Monday, November 30, 2009

Each Ironman A Story

Last week when I was at Ironman Arizona I was shocked by the difference between watching an Ironman as a person who had completed one compared to watching one as a person who was aspiring to compete in one. As a volunteer at Ironman Lake Placid in 2007 I was in awe of the athletes, and wondered if I had what it took to train for the event, if diabetes would prevent me from finishing the event and if I had the guts to push through to finish an Ironman. When I watched IMAZ last week as a person who had finished an IM I felt a silent camaraderie with each athlete. I realized that every competitor in the race was so much more than a single moment. I realized that every competitor had a year of stories just getting to the starting line, that each competitor had a support network that helped them wake up at 4am to get in a run, swim or bike. I realized that each competitor had faced their own challenge or demon and persevered through whatever it was to get them into the race.

I saw some amazing things at IMAZ, I witnessed a woman come in just before the bike cut off who needed help getting off her bike. I witnessed 16 type 1 diabetic athletes come together as a team and put on a tremendous display of courage finishing an Ironman overcoming a "silent disease." I had the privilege and honor to congratulate Rudy Garcia-Tolson finish his first Ironman. Rudy is the only double above-knee amputee to finish an Iron distance race; congratulating him on his finish was humbling to say the least. As I sat in the bleachers at the finish line I was struck by the emotion each athlete had on their face in the finishing shoot, it became apparent that each person who came down that last 50 yards had a year's worth of stories to tell and that in some way their life had changed.

In my two short years of triathlon the sport has given me so much, has provided so many life lessons and has provided an opportunity to meet some amazing people. I am anxiously awaiting the start of my third season; I can't wait to see what training for IMCDA holds. I'm realizing that each season is a book unto its own, year 1 was about proving to myself that I was still the same person I had always been even though I was diagnosed with a life changing disease, year 2 was about finding my inner self, maturing as an individual and learning to truly enjoy endurance sports, to not focus on results but to focus on how amazing it is just to compete. I won't know what year 3 will be about until after IMCDA but I do have some ideas for a motto for the upcoming season although I have some more thinking to do to solidify that.

Each person who toes the starting line at an Ironman is worthy of praise and each journey that crosses the finish line should be celebrated. I'm thankful and feel privileged to have had the opportunity to challenge myself in endurance sports and am starting to love every step I take in this sport. I never would have thought a guy who used to dread running 3 miles could love grinding out a 6 mile run before Thanksgiving dinner let alone crossing 140.6 miles in one day – yeah this sport is pretty damn cool.

1 comment:

PJ said...

Great post, Ed. 140.6 miles can really change your life and I don't think it's possible to realize the extent of that until you've had the chance to view it from several angles.