I’m happy to welcome paralympian, speaker, author, and disability advocate Tricia Downing. Today, Tricia shares ten lessons learned from sports and her new release, Chance for Rain.
Aside from looking for love, my character Rainey Abbott, spends her time split between the ski slopes and the race track, chasing her athletic and competitive goals. One of the reasons I wrote Rainey as an athlete is because sports have been such a great part of my life, teaching me about overcoming obstacles and staying in the game even when things get tough. Sport has taught me:
1. The quicker you forgive yourself (and your mistakes), the quicker you get back in the game. How often have you beaten yourself up for making a mistake, not accomplishing a goal or doing something that you later thought to yourself, “Well, that was a dumb thing I said/did?” I think one of the greatest keys to success is to acknowledge a mistake (“yeah, THAT happened”), let it go (this is the hard one, because most of us tend to continually roll mistakes over in our minds), set a new course and refocus on the goal. The faster you can cycle through those steps, the faster you will get back on track.
2. You have to feel like a winner, even before you get to the start line. I have been an athlete nearly my whole life and I can tell you about the races I won or did well, and how the key was going to the start line believing that anything was possible. I can also name the events I went to doubting my preparation, my abilities or fearing my competition. Guess what? Those were the events that ended poorly. We are only as good as we believe ourselves to be.
3. Saying the word TRY is like having one foot on the track and one foot off. How many times have you said, or heard someone say they were going to “try” to do something? Once that word slips from between your lips, it builds in an automatic loophole…one through which you can escape to save face in case you don’t make it. Most of the time when we are worried about failing it’s not even about us. We wouldn’t be as afraid of failing if it weren’t for what we thought other people would think about us. Sports have taught me that whatever you’re going after, you have to own it to get it.
4. Keeping a journal is one of the best ways to help you achieve a goal. Here’s where athletes and writers definitely have something in common. Whether it’s writing down my workouts, my successes or things I need to work on, my journal keeps me focused on what I am doing and working to accomplish. The same goes with writing. You can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment when you go back and see all that you have written and the ability to get words on paper. To everyone who says, “I could never write a book!” I say, you just have to sit down and start.
5. To Ride My Own Race. I think this is one of the most important lessons I have ever learned. A fellow racer once said it to me, and I’ll never forget. There are so many things we don’t have control over. We spend time comparing ourselves to other people on social media, trying to be someone else, not thinking we’re good enough. But each one of us is on Earth experiencing our own journey and the most important thing we can do is honor OUR UNIQUE path and let it unfold. You can’t ride someone’s else’s race…only your own.
6. To take control. Resistance is typically due to fear. But if you’ve outlined your stretch goal, reverse engineered it and know where you’re headed, it’s time to take action. Think of a challenge you’re facing or a goal you have. What bold steps would you take if you knew you couldn’t fail?
7. To Be kind to myself. Have you ever listened to the voices in your head that tell you, you aren’t good enough? That you don’t have the talent to be a writer, a musician, a doctor, an engineer? Those words that we say to ourselves are often exactly what we get in the end. As an athlete I haven’t perfected the never-talk-negatively-to-yourself habit, but I am highly aware of it and when those bad thoughts seep in, I work to chase them out as quickly as they surfaced.
8. Consistency is a must. Whenever you want to be good at something or see the fruits of your labor, it takes discipline and regular attention. As an athlete, I know that if I don’t practice regularly my results mimick the effort I have put in. Same thing goes for writing. It’s all about practice, practice, practice.
9. Work hard, do a little more every day, stay patient and don’t give up! I think this lesson explains itself!
10. When things get difficult, take off the dark lenses and try looking through some rose colored glasses. How do you do this? Here are a few suggestions: 1) As my Grandmother would say, “always count your blessings,” 2) Let yourself dream. Get out of your head or your body for a little while and think about the possible positive outcomes to your situation. Start by saying, “What if…” 3) Create a power statement that you can say to yourself every time things get tough for you. For example, “I am strong, able and nothing can get me down,” or “I am on an adventure, and will embrace the uncertainty because good things are going to happen.”
Elite athlete Rainey Abbott is an intense competitor on the outside, but inside, she feels a daunting apprehension about her chances of finding true love. Her life as a downhill skier and race car driver keeps her on the edge, but her love life is stuck in neutral. A tragedy from her past has left her feeling insecure and unlovable.
Now that she’s in her thirties, Rainey’s best friend Natalie insists she take a leap and try online dating. Rainey connects with brian85 and becomes cautiously hopeful as a natural attraction grows between them. Fearful a face to face meeting could ruin the magic, Rainey enlists Natalie to scheme up an encounter between the two where Brian is unaware he is meeting his online mystery woman. Rainey is left feeling both guilty about the deception and disappointed by something Brian says.
When they finally meet in earnest, Rainey’s insecurities threaten to derail the blossoming romance. As she struggles with self-acceptance, she reveals the risks we all must take to have a chance for love.
“Sometimes going shopping is work,” Natalie announces as we head back to her house after a morning at the mall. “You can’t be creative when you’ve been jammed up in an office for five hours. You have to get out for new ideas to come to you.”
“I love how you can rationalize almost any of life’s indulgences,” I say. Nat turns and winks in response to my playful smirk.
“Life is too short to deny yourself all self-indulgent behavior.” The words hang in the air slightly, as we both know it was an off-handed comment, but our minds go immediately back to the event that reinforces her words.
“Yes, life is short.” I say this in a way that reassures her that her comment was taken in the spirit it was said, rather than meant to dredge up bad memories. Though I can’t help but elaborate on the subject. “Do you realize I’m only six years shy of my mom’s age at the time of the accident?”
“Yep,” Nat answers a bit too quickly. “I do. And I also realize something else. Your mom was thirty-eight, married to the love of her life and had two charming young girls.” I quickly realize I have given her the perfect segue into a lecture that has been constructed, rehearsed, and delivered to me many times in many different iterations over the past ten years. Now, as if she is attempting an intervention while we drive down Colorado Boulevard, Natalie blurts out, “Rainey, it’s about time we found you a man.”
“Why? Are you getting tired of hanging out with me?”
“It’s not that,” she says. “It’s just. That. It’s time,” the words spit out of her mouth. It’s obvious she wants to punctuate her points. “You can’t keep running away from it. You’re an incredible catch—beautiful and charming to be around. Athletic. Everything most girls would die to be.”
I know she is keenly aware of my resistance, but I get the feeling she isn’t going to fall for it today. But I also can’t ignore my feelings or my truth.
Author Bio and Links
Paralympian, Speaker, Author, Disability Advocate
On September 17, 2000, Tricia Downing went from being a competitive cyclist to a paraplegic requiring a wheelchair for mobility. Her life was changed forever, but Tricia’s competitive spirit and zest for life continued on. Making the transition from able-bodied cyclist to an athlete with a disability, Tricia has completed over 100 races, including marathons and triathlons, since her accident. She was the first female paraplegic to complete an Ironman triathlon and qualified for the Hawaii Ironman World Championship twice. Additionally, she was a member of Team USA at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Tricia’s professional life has been immersed in sports as she earned a master’s degree in Sport Management in 1995 and worked at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. She was the press officer for the USA Table Tennis team at the 1996 Olympic Games.
She has received many sports accolades, including the USA Triathlon Physically Challenged Athlete of the Year (2003), Sportswomen of Colorado—Inspiration (’03), Triathlon (’05), Hall of Fame (’12) Awards, the 2006 Most Inspirational Athlete from the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the 2008 Courage Award from the Tempe Sports Authority.
As a community leader and disability advocate, she was a member of the 2013 class of the Girl Scouts Women of Distinction. She also received the 2019 Inspiration Award from Craig Hospital for outstanding community contribution from a Craig Hospital “graduate.” (Craig is a world-renowned spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation hospital) Tricia has truly excelled despite her life-altering injury.
In addition to her sports pursuits, Tricia has taken an active leadership role in her community as a peer mentor to others experiencing spinal cord injuries, she founded Camp Discovery (and subsequently The Cycle of Hope non-profit) dedicating 10 years to helping female wheelchair users gain confidence and self-esteem through a yearly sports and fitness retreat. Additionally, she serves on the board of USA Shooting, which is the National Governing Body for the Olympic sport of shooting.
Tricia published her memoir: Cycle of Hope—A Journey from Paralysis to Possibility in June 2010, with the second edition released in January 2017. In August of 2018, she published her first fiction novel Chance for Rain.
Tricia Downing will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.
Follow Tricia on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.