Thursday, August 22, 2013

Becoming An Ironman... It's All About The Journey!

Every journey has a destination for without a destination, the journey would take us nowhere.  But, haven't we all heard that "It's the Journey that matters, not the final Destination."?

Is this really true?  How often do we find ourselves embarked in a journey we just wish would come to an end. School, for example. Didn't we wish graduation day would come, like... tomorrow?  Did we really enjoy and looked forward to four long years of college? Once there, we just wished it was over.  That journey was just not too appealing to us.

But its not the college "degree" that makes you whatever you became.  Its the journey.  The classes, the exams, the late night study sessions. This is what truly matters.

So in all reality, its any worthwhile journey that makes us who we are, what we are and what we will become. The final destination is simply the payoff.

Becoming an Ironman is no different.

You're not an Ironman because Mike Reilly says you are. Those of you who have had the privilege of hearing your name called by the Voice of  Ironman know what I'm talking about. And if you're one of the privileged to have had Mike Reilly call your name, it's a hell of a pay day!

You became an Ironman because of the dedication, determination, tenacity, will and desire. The grit and the guts. You became an Ironman because you paid the piper, you put the hay in the barn.

The 4:00 am wake up calls, the early morning swims.  The hundreds and in some cases, thousand of yards you swam to the far wall and back. You called it a night, when most others were just getting theirs started. The calories, carbs and fat grams you counted and miscounted.  You learned to eat food you never knew existed (quinoa ~ who would have thought?); you learned to like some and just tolerated the rest.

You and your bike became one and the same. You gave her a name.  In my case she became my "Roo". You became an expert at changing tires, adjusting gears and break pads, yet your bike mechanic's phone number took over "speed dial 1".

Your rides progressed from a short, quick 20 miler to that dreaded Century, and then these became common place.  Then your coach or plan or your friend introduced you to the infamous "brick"; that 45 minute run after that grueling 100 mile ride. "What was I thinking?"

Hill repeats, you loved them, you hated them.  You still hate them, but you still do them.  The group rides, the solo rides.  In the heat, in the cold and everything in between. You were chased by dogs, pushed off the road by careless drivers, but that didn't matter because on those very early morning rides, you witnessed the sunrise and the peacefulness and tranquility of those quiet country roads. You learned to navigate your Garmin, which by the way, is the size of a kitchen timer, with precision and accuracy that would leave a NASA engineer green with envy. Yes, all these became part of the process.

To you, "let's go shopping" meant a new pair of running shorts, socks or a new tee.  You thought Christmas came early when in the mailbox you found a copy of  Triathlete Magazine, which you hoped had a new tip or new advice on how to cut an extra minute of your bike split.

Speed work and Intervals. Endurance runs that lasted for hours.  "Daddy, why are you running again?", "Mommy, when will you be back?".  You hoped that they understood, you wish you could explain.  But as time passed they saw a change, they loved the change, they were happy with the change.  "Daddy, what's on your schedule today?", "Mommy, I'll be here when you get back.".

Yes, the journey to an Ironman finish line is paved with highs, lows, ups, downs, and hundreds of lessons. You endure it all because quickly you understand that it all has a purpose, and not just a physical one. In the nine month process, you grow. You understand better than ever that there's a bigger purpose for you in this world.  You're doing this, because your place is here, your time is now.

My Ironman tattoo is a testament to what I've become. I'd like for people to understand that yes, I did swim 2.4 miles in a nasty river, rode my Roo for 112 hilly, hot and humid miles and ran a full marathon with legs screaming from pain, all in just over 15.5 hours, but more importantly that I moved into a new zone of confidence, of readiness and of purpose and that my actions and behaviour make me worthy of the title Ironman.

Although Ironman is a registered trademark of WTC, the term is used here to represent any 140.6 triathlon distance, be it Ironman, Rev3 or another.