Sunday, December 20, 2009

Watching a Dream Unfold...or slip from your fingers...

Amongst the hustle and bustle of a crazy holiday weekend, I set my watch alarm and my DVR to watch the epic event of my favorite sport...the Ironman World Championship in Kona Hawaii.

Like the Super Bowl is to Football and the World Series is to baseball, "running Kona" is the pinnacle of Ironman Triathlon. To make it to "the show" is an honor. To finish it is something truly worth celebration. To miss the cut off in this competition is a heartache like no other in the sport of triathlon.

As I watched this drama unfold, I felt the exhilaration of the start. The pros talked about the 30 minutes before the gun goes off as the most frustrating time in the race. You just want to get started. I knew that feeling so well; that uneasiness in the pit of your stomach and the lump in your throat.

As I watched the gun go off and the mass move forward, I closed my eyes and I was in the water getting pushed and shoved and even moved forward by the mass of people. I was so relieved to be started towards my dream. The excitement in the show was so moving. Is it any wonder that this telecast spawns so many new triathletes. You want that feeling. You want that drive and vision. You want that victory.

But as I watched the end of the swim segment and the bike segment, I felt the heartache of two athletes: Kyle Garrett and Rudy Garcia-Tolson.

Kyle Garrett, cancer survivor and heart transplant patient misses the swim cut off by 7 seconds. As I watched this unfold, the tears rolled down my face and they just wouldn't stop.

But it wasn't until they showed Rudy Garcia-Tolson that the emotion of their day came to a climax. Rudy is a double amputee that can only handle a bike using his prosthetic legs and his glute muscles. As they stopped him at bike transition because he missed the bike cut off, Rudy was quite composed. He said he had given it everything he had and there was nothing more he could have done. His reaction reminded me of mine at mile 110 of the bike as I was stopped by the officials and my chip was removed. There were no tears....I knew I had done everything I could do on that need for emotion.

But on this December day, I realized that I had not fully worked through the emotion of letting that dream slip away. Watching someone else experience the same thing brought it all to a head and I finally DID cry...and I cried a lot. When you can feel the emotion and see it unfold in front of you instead of being in the midst of it, it is so powerful. I felt for Rudy...I felt for me.

I am happy to report that Rudy is now an Ironman. He completed Ironman Arizona a few weeks later.

My day is coming...My hurdles are different than Rudy's or Kyle's but we share that common win our own race in our own way. My hurdles seem so simple to others while to me they are a constant battle that I face every day.

No more tears. Im so ready for the new year, the new season, the new me, and the newest chapter of the journey. Im ready to surround myself with positive people and keep a coach with true vision. I am eager to be the person I know I can be: she is just hiding and being beaten down by addiction and lack of self esteem. If I can slay those demons...she will take charge.



You know, I always get teary eyed when I watch IMWC also. Having finished one race (IMAZ Ap 08), that by all odds I should not have, I too "feel" what these athletes are feeling. The difference is most of these athletes are "challenged" and my only challenge is being an overweight "old" guy.

Aren't we lucky that we can do something about that? Or at least one part of it? (Although the fountain of youth is somewhere here in Florida, isn't it?)

The third challenge that most IMers share and isn't so visible but is probably the toughest one to overcome (took me 20 years) is confidence of success. Conquering this one sets you free.

So here's my wish for you in 2010. May you finally be set free.


Elizabeth the Marathon Girl said...

I had the same emotions watching the telecast. You will be an Ironman one day and I hope I am lucky enough to be there with you!