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Angela Naeth’s battle with Lyme Disease and return to racing

Following Naeth's eighth-place finish at Kona, symptoms of Lyme Disease returned. Forced to adjust her approach, Naeth has learned a lot about mindset and her approach.

Treating Lyme Disease and the journey of gaining your health back is a humbling experience. Since dealing with Lyme, fighting my way back to racing professionally, it has been difficult at times to stay positive. On my blog,  I have shared how the last two months have been challenging for me mentally. I’ve relied on the support of friends, team IRACELIKEAGIRL members, family, and the crew at Red Bull. It takes patience with the medications to get the bacterial load down so my immune system can take over.  I also work with Craig Manning – an amazing sports psychologist. And of course, my boyfriend Tim (also my coach), who has been my rock thru this entire process.

Angela Naeth crosses the finish line in eighth at the 2018 Ironman World Championship.

Related: Angela Naeth: From barely being able to walk to eighth at Kona

It’s with this support system, that I jumped into my first race of the season- Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast. Truth be told, I was 100 per cent not wanting to race. Throughout the process, I fought the idea. I didn’t book and flight or a hotel until four days prior. Even when I landed in Florida, this mindset of “not feeling ready” continued: “I can’t race when I only have 60-70% of my body back!”

This experience brought me back to mindset. We all can falter in this area. And it can make, or break you. It’s a delicate calibration to find, and it’s not easy to figure out, especially when things are not going your way.  

Angela Naeth on the bike at Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast. Photo: @higgybabyphotography

A good mental mindset starts with self-belief. Self-belief is the core of who you are. You have to believe in yourself first. If you don’t, that’s when everything falls apart.

For me, I had to reset my mindset. Lyme disease is coming at me, but it’s not me. It’s an environmental, external factor that is living inside me. It may be a challenge that has come toward me, and that beats me down, but it’s not me!

Angela Naeth on the run at Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast. Photo: @higgybabyphotography

And so it’s this mindset – that “it’s not me,” that calibrates the real me to believe in myself. This creates the energy to fight this infection.

Many fall into the trap of letting an injury/illness/relationship/race outcome define them. The key is how to navigate that.

Be strong at your core. That’s what Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast helped reignite inside me. Looking back at the race weekend, these thoughts stood out:  

  • If you’re not willing to fail, you won’t win.  I jumped into the first race of my season, definitely not even close to ready. I had trouble mentally being ok with doing it. My coach suggested it was something I needed. We needed to know where I was at. So, I went and raced. It was humbling, but I finished. My ego took a bit of a hit, but it was something I desperately needed. My fire was lit.
  • Vulnerability is showing up and being seen when you can’t control the outcome.  I knew I wasn’t going to do anything spectacular, it was a massive step in the right direction for me.
  • Without a pause, we can’t appreciate movement. Gaining my body and mind back with treatment is a gift. I appreciate my life and body more than I ever thought possible.
  • Always a minor setback for a major comeback. Enough said!
  • Fighting is a mindset, Life is an outcome, Healing is a choice.  I heard this on a podcast I listened to a few weeks ago. Healing is a choice, and you need the fighting mindset to have the life you want. So many can fall victim to and let a disease or illness or injury define them.  
Finishing Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast. Naeth finished seventh. Photo: @higgybabyphotography

Some Quick Notes About Lyme Disease

  • Lyme Disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete, a spiral-shaped bacteria that digs its way into your tissue like a corkscrew.
  • If treated early enough, three to four weeks of antibiotics will cure Lyme Disease. If caught later, treatment is much longer to eradicate bacterial growth.
  • Lyme Disease doesn’t manifest itself physically (except for a rash at onset). To others, doctors included, someone with Lyme can appear perfectly healthy. Thousands of people suffer for years without a diagnosis.
  • Blood tests for Lyme Disease are only 50-60% accurate. This makes diagnosis difficult, and many go undiagnosed because of it.
  • Doctors who treat longer-term infections are scarce, which makes it a very expensive process. Insurance companies don’t cover most, if any, of the treatment. Lyme treatment is often paid for out of pocket.