This is crazy, I thought. It’s 5 o’clock in the morning, the sun hasn’t even come up yet, and I’m walking the greenway by the west side highway… Hundreds of other people are walking, too, but I’m walking “alone”. In less than an hour I’ll be jumping into the Hudson River. Again! But less than 48 hours ago I didn’t think I’d be doing a third.
Long story, sort of shorter… I had registered for the NYC Triathlon – it would be my 3rd triathlon. But for the second year in a row, an aching case of plantar fasciitis, was going to keep me on the sidelines. Then, at the last minute, (the day before, actually) I decided I was going to go ahead and do it. I figured, I’ve done this triathlon before. “This is my home turf!”
I was comfortable with the swim and the biking, since I regularly train in both. For the running part, I knew I could “walk” the 6 miles. But with my hurting foot? Even walking the 6 miles might be pushing it. Still, I decided to go for it.
At 2 o’clock in the morning, just 4 hours before the race was set to begin, I was wide awake. I’d slept maybe 3 hours! It was clear I wouldn’t be getting any more sleep. So I started my triathlon ritual. You NEVER forget your triathlon ritual. I re-packed my gear bag, made myself breakfast, tattooed my competition number on my arm.
This always makes me feel strong. Like a Warrior. Fearless. Even though I knew this time I was less prepared, I set off on my way.
As I’m making the mile walk to where the swim will start. I meet a newbie triathlete at the tail end. He’s nervous. He tells me he bought his wetsuit on Ebay and says, “It feels too tight”. “You’ll feel like a stuffed sausage,” I told him. He was reassured as we continue to chat. Eventually going our separate ways to get ready.
Friends, past coaches and TriLatino teammates, the triathlon group I train with, were there at the starting point. Some surprised to see me.
Not as surprised as me!
Ok, it’s time. The wait is over. I stepped up and waited for the signal. I hear the loud whistle. With that command I jumped into the water and it felt… wrong. Just wrong! The wetsuit did feel too tight, just like the newbie had said. Some triathlon vet, I was. Okay, don’t think, I told myself.
Look where you’re going.
For my first triathlon, the goals were simple:
Don’t be last…
And I’m happy to say, I achieved all of them.
For this one, I hadn’t planned any goals. Because I hadn’t planned on doing this race. Well okay, one goal did emerge again: Don’t die
Finally, I finished the swim and was out of the water. I was already pooped. Everyone seemed to be passing me to get to the next station – Biking. I tried to stay focused and tell myself it was okay.
Biking was going to be easier. Still a challenge, but easier. On the way to the main highway there was a rather steep incline. I did mention challenge, right? Well, as luck would have it, I didn’t fall and I didn’t have to walk the bike. Alright! I got this! I was getting back in the groove. Only 25+ miles to go!
Suddenly I found myself riding along with some of my TriLatino family. Oh, Joy! But joy wouldn’t last. Before I knew it… they were gone. Then suddenly my foot started hurting. I tried not to focus on the pain and focused on getting comfortable on my seat. I thought about what’s next:
Pedal the hill down
Take the momentum for the uphill
And then… Ugh! I thought about the running part of the race. I Thought, “I don’t have to do the run if I don’t feel like I can handle it. After all, just getting this far was more than I planned to do. Well, other than, “don’t die”!
I finished the biking portion! Now the moment of truth…I check my cell and see texts from my friends. They’re there, waiting for me.
So… I start my limpy walk. I hear the conga players and loud cheers from my TriLatino family. A blur of high fives and excited faces! And then… I spot my friends! Stephanie and Jason, happy to see me and… ready to walk the six miles with me. Literally, walking the talk of true friendship.
The next 6 miles were practically a mirage…
Are we there yet? No.
Are we there yet? No
How about now? NO!
Then I see him. Coach Danny. I was his last team member still on the course. I heard him say,“You got this! Around that bend is the fountain and then go between the flags. Finish strong! Go with this guy in front of us”!
Guy? What guy? The “guy” turned around and wouldn’t you know it… He was my 5am walking partner. The newbie! We hugged like lifelong pals. We couldn’t believe it!
We turned the bend, passed the fountain and went under the flags…We finished together.
5 hours after we’d first met, I’d swam nearly a mile, biked 26 miles and walked – more like crawled – just over 6 miles.
You always read about the first person who crosses the finish line. The one who takes the medal… The trophy… The prize. The winner.
You NEVER read about the last person. The one who crosses the finish line last. Well, you are now! I was that person. The last! The one who took the longest to complete the triathlon. But… I beat the ones who didn’t even do the triathlon. WINNER!
Now what in the world does participating in a triathlon have to do with hosting on Airbnb? Yeah, my co-writer asked me that as well.
About five years ago, I actually took on a challenge that felt almost as scary as doing my first triathlon! It wasn’t easy when I opened up my home to guests from around the world. Hell, it was worse than jumping into the Hudson! You see, you can train for a triathlon but back then you couldn’t train to host strangers in your own home.
In 2010, there weren’t thousands of hosts. No one to help you “train”. When I’d mention Airbnb, people would stare at me and say, “Air what?” But in true triathlon form I went for it anyway, even though I didn’t feel “trained”. I posted photos, wrote a half ass description and checked out the listings of other local Airbnb hosts in the neighborhood.
YOUR TRIBE / COACHES
Back then there wasn’t an Airbnb community. I remember how happy I felt the first time I went to an Airbnb gathering. Here was my tribe. I could talk about linens, the challenges of demanding guests, the joy of good guests. Everything about being an Airbnb host without the other person’s eyes glazing over. Without knowing, I found my tribe. I started building connections with fellow hosts, whom I now call, friends.
My Airbnb Tribe
I train with a team for a reason, whenever I have questions I know someone is there more experienced to guide me. To tell me finish strong, to let me know I’m not alone.
My Tri Tribe
My advice to you is, find your tribe! You’ll need people to help you when you’re sick or stuck in traffic. Someone you can trust. Someone who can take over hosting duties when you’re in a pinch or walk six miles with you when your sneakers are in a pinch.. And coaches (like me) to help you navigate “train” any part of your hosting life.
IT’S A JOB
Being an Airbnb host is a job. I love providing a fantastic experience for my guests. Knowing I’m in charge of a big part of their vacation. The place they call home. Just like a triathlon there are parts I like better than others. Running is my laundry. I haven’t found the love, yet, but I must do it. And do it and do it.
By Ashler Awelan via flicker photo
Practice made me a better triathlete and it definitely makes me a better host. Four years ago I didn’t know how to swim, now I can do a few laps without thinking, “Don’t die”, or at least not in the middle of the swimming pool.
Five years ago I didn’t even have a coffee maker. Now I know it isn't about me and I have a french press, a blow dryer and a kickass guest guidebook that they’re always raving about. Plus, I have a better understanding of what I’m dealing with – whether how to bike with plantar fasciitis or how to select and work with guests. I learn and grow with each new triathlon and with every new visitor.
THE LIFE YOU WANT
Airbnb has given me the freedom to dedicate the time to train. I create my own schedule, well, my guests do, then I get to choose around that. Just enough time to jump into the hudson river on a Sunday in July.
What freedom has Airbnb provided in your world? Or what goals do you have? Who helps you navigate the waters of hosting?
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