Testing My Limits, Rising to the Challenges


It has been a great couple of weeks for challenging my limits, in life and in sport. For those that know me, you know I usually don’t back down from a challenge. Not that I am out to prove anything to anyone, but I like to know what I am capable of and how far I can push myself. I’m also not afraid to fail miserably (as I’ve done many times before). To me so called “failure” is something I’ve worked at to view as “data.” Data informing me where I need to change course, get stronger, smarter, etc. In the past I have had to battle against many people (and myself) that underestimated what I am capable of. I’ve been told many times that I was “not smart enough” or that people “like me” don’t go to college, or that I’m not fast enough or good enough for a certain team or sport. I have had to battle even harder when I realized that somewhere along the line I had believed (internalized) their stories and their untruths about me. For a time in my life, I was living according to a lie, a story, of what someone else thought of me. However, the lovely thing about being human is that we have the capacity to be aware and change, if we want to. Like Oprah says, “When you know better, you do better,” and that speaks my truth. So you can see why I preach the heck out of learning mindfulness. Mindfulness brings awareness, and awareness brings empowerment. Speaking for myself, once I gain awareness and insight to something that I need to change, improve, or strengthen, there is no going back for me. I share this perspective with you because it has given me the freedom from comparisons. Comparing myself (or yourself) to others devalues our own journey, our own triumphs, our individuality, and path. With that said, here are a few challenging adventures to share with you….


Two weeks ago Ken and I raced in the Tri for FUN Sprint Triathlon (.5 mi swim/ 16 mi bike/ 5k run) in the Sacramento area. Here is Ken’s race report if you’d like a more in-depth experience🙂 Overall, it was a challenge of intensities not to mention fast and hot. I have not raced a sprint distance triathlon in two years and wanted to get a baseline of where I was at in and have some racing fun in the process. I have so much respect for athletes who race and focus on short course. It’s a whole other level than long course. I swam hard and exited with my heart racing. I don’t think I have ever allowed myself to push so hard in a triathlon swim, but I knew I had been working a lot on my swimming over the last year and a half so I made the choice to push as hard to the end. Of course I exited with lungs burning and heart rate through the roof but I knew I could handle it. I jumped on my bike (with no bike computer- battery died sometime before the race) and rode based on perceived effort. This was better than I thought but I still kept telling myself to “push harder.” My thought was, “sprint races are supposed to be hard so when you think you are letting up, lay it down!” For me, I gauge a good race performance by how well I can keep it together on the run. As I pulled into T2 and went out for the run, I felt less smooth than I like. I thought “the faster you go the faster it is done with, so put your head down and hit it. It’s 3 miles that’s the run home from the bike path.” I came in with a sub 22 minute run. Finishing time of 1:26.  3rd Female Overall and 1st place AG (30-34).  Ken had some fantastic results and was the first across the finish (official results 2nd male OA) and so did our friends from the Chico Tri Club. Big thanks to our Wattie Ink. sponsors they really support us so well!

TBF Ken Swim

TBF Gloria BikeTBF Gloria Run

Last Thursday, my swim team Davis Aquatic Masters opened up 8 slots (to a 400+ member team) to participate in the 2013 USMS Speedo 5K and 10K Postal National Championships. When I first saw the email I was excited to reply and reserve my spot; but trying not to be too impulsive as I’ve never swam 5k continuously I wanted to get some feedback from Ken. He was down for supporting me and encouraged me to do it. I waited to sleep on it and then maybe thought it was “too last minute” so I chucked the idea. That was until the next day when social media blew up with the start of Badwater 135.  I was tracking many athletes and got so inspired by these ultra-endurance athletes who trained themselves to run 135 miles across the desert. I thought, “If they can run 135 miles in the desert. I can surely challenge myself to a 5k in the pool. I’ve done an Ironman. I can do this.” Obviously, Badwater is no comparison to a 5k swim (or Ironman) but I got excited about the challenge of testing my swimming limits, stepping up to something I never done before, and challenging my spirit. Plus it would be really cool to know that when I was in the pool testing my limits there would be runners in the desert testing theirs. I felt a sense of solidarity…and craziness. So I bit the bullet and did it. Thank God for TriMarni, she gave me a quick nutrition plan to stay fueled and focused throughout my day for an evening swim event. On the drive to UC Davis I was getting nervous, all the insecurities of not growing up a swimmer, and all the what if’s started to creep in. I kept silent and reminded myself that in any race once the clock/gun goes off my worries fade away. I trusted in this wisdom. We got there and I settled into the lane. The temps were high 90’s and the sun was out. I felt most bad for the counters in the hot sun counting and timing. My mental strategy was counting laps and repeating the lap number as I swim “1, 1, 1, 1, 1, flip, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2,” and so on. I also chunked them into groups of ten. This helps because I easily lose track in long sets (just ask my lane mates) plus it gave me something to focus on.  I did lose track a couple of times and had to look for my counter to ask, and I stopped twice to hydrate with Power Bar Perform but overall it was long, challenging, and sometimes hard, BUT I finished! I finished just under 1 hour and 30 minutes. Coach Stu was surprised and said last week he would have bet against me finishing before that time. Ken was estimating 1:35-1:40. It felt awesome to say I could swim a 5k nonstop and to meet a new level of swim endurance. Thank you body!


This past weekend I professionally challenged myself with completing training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for Eating Disorders in the Bay Area. When we travel to the Bay Area we get to stay with my in-laws that live just a couple miles from the South Gate entrance of Mt. Diablo. This makes for some great training rides and runs when I’m not in class. The class went really well and I am thrilled to continue to learn more and more applications of DBT. I am humbled to be training myself to be used as an instrument of healing, empowerment, and growth. I believe that every challenge (in sport and life) is meant to refine us as “instruments.” How we chose to use ourselves/instruments in this world is up to us. Your challenges are not just for you to overcome, but I truly believe it’s preparing you to help someone at sometime in your life.


As always thank you taking the time to read and support my blog. Shine on my friends!


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Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is a clinical sport psychologist, triathlete, and certified mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California. She works with elite athletes and sports teams across the country. She is a competitive athlete and enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her family, and traveling.