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Warriors Making Warriors

Warriors Making Warriors

The halls of FIS are full of warriors. But, there was one particular FIS Warrior I was eager to meet; Vanessa Vidueira. I first heard about Ms. Vidueria while lying on my yoga mat after completing my REAL FUN-n-FIT with HIIT class. I was feeling particularly proud of myself for having endured 47 minutes of high intensity training when my always-motivating instructor, Manka Mookerjee, began telling us about the FIS Physical Education instructor who recently competed in an off-road triathlon. When I heard “... finished in just over five hours” ... my mind began to wander. Those last 47 minutes were rather painful and exhausting, I just couldn’t fathom how – or why! – someone could endure hours of torment. I needed to find Ms. Vidueria and get answers.

Ms. Vidueria, despite her kind smile and sweet demeanor, is a fierce athlete. Last October, she competed in the XTERRA World Championship in Hawaii. For the uninitiated, XTERRA is the world’s premier off-road triathlon, combining a 1.5 kilometer (1 mile) ocean swim, 32 kilometer (20 miles) mountain bike, and 10.5 kilometer (6.5 miles) trail run. Keeping in mind that the drive from Frankfurt to Oberursel is approximately 20 kilometers, the total distance in this sufferfest is grueling. Furthermore, in what seems to push the boundaries of sanity, XTERRA is an off-road triathlon in sweltering heat, which takes competitors biking up a 1,000-meter incline, running along muddy forest trails, and swimming against strong ocean currents.

There are few athletes brave enough to tackle the challenge of a triathlon, yet in her very first attempt, she had an outstanding performance at XTERRA and placed in the top ten. Ms. Vidueria is no doubt a champion and a motivation to us all. But what drives her is what was particularly interesting to me. One of the things that motivates her to push the limit is her students. “When I see my students demonstrate the self-discipline to show up for practice every day in rain or shine, some battling injuries, and sacrificing their weekends for workouts, I find the strength to demand more from myself,” notes Ms. Vidueria. Her journey can be analogous to her students’ and parents’ quest to achieve their personal goals; lots of hard work and preparation punctuated by moments in which they are given the opportunity to perform their best.

The Pain Gain
It's truly remarkable how much training Ms. Vidueria had to endure and how devoted she was to get to the finish line. It was obvious that discipline was the bridge between her goals and her accomplishment. She believes her strong outcome was a direct result of months of training. As with most things in life, you cannot cram for a triathlon. It was important for Ms. Vidueria to have her trainings be a series of small, steady, sustainable goals,which made achieving her larger goal more realistic. It is empowering to push through the minor challenges; we all need momentum, and nothing fuels it like small successes. Likewise, when we face our own goals, we have to be focused, we have to be disciplined and, most importantly, we have to be patient.

Blood, Sweat and Fear
Swimming was Ms. Vidueria’s Achilles heel. While she had an intrinsic ability with mountain biking and running, she had only been swimming for one year before the competition. The open swim was a real fear for Vanessa, but just as in life, sometimes we have to do things we don’t like to get to where we need to go. With diligence and discipline, Vanessa swam three times a week and despite losing her goggles and swim cap during the competition, she prevailed. She reminds us that, “we are all capable of doing much more and most people live with self-imposed limits. Things are pretty easy for us in today’s society and we are constantly trying to find shortcuts and easier ways of doing things. It’s only by challenging ourselves that we can get closer to our best.”

99.99% of people will never compete in XTERRA, but we all have our own challenges we are trying to overcome; maybe it’s learning a new language, maybe it’s joining a new school activity, maybe it’s just getting to school on time. Ms. Vidueria’s accomplishment is a terrific reminder that we are all capable of doing much more than most of us ever try. You’ll never know what you can do until you push the limits. Don’t be afraid to try and fail, but be afraid of never trying. 

Juliette Gustavsson
FIS Parent

  • Faculty