I am speechless; without words. So without further ado, let me get right to it. On July 23, my wife competed and finished her first Ironman in Lake Placid, renowned site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. An Ironman, both a brand and the title given to the event, is the penultimate event in the sport of triathlon. It’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. The clock begins the minute you cross the time barrier when you start the swim and ends when you cross the finish line after the marathon. Not for the feint of heart and definitely not something you just go do. Less than .5% of the US population can say they’ve run a marathon; even less at 0.001% can say they have completed an Ironman. It’s a monumental undertaking of both the physical and mental limits and I’m very proud to say my wife has done it! But as with most accomplishments what people don’t appreciate or understand is the depth of dedication and discipline that is required to pull off such a feat.
A big part of my satisfaction as a fitness professional is helping others achieve greater things than they thought possible. Creating a pathway for them through proper exercise, sound nutrition, and coaching their mindset brings me such great joy and satisfaction with what I do. Five years ago I was sitting with my laptop putting together a triathlon training program for a client when my wife asked me, “What are you doing?”. “I’m designing a training program for a client who wants to do a sprint triathlon (smaller distance but still involves a swim, bike and run)”, I told her. Without much hesitation I continued, “You could do this.” Now, understand that I am not taking responsibility for my wife’s interest and subsequent dive into triathlon. As someone who knows her well I thought this was just the kind of thing that could let her get excited about getting involved physically to accomplish something greater than just being active. Who would have thought she’d take the bull by the horns. After her first sprint triathlon came several sprint triathlons. Then came a few Olympic distance triathlons (essentially double sprint distances). Then came the Half Ironman triathlon, the next logical step towards competing in the Ironman. The years leading up and subsequent races were all strategically chosen with her ultimate goal to train and eventually compete in the Ironman. That decision was made summer of 2016.
Just as in marathon training, one’s ability to do a half marathon does not equate to success in running a full marathon. Finishing a Half Ironman comes no where close to finishing an Ironman. More time, energy, and mental acuity must be built to handle the fact that you’ll essentially be exercising non-stop for 12+ hours! The training and preparation for the undertaking of competing in an Ironman has a “no excuse” clause that simply implies that a day missed are minutes lost and minutes lost in an Ironman could potentially lead to a DNF score, or Did Not Finish. Everyday, week, and month is strategically mapped out to achieve the goal. My wife followed her plan to a “T” which included:
• Waking up at 5am to get to the pool to swim before work
• Planning around my work schedule to get a second workout in at night, either running or biking
• Spending hours on a Saturday riding the indoor bike trainer
• Running here, there, and everywhere
• Developing a nutrition strategy that would be used during the event
• Hitching long outdoor rides with teammates (and me) for many miles
• Competing in “set-up” races to gauge progress
The schedule was arduous but manipulated to accommodate our lives, social obligations, and of course a day or two of rest.
There is no more gratifying feeling in the world to set out to achieve a goal, appreciate the process, and accomplish that goal. To my wife, that moment was magnified when she crossed the finish and Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, called her name and said, “You are an Ironman!” She cried and I cried with her and the replay still gets me every time. Many set out to accomplish a goal and many never see it to fruition. But my wife did and I couldn’t be more proud of her. Not all the days were easy; life happens and causes challenges; but she never made excuses and kept her focus on the bigger picture. She wanted to do this and nothing was going to tell her otherwise. She made a commitment to herself and gave the respect that the event warrants. She maintained her role as a teacher, mother, and wife and had all our support from day one. She accomplished something many will only dream of and many more will never do. That’s what makes goals great and even better when they’re achieved.
Take Home Points:
• You don’t have to do an Ironman or a marathon or anything like that. The popularity of these types of events is that they hold a steadfast deadline – a timeframe within which to achieve the goal. If you made more of your goals that way and added a “no excuse” clause to them, you’ll be more successful.
• The only one setting your limits is yourself. Don’t judge and think of things as crazy or impossible. That mindset only magnifies the short sightedness you possess and no one will ever achieve goals with that.
• Identify your “why” with your goals. It’s the “why” that creates the desire and discipline to move forth and conquer
• All of your excuses are invalid. If you continue to make them you’ll confuse them with reality, a huge problem with those who never achieve anything.
• Start small but think big. Once you create momentum by achieving smaller goals, bigger goals look less intimidating.
Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.