Reflections on a glorious and miserable day
Two years ago this past Sunday, I completed the Chattanooga IronMan.
A triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile (3.8km) swim, 116 mile (186km) bike ride, and 26.2 mile (42km) run.
It was an amazing, glorious, unforgettable, and somewhat miserable day.
I jumped into the chilly waters of the Tennessee River just after 7am, and began swimming.
Fourteen hours and twenty minutes later, I crossed the finish line and was declared an IronMan!
My family and friends surprised me with matching T-shirts with my name. I think there were over 30 people wearing those shirts! They showed up at various places along the course shouting and cheering and bringing a huge smile to my face, no matter how tired I felt.
I competed in my first triathlon in 2005. Somehow, as I explored this new territory of swimming/biking/running various distances, the IronMan became a goal. As it turned out, Chattanooga, the hometown of my first husband, Eric, started hosting this major sports event in 2014.
Perfect timing and a perfect location to honor Eric through this grueling race in 2015.
My purpose for doing triathlons began as a journey of discovery.
I had never imagined I could swim/bike/run all in the same day for any distance. It was a way to push myself physically beyond previous limits, similar to how I had pushed emotionally through the loss of Eric.
In the weeks leading up to the IronMan, this symbolism grew.
I could do this race. I could swim, bike, run. Eric couldn’t. My friend, Valerie, couldn’t. My friend’s dad, couldn’t. My friend’s brother couldn’t.
The list of people I knew that were gone grew and grew. Their life snatched unexpected by cancer, or accident, or disease.
They couldn’t. But I could. And so I did.
Having a clear purpose was the most powerful motivator on race day. I knew exactly why I was doing what I was doing. It didn’t matter if anyone else understood or even cared. I knew and that was what mattered.
During the final hours of the day, my legs felt like heavy weights barely moving my body along the pavement. No matter how slow, I was determined to keep moving faster than a walk.
Because I could.
Because I can.
That was my mantra. I could. Eric couldn’t. Valerie couldn’t. Lawrence couldn’t. James couldn’t. Lionel couldn’t. Sue couldn’t. Adam, Charles, Nellie, Dr. Martin, Owen… none of them could, so I kept going for them, inspired by their lives.
As I’m writing this, I paused to look through pictures from that day. It was an emotional day. I feel that emotion well up now, two years later.
And so I share this with you today, as a reminder of what’s possible.
What can you do today? What if you focus on that? Because you can. And I can.
Let’s do these things we can do.
Lets honor our loved ones who are no longer living by continuing to
live fully… because we can.
Some pictures from race day.
John got up with me at 3:30am to make me breakfast and help me work through the nervous jitters.
Family and friends getting breakfast. I’ve finished the swim at this point and am off on the bike! Looks like fun!
The cheerleaders along the bike route. It was so fun to see everyone as I biked by! I never knew where they would show up and it cheered me up so much when I spotted them.
I’m off the bike — a relief! My legs felt like jello the first few steps and I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to manage the run. Again, seeing family and friends cheering gave me an energy boost!
Starting the run…
Familiar faces staying around even as the daylight faded.
The finish line — could hardly believe it!
Feeling so happy, tired, relieved, and grateful.
The amazing crew minus a few who had to get home. I couldn’t believe how many stayed until the very end!