In 2019, I Was Hit By A Distracted Driver. In 2021, I'm Training For An Ironman.

Photo: Courtesy of the Author
In 2019, I Was Hit By A Distracted Driver. In 2021, I'm Training For An Ironman
Contributor
Self

Every year, I pick a word to live by. I started this practice in 2019, when I realized I needed to massively upheave the way I lived my life. In 2019, I landed on the word “balance,” picking it because I wanted to avoid too heavily relying on a person or coping mechanism, putting my finances, fitness, and sense of self on the back burner in the process.

I felt that the word “balance” would encourage me to reflect on how I could best implement new and renewed practices in my life that would eventually balance out my lifestyle and lead me down the path I was meant to take. 

I didn’t mean “balance” literally — but life can be sneaky. After being hit by a distracted driver in July of 2019, I unexpectedly found myself physically and literally having to regain my balance. I spent the back half of my 2019 re-learning how to keep my physical balance on both feet, then one at a time

A photo of me doing vision therapy exercises in a ridiculous pair of bicolor sunglasses.

I still remember the sensation of being rear-ended, flying forward into the limits of my seatbelt and immediately slamming backwards into my seat for the rest of my life. After being strapped to a stretcher and transported to the hospital, I was informed that I had a concussion: my third one. At 24, I was reminded that life can change in an instant. I was also reminded of the loss and grief that a severe injury can catalyze. 

I lost a lot in 2019. I lost my job, where I had been up for a promotion that very month. I lost the ability to network and put in my best effort in graduate school. I started a Master’s Degree that August and am just grateful I’m on track to graduate in 2021.

I lost “friends” who couldn’t find the empathy I required in my healing process. Most immediately, though, I lost the starting line of the triathlon I was supposed to race less than 24 hours after the crash. I was devastated. 

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Training for a Triathlon was a grounding force for me in 2019. In the front half of the year, training for my first triathlon — a 300 yard lake swim, 10 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run — was what I used to cope and rebuild my sense of self. In the back half of the year, I used it as a means of maintaining hope.

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I had fallen in love with the challenge and community of the sport,and decided that I would use my passion and my story to train for the gold standard of triathlons — an Ironman — while spreading awareness and education about concussions. A full Ironman triathlon is a 140.6 mile race: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a marathon (26.2 mile) run, which I intend to complete in 2022 or 2023. 

I was cleared from my traumatic car accident injury and treatments on February 12, 2020, about a month before the world shut down, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even with all the turbulence and instability around me, I continue to find joy, solace, and the means to become my best self through triathlon training. My word for 2020 was “fearless”; similar to “balance”, and again, the term became more literal than I had originally intended. 

My word for 2021 is “conquer” — being concussion-free for almost a year, I have big goals for myself. I will graduate with my Master’s in May and am training for my first half Ironman in September.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “conquer” as “to successfully overcome (a problem or weakness)”. If I can conquer seven months of treatments, re-learning how to properly balance my body and being able to see without double-vision, a 70.3 mile race feels doable. 

Nothing worth doing or having is easy. The 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and half marathon (13.1 mile) run will take me somewhere between 5 and 7 hours, depending on how training progresses — just typing that out is intimidating.

I’ve found that I have the strength within myself to push my limits and conquer anything set in front of me; I can’t wait for this part of my Ironman journey and what 2021 has in store for me. 

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Danielle Moore is a Master of Public Policy student, activist, and triathlete. She has sustained and recovered from three concussions and aims to educate & spread awareness through writing and her Instagram, @concussiongirl2ironwoman. Danielle resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her cat Sherbert.