The Ironman race is complex with mystery and wonder weaved into the fabric of the event. The race possesses a unique meaning to each competitor as they place monumental expectations on the experience. The race is expected to be an answer to the unknown, a holy grail, a return to life, a means to discover the meaning of life, and an arena in which to push the limits of the human mind, body, and spirit. As one of our videos of the week puts it: “The birth of a dream like this can come anywhere and be nurtured anyplace. The dream where the Ironman becomes a symbol of achievement or maybe a symbol of something greater. There is in no way any guarantee that you will get what you want, Ironman awards glory to those who survive.” With all of this being required by her competitors, it is only fair that the race is permitted to ask of something in return…and she does.
The Ironman is a remarkable event and this video shows you exactly what it can mean to many.
When I began my Ironman training, I was under the assumption that it was an individual event. The Ironman was to be proof to myself that I am capable of anything on my own and that I am an island. I wanted so badly to believe that I am a fully self-sufficient human being, requiring no help or aid from anyone. As with most hard-nosed beliefs I have held thus far in my young life, I was wrong. Ironman made sure to hammer this lesson home the hardest of ways possible.
Before I began the race, I knew I was going to feel pain and a lot of it out on the race course. However, I did not anticipate nor expect Saint George to throw 40mph winds and 3 to 4 foot white caps at me along with high heat. I had imagined that I would handle any struggle of mind or body on the course by channeling thoughts of motivational videos, songs, and quotes that I had accrued over the years as a motivation junkie. In the end, I only remotely referenced one video, shown above. My strength would be summoned from other sources.
The Ironman asks of one thing and one thing only throughout the course of a race: everything. She requires that you give absolutely every ounce of energy, heart, and soul that you possess in your body, and then she asks for more. So how is one to complete a race in which everything has been given and more is required?
Around mile 50 on the bike, doubt and and despair crept into the recesses of my mind. As I watched the “paddy wagon” go by, carrying athletes who had dropped from the race, I contemplated throwing in the towel to join them. The winds were more vicious than I could have ever expected and much of the bike course was in no man’s land with little to no crowd support. It was just athletes alone with their thoughts in the red-hued mountains of Saint George. I had not a clue as to from where I was to summon the strength to carry on the final 100 miles…and then it arrived. Thoughts and memories of loved ones flooded my mind. I realized that I had people from all over the globe cheering me on and watching me from California to Pennsylvania to Iowa to Indiana to Michigan to Montana to Egypt to Ireland to Scotland to England to Canada to Ohio to Illinois to Texas and many more. I was grateful for my sunglasses that day as they hid the tears that began to well up in the corner of my eyes. I bit my cheeks to hold back my emotions as I imagined my mother staring intently at the computer screen wondering if her baby boy would make it through the day. Thoughts flashed of my father, aunt, and uncle anxiously awaiting my arrival back into St. George to cheer me on through the run course. I was not fully aware of it then, but this would be all that I needed to finish this race. Love and life flowed back into my veins and carried through to my muscles, giving me the strength to hammer on.
It took 13 hours 13 minutes and 31 seconds of swimming, biking, and running to realize it, but in the end I was awarded with one of the greatest lessons I could possibly learn: no man is an island. I know I will always be an independent soul but I now realize that nothing I have achieved in my life would have been possible without the love and support of my friends and family. No achievement can solely be one’s own no matter what it is. My loving parents taught me how to ride a bike, my coach helped me to learn to swim, and my running has been fostered and cared for with the love and support of many over the 13 years it has been my passion. The Ironman is not an individual achievement, it is a shared glory between loved ones and friends. Only by channeling the love and strength of friends, family, and the crowd, is the individual able to reach that line to hear the voice that proclaims “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”, and I must say, those are some of the sweetest words one will ever hear.
I love you all so much and can never thank you enough for all of your love and support. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by such an amazing group of family and friends. I’ll be forever grateful.
Always in Stride,
P.S. Full Race Report to come on Thursday and more frequent posts, the writing is flowing right now:)
Quote - “This is about limits. Reaching them, exploring them, exceeding them what you thought yours were. Coming to the conclusion that there aren’t any: limits.”- Unbekannt
Songs – Coldplay – Paradise