In Exercise

Surrounded by about 2499 friends on Sunday I completed the Boulder Ironman. It was the second year for the IM here and my second year participating. Last year was a story in itself. I wrote about it, as I finished in 17:21 and officially that’s DNF in the Ironman books. That stands for Did Not Finish. Three ugly little words.

I did actually finish and collect my medal, got to here, “Debra, you .. are… an … Ironman” again. But in the morning once the timing chips and the time-tracker have a chance to catch up, the real story is revealed. It wasn’t a big deal for me- that IM represented a lot more in a very trying year, but still I wanted a chance to redeem myself.

I always hesitate to share information about my personal pursuits. At least with things like this. I know that a small percent of people who want and need clarity about fitness advice feel like this idea of completing a marathon, or in the case of Ironman – a marathon following a 2.4 mile swim in open water and a 112-mile bike ride – is just too far from where they are that I may not be able to relate to them.

I’ve always felt it might push me further from you than closer to you.

That, of course, not my goal.

Yesterday I was struck again by the inspiration offered up by others out there. I have the fresh reinforcement that Ironman is for “real” people. So I’m taking the plunge before I wake from my recovery fog and sharing this. There are retired people out there, teachers, moms with 18-year old sons crossing the finish together as well as those age group athletes who have hopes of going to Kona, in Hawai for the IM World Championships.

What you’ll realize if you become involved in any group in a town or city is that you create a community within. Like you could live in any subdivision, triathlon is mine. If you use social media, pretty soon you’re not just communicating with your local community but you have made virtual friends that may one day become real friends you meet and race with in person. Please don’t let that word “race” scare you. In my world, that is the human race.

Riding, running, walking with people for hours on end who all have the same goal and the same struggles – some physical and more mental (overcoming the physical!) you knowpeople whose names you don’t know. I knew the beautiful woman with dark hair and olive skin who I kept meeting as we went played “cat and mouse” on the bike. Her smile and our banter kept the long ride in perspective.

Off the bike, many people change clothes and don’t have a helmet on or shades as the sun is beginning to lower for many of us. But I recognized her and asked that she keep smiling that beautiful smile. I reminded people to keep their heads up. As you go into the run – or walk for many – you go to what we call “your dark place.” That place where you battle the demons that say everything on you hurts and ..are you kidding me? 22 more miles to go? Then 18, then 13. You’re “done” but you’re not done. You’re having the argument with yourself. I want to quit. I should just run and get this over. I can’t quit, what would that feel like? I have a son watching. We don’t quit. That’s the message I intend to send.

Yesterday, I cheated. My secret weapon is one of my brothers. He’s at Mayo this morning, checking in to find out what time he’s scheduled for surgery. It’s not the first by far and the hope is it will reduce pain and increase mobility and use of his elbow and wrist joints again. He’s suffered significantly from both pain, time lost due to illness, and lifestyle changes he was forced to make. But never once have I heard him complain. I haven’t seen him shed a tear in fact.

No offense to females anywhere, but I would have cried like a girl on more than one occasion over things he’s had to endure. His wife, a rock and the two of them focus on what they do have, the care they have had that’s been good and not much else.

So you now know, I’m no superhero athlete. I have average skills, I do the minimal work and have other interests. I schedule my training around my life though I love the triathlon lifestyle, I’m not sure without other things in my life I would as much. But I love it. If you want a glimpse at human spirit the stories of Ironman will inspire you.


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