Pavement to Podium
“Ouch!” I screamed as I lay on the pavement, “I can’t believe this just happened with my next Ironman race on the horizon.” As I was out on my weekly early morning ride with my Garmin reading 23.8 miles per hour when a pack of raccoons came out of a stand of trees directly in front of me with no time to react. These animals are not soft and cuddly but rather hard like large boulders. I hit them and was immediately on the ground. Later I learned that I suffered cracked ribs and a separated shoulder.
Long story short, when folks told me that my upcoming Ironman would be “impossible” I thought they said “inevitable!” Age-weighted, I ended up having one of my best races ever, including first out of the water, on the podium, and qualifying for the eighth time to complete in the Hawaii Ironman World Triathlon Championships. Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned.
First, a dear friend who is a long time professional cyclist immediately called me with encouragement and simply said “don’t gain weight” . . . “you will be just fine with your incredible base of fitness.” During my recovery period I actually lost 5 pounds so that I could resume training leaner than I have been since high school. Lean is faster.
Although the first few weeks with the injuries were beyond painful, including having to sleep sitting up in a chair since just my body weight was too much for the ribs, it actually did give me a break from hard training and perhaps some well needed physical rest. We all tend to over train, and that particularly exposes itself heading into big races. We all know people who get sick, injured, or stale right before a big race. The lesson is that we all over train at times and we need to know when we should rest. Further, and perhaps we’ll explore this further in a future article, perhaps we need to ask ourselves where we over train in other aspects of our lives.
The expectations of me were not high. Accordingly, it was one of the few times that I felt very relaxed with no pressure going into an event. Of course, most of the time pressure is self-generated and if we can let ourselves off the hook we are then free to explore and extend our capabilities. So, it helps to take a “chill pill” and relax. When we take the pressure off ourselves we may be surprised as what we are fully capable of becoming.
As I recovered from the injuries I had a renewed psychological freshness. I was eager and excited to train. In fact, I was thankful and grateful for the opportunities that my fitness provided. Come race day, I was psychologically like a tiger ready to get out of a cage instead of being weary from month after month of hard physical labor.
My FOTW, First Out of The Water, award was quite a surprise. Reflecting back, my focus during the swim was much more intense than it had ever been before. I was completely focused and had my mind in the game for every second of the 54 minute 15 second swim including each and every single stroke along the way. Intense focus helps us perform better.
Being a positive example is important to me. My kids, family, friends, and coworkers were all watching to see how I would respond to my setback. I responded the only way I know how — always move forward and never, never give up. As long as you don’t allow your heart and soul to be defeated you will always come out a winner.
There is an internal gratification that comes from overcoming adversity. After the strong swim, the day continued to crescendo as the miles went by. Confidence continued to build and there was the realization that it would be a successful day. When adversity hits, there are no hills . . . only climbers. Always be a climber!
Many thanks for all the encouragement and support.
On the podium,