I feel compelled to briefly share my thoughts on my Ironman experience this past weekend…not as a participant, but rather as a spectator. I always thought I knew what it meant to do an Ironman. Watching the NBC Hawaii special and hearing the tales of Ironman’s past from triathlon friends, I believed I understood what the race was all about…the ultimate test of human endurance.
Driving down the road into Lake Placid, lined with signs of encouragement for individual athletes, I already felt a flood of emotions beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. There were words of encouragement for those jockeying for the highest of triathlon honors, “C’mon, Tom, Kona is calling!” or for those whose goal was simply to cross the finish line, “Keep pushing, Bob. We’re all proud of you!”
Reading these sings was the first time I realized what this was really about…and it was rest of the weekend, including the race, that solidified what I first thought when I drive down route 86. Being an Ironman isn’t just about how fast you go, or even if you finish at all. This race, this experience, is really about the journey….it’s about the 6am bike rides, the 7am swims, the brutal track workouts after long days of work, or the 10 mile runs on freezing February mornings…when we all ask ourselves, “Why is it that I do this again?”
I’ll never forget seeing one of my training partners at mile 4 of the run. She looked over at me with tears in her eyes and said to me, “Sarah, the bike was so hard….I have no idea how I’m going to finish this thing…” Before I knew it, she flew by me at mile 10, yelling, “I feel so much better…I’m going to do it!” Talk about the journey, eh? Or what could have matched standing next to another team member at the finish line who had been forced out of the race with terrible stomach problems…instead of sulking about not finishing, he cheered louder than me for team members crossing the finish line. Awesome!
I have always had a theory that there are few times in life where our happiness for other people’s achievements are 100% pure…totally untainted by jealousy or regret. I can say now that I have now experienced one of those rare times. In my eyes, everyone who waited behind that line in Mirror Lake on Sunday morning is an Ironman…I couldn’t be more proud of you all!