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TITAN Athlete Ambassador Ben Shepherd is someone who sets the bar high, very high. He is living testimony to the notion that hard work pays off and here he provides a striking insight into the realities of life...
"I feel that I need to give fair warning - things are about to get real. I've written in the past about all things triathlon - from getting started all the way through to earning the illustrious M-Dot. But I wanted to take a little bit of time to talk about life. Not swim, bike and run, but actual grit-your-teeth-and-hold-on life. The reasons why we get up, the things that get us down, the feelings that get us through the day, and the goals we set for ourselves. Recently my wife and I welcomed our baby girl Bella into our family, and it changed our lives completely. I went from a 'me' to an 'us' in a split second and training became exponentially more difficult instantly. Coupled with the injury I sustained from Ironman Cairns and my upcoming trip to race at Kona and complete a lifelong dream I started to let doubt creep in to my psyche. This then spiraled into depression, anxiety and eventually guilt as I felt that I wasn't fulfilling my role as a father and a husband to the level that I knew I was capable of. The simple things such as getting out for a gentle run no longer brought me pleasure. I even got to the point where I was just about to press the button to cancel my entry to Kona, thereby giving up on something that I dreamed about ever since I fell into the sport of triathlon.
It wasn't until my wife sat down with me and asked me what was wrong - and wouldn't let me leave until I answered her - that things started to change. Just voicing my actual issues was enough to kick start a change to allow me to start enjoying life again. I started to find pleasure in the small things, helped along by my injury starting to heal and allowing me to train - not at the level at which I was at before Cairns, but at a level that meant that I could appreciate the mental benefits just as much as the physical ones. Every day felt like one small step towards that fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - there is never going to be a finish line, but the journey is certainly an enjoyable one.
What's the point of this? It’s a pretty simple concept, really. The importance of communication, of trust, of self-belief, and the massive impact that loved ones can have on your life. Things in life suck sometimes, and that is unfortunately a fact. But just discussing what is affecting you can turn everything around in an instant. I'll be honest, things in my life are still extremely tough. I'm averaging less than 6 hours sleep a night, my daughter is a screaming, crying terror, and the training burden is ever present. But with the support of my beautiful wife and my awesome friends I have found everything more manageable. The team approach has definitely changed my life for the better, and I can still find time to stop and smell the coffee (roses are scarce in my household.)
So next time things start to get you down, please do me a favour. Speak up. I promise, someone will listen to you. And even if you just voice what is upsetting you to nobody at all, it helps just to get it out. I've learnt the importance of keeping genuinely good people in your life, as they make all the difference. Life gets easier, and like anything it has its ups and downs. It's just how you approach them that determines the outcome. I'm lucky to have come out the other side, still smiling. And I promise you will too.
So there you have it. Life - it’s really not easy. Now back to the swim, bike and run.
Look after yourselves, see you out there.