What’s Your Why?
Angela has a special place in Why Racing Events’ heart. Not only is Angela a talented singer (hint!), but also a talented writer and athlete. Angela wrote a personal blog post “to bring light to all the races being cancelled and the self evaluation and discovery I had to find my inner strength and determination regardless (whether the events were cancelled or not).”
Habits, by Angela Vittori
One thing I know for sure: Change is hard. No matter who you are, what your occupation is, what year you were born. Changing the way you are used to doing things is a tremendous challenge. Why is that? Well… I guess because as humans, we build habits. A direct quote from the great Philosopher Google puts it this way, “Habits are our brain’s way of increasing its efficiency. Our brain turns daily actions and behaviors into habits, so we would do them automatically and without too much thought – thus freeing up our brainpower for other more important challenges. This strategy of our brain has wonderful benefits for us.” Sometimes we don’t even realize how the tiniest habit can be so vital to our everyday life. The only way to recognize it is to simply…take it away.
During this global pandemic, we were stripped of numerous luxuries. Things we never thought would vanish. Places closing that we always thought would be open for us to walk in and out of. Pampering stations such as hair & nail salons have their CLOSED signs hanging on the glass door for what seems like an eternity. Local watering holes that always have a daily collection of sports fans, happy hour hipsters, beer thirty co-workers, first dates, and birthday festivities are nothing but a blur now (in more ways than one).
Those public places are fun and all but that’s not what turned the knife in my side. The things I lost during this pandemic were so much more than a relaxing cut, color, and style from my favorite hairdresser Cindy, or a gel manicure from the Bridgeport nail salon with my best friend Brittany, or even that margarita on the rocks (yes, I would like salt. Thank you) from one of my favorite restaurants Industry just down the road from me in Tualatin. What I lost in this pandemic far exceeded those things. I’ve tried to talk about it with other people and find myself never being able to express how empty I feel without my “habits” that are no longer with me. I didn’t quite realize how much space they rented inside of me. The last three months, I did some internal measurements and I run out of measuring tape every single time. The rooms in my being were filled to capacity before and now they are vacant and every time I go peek inside of them to see if everything is okay, I’m confronted with a chilling echo, like walking into a completely empty house with no carpet or furniture. It’s amazing how you can have a beautifully structured building but if there is nothing inside to absorb the sound or make it feel complete, it just doesn’t feel right. That’s how my soul feels.
Being a transplant from the Empire State, my reason for moving to the Pacific Northwest is roughly the same reason of those that pioneered the Oregon Trail: I was in search for a better life. My journey was not by horse and buggy. It was actually quite comfortable; sitting on my heated leather seats in my Jeep with my Dad and dog gifting me with their presence and their unwavering loyalty and support with every state line we crossed. When I finally arrived in Portland, I’m not sure how, but I knew this was my home. “Home” is a funny word. It has numerous definitions for so many people. My version of home most likely looks extremely different to anyone reading this right now. And that’s okay. Truth is, it was completely up to me to define my “home” here. I don’t have a single family member on the West Coast to help me through this or pave the way for me. I don’t have any family members to spend holidays with here. I don’t get to go shopping with my sister, or see my niece’s gymnastics meets. I don’t get to take my grandmother to lunch, or stop at my Uncle’s print shop to say Hi. Nothing. Instead I have to get creative and make my own “home” and build my own “family” and see if it’s just as good. And I have to say, at times…it’s pretty damn good.
My “family” here consists of athletes who love pushing their body to new limits, setting personal records, winning that age group award, treading in new waters, and lacing up their running shoes at 5am to tackle a magical morning of competitive racing. These running events with WHYRacing and RunWithPaula are permanently engraved in my calendar every single year. In my mind, it’s not an option. It’s a necessity. Not because I hold the microphone for 90 seconds before the starting horn and sing our nation’s theme song to every participant in the coral, not because I want to set a PR or beat my time from last year, but because these events make me better. They make my body stronger. They give my mind a break from overthinking about any personal matters. The second I start a race, I push pause on the stress I’m under at work and I give that course my full attention. The people who I compete with and work with and surround myself with at these races: they are the “family” that I made for myself here. They are what makes this place my “home.”
So what happens when they aren’t there anymore? What happens when there is no 5am alarm, no dark morning warm ups, no standing in line for the porta-potty, no music, no inflatable arch, no water stations, no smiling volunteers saying “You got this! You’re almost there!” when you’re really not almost there. What if there is no finish line, no bagel or banana, no beer garden… What do you do? What happens when these events were your own personal family reunions? When you’ve had the hardest week at work but you know that come Saturday, you’re going to be surrounded by positive energy and the people who bring out the best in you. What happens when it’s gone and it turns to “virtual” races?
I’ll tell you what happens: You learn real quick what your true motive is and what you’re really made out of.
You see, if you’ve ever participated in a WHYRacing or RunWithPaula event, they make it REAL easy for you. They pull all the stops and have you feeling like an Olympian right from the beginning when they are escorting you to your parking spot. They have every single detail covered and it’s no secret that these two race directors are absolutely phenomenal at what they do. They both are also two of my dearest friends, my adopted “family members” if you will. What if there’s no blonde curly haired woman on her bike cheering everyone on? What if there’s not a tall brunette with a “PRC” tank & toque on running the course with us all high-fiving everyone? But what do I do if I can’t have all of that anymore? Or at least for the time being? Which is….wait hang on, what phase are we in again?
I realized that none of that will stop me from doing these distances. I can still do these races and I still wanted to do them. As depressing as it was to be told that my favorite weekends were turning “virtual”, I never once questioned whether or not I would still do it. I knew that it would just be much harder because it was only up to me. When I had an honest conversation with myself, I came to a rounded realization that I truly do not need the applause, the compliments, or the finish line. I value the people I’m with and the sport much more than all the fancy frills that come with it. They are nothing but exceptional perks to pushing your body through many miles on foot, on two wheels, or in water. I never want to be a person whose main motive to do something is only for the words of affirmation, the ego stroke, the charming compliments, and the fanfare. Sadly, I’ve had to remove certain people out of my life with this kind of character because I find it to be a phony and foul quality. I choose to crave something far greater than the applause of others no matter how nice it sounds or how good it feels.
I have discovered that I unintentionally created a habit in myself that I never knew existed. Before this, I thought it was all about the excitement of the event and all the details that each race team works so hard on to make everything come alive for each athlete. I thought that was why I had such a love for racing on the weekends. Turns out, I was very wrong. My love for racing is because I built a habit that is continuously (even in a pandemic) increasing efficiency.
So, I guess it’s true what they say; this strategy of our brain does have wonderful benefits for us. The benefits are: Knowing that you ALONE are capable of doing whatever it is you set your mind to do. And also finding out what is truly important to you when everything gets stripped away.
I now know what I’m made out of and know that I can accomplish any distance on my own two feet. I know that my success and drive is not based on an “event” or an “experience” but on my own discipline and self-confidence. That being said, I also learned that I will never again take for granted the time we have together as a “family” here at “home” ever again.
31 years old
I am a “streaker” which means I run every single day – (AT LEAST one mile no matter what!)
I have done 3 full marathons, 48 half marathons, and 16 triathlons
Age group winner & beast/triple beast medal earner!
National Anthem singer for all events