devil to sneak in doubt. I am no stranger to the space between, but I don’t stay there long.

Here is my space between from a track session yesterday morning. The space between 1K intervals and the space between clouds on a rainy day. Within seconds those gaps closed and I almost missed it.

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