Monday, August 27, 2012
I had the pleasure of attending my first Ironman competition this weekend in Louisville, KY. I have so much to say yet am having a difficult time putting it to words.
To catch people up to speed that may not know Jeff, he was my coach during and after my 4 week stay at Hilton Head Health in 2011. I found a close bond with him on so many levels. We just 'clicked'.
When someone supports you as much as he has supported me, I could not turn down an opportunity to support him on what would be the biggest endurance challenge for him to date.
First, let's talk about Ironman competitions. There were more than 2500 participants yesterday, To take on a full Ironman which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and finishes up with a full marathon, you must prepare. Physically and mentally. You don't just decide one day to do an Ironman without having some experience in triathlons or even endurance events such as marathons under your belt. Or, maybe you do just decide to do it. Those were possibly the people I saw getting carted away on stretchers at the end of the race.
I was worried about Jeff. Nervous. The best athletes in the world break down on these events. Missing critical nutrition along the way or unforseen accidents and injuries are common. I know in my heart that Jeff is a top-notch athlete. But....STILL....this is a frigging 140.6 mile event. Oh, and it was forecasted to be 94° and humid!
The field of bikes in the transiton area was unbelievable to see. The line of participants that we strolled past to find Jeff was mind boggling. I was so happy that we found him and he was feeling good going in.
Away he went on the swim. We waited for him at the first transition. The atmosphere was electric. Competetors of all ages, shapes and sizes. Some were shapes that I could not believe I was seeing but I won't go there.
Then onto the bike. A gruelling 112 miles in hilly terrain. I heard stories today at breakfast of a ride that stopped to kiss his wife and was hit by another rider. These guys go 18-25 MPH so that collission had to be bad. Another rider dropped a bottle and it somehow hit his spokes of the front tire. He was launched and crashed badly. This is a very dangerous phase of the race.
After so many hours on the bike, you get to try your legs out on a 26.2 mile run. BRUTAL!
We saw Jeff at miles 1, 3, 14 and the finish. My nervousness for him waned as he always was cruising along and all smiles as he passed us.
I will let you read his blog which you can find here on this link as I am sure he will tell his side of the story and about his actual times. I don't want to steal his thunder on any of that.
I will talk about what I took away from this. No, I don't have any goals to be an Ironman. They would not fit within the SMART goals system which include the words ATTAINABLE and REALISTIC. At least not now. What I took away from the event was seeing someone go for a new level of achievement no differently than if you have never done a 5K and finally decide to get your butt off of the couch and just do it. From a goal perspective, they are no different. They require dedication and planning.
I also had my inner fire renewed to keep pushing myself. I have become very complacent lately. This is partly because I needed a break from such an intense focus of losing weight but also to show myself that I can maintain at a level and not gain even though I am not losing for a while. I managed to do that. Now, I have such a renewed vigor to get nasty in the gym and work harder than I have in the past 16 months.
I know Jeff appreciated us all being there. What he does not realize is what that event did for me as well. I am completely in awe and inspired by his achievement and success at the Ironman. I am so lucky to have a guy like Jeff in my life as well as the other H3 alumni that were there. You are all family to me. I never knew when I walked into Hilton Head Health that the connections and bonds I would make in those 4 weeks would have such a profound impact in me so long after my stay.
Congrats Jeff. You are an absolute IRONMAN both athletically and as a man, friend and mentor.