Racing Oursleves

Hi! My name is Chelsea Ollar. I am a middle school teacher by day, grad student by night, and triathlete around the clock.

This year all of our 8th graders were required to write and present a 3-minute TED talk in class. The classes voted on their favorites to present at our “T-Wolf Talks” night. As promised, the English teachers wrote and presented one as well. Titled, “Racing Ourselves,” my speech focuses on finding that thing that gets you excited to wake up in the morning and do.

I am a firm believer in finding ways to be efficient to save time, so why not use that speech as my first blog post? Below is the transcript. If you prefer to watch my speech, you can click here.

I want you to picture in your mind a girl about 4 feet tall with frizzy, strawberry blonde hair and a smattering of freckles across her cheeks. And even though she is 11, she looks about 8.

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Is this what you were picturing? Yes, that little girl is me, and I was preparing to enter the new world of middle school. That Fall, I had a choice to either participate in volleyball or cross-country running. Since all of my friends were signing up for volleyball, I figured that it would be my best choice. I presented that decision to my parents, who not wanting to dissuade me from trying something new, but wanting  me to be successful, gently suggested that I do cross-country instead. They realized that my tiny stature, poor hand-eye coordination, and endless amounts of energy would be better suited for running.

This decision lead me to also compete in track that spring, and then to continue with both sports throughout the rest of middle and high school. I competed on the varsity team and lettered all 4 years and was also the captain of both sports my senior year of high school. My running career was successful enough to land me an athletic scholarship at Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

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Due to education reasons I decided to transfer to BYU-Provo for my 5th semester of college, simultaneously ending my career, or so I thought, as a collegiate runner.

Although I continued to run, something was missing. I loved running, but I missed competitive racing. I missed having those all-out, gut wrenching experiences of trying to beat not only those around me, but my previous personal records.

I truly think that as humans, we are happiest when we are pushing ourselves to new limits and discovering what we are actually capable of. And by just running, but not actually training for and competing in races, I was missing out on this limit pushing.

Because I had this feeling that I was missing out, I decided to sign up for a marathon. In my mind a 5k (or 3.12 miles) to 26.2 miles seemed like a natural progression. And so the long and arduous training began.

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And it was that training that then got me noticed by Ed Eyestone, a coach at BYU, who convinced me to try out for the BYU XC and track team, a much more competitive team that BYU-Hawaii. It took a some pushing and prodding by my friends and family, but it was ultimately my hunger for a challenge that eventually pushed me over.

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My marathon training had improved me as a runner, and I was able to compete with the BYU distance running team for a full year before I began student teaching and once again had to leave my collegiate running days behind me.

After another semester of just running for pleasure, I realized that I once again needed another challenge in my life to keep things interesting. So on the day of my graduation from BYU I announced that I would now be shifting my focus to not 26.2 miles but to 70.3 miles, and not just running, but swimming and biking as well. An event known as the half-ironman.

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This new challenge brought many things to my life including that renewed energy for life from trying something different, new friendships from branching out into a different world, and even a broken collarbone shortly after purchasing a very high-end racing bicycle (I could have gone without that last “achievement”).
For me, this has all been part of finding my current limits and then pushing beyond them. It’s a discovery process that keeps my life interesting and exciting. And so, in conclusion, I would encourage each and every one of you to find something that will excite you, and challenge you, and to just go for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s training for a race, or learning to cook, or teaching yourself to draw, or playing a musical instrument, we all need something to work towards that gets us excited to wake up in the morning, that gets us excited to work towards something bigger than we’ve ever known before, and gets us excited to be a part of this great race…the human race.

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