In 2010, I was graduating college and my brother was graduating high school. He was about to join the Marines for love of country and because it was the hardest thing he could think of to do. At the time, my workout regimen consisted of struggling for ten minutes on the elliptical. Inspired by my brother, I asked myself, “Whats the hardest thing I can think of to do?” The answer: a triathlon. I could write a novel on all the mistakes I made in training and on race day, some so ridiculous its a minor miracle I even made it to the finish line. I remember a paramedic nearly pulling me during the bike course. But finish I did.
I’ve come a long way since then. That finish time at the Auburn triathlon is over twice as long as any sprint time I’ve had since (and I’ve done many sprints since). I’ve also done two Olympics, a half aqua bike, and a half Ironman (70.3 miles). I’ve done 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons. Its a little dizzying to think that a half marathon is now a normal training run. “The hardest thing I can think of to do” got easier and easier, and now its time to tackle the toughest distance in the sport: the IRONMAN.
Most people talk about the Ironman in terms of proving something — proving to themselves that they’re strong enough, proving to others that they’re strong enough, or as a way to declare to the world that they’ve got what it takes to do anything. Those 17 hours of racing are about overcoming. The race itself and the finish line are incredibly important.
I got serious about triathlons and my Ironman dream in January 2015. Since Ironman-specific training began in December 2015, I’ve dedicated anywhere from 2-6 hours a day to training, six days a week, with many sprints, olympics, and half’s along the way. My training wasn’t perfect by any means. I’ve missed a fair amount. I should probably be nervous about this, and up until Sunday I was. Then I realized: I have nothing to prove. Because the IRONMAN isn’t my “hardest thing” anymore.
Since January 2015, I lost 40 lbs and gotten in control of my health. I completed many races and podiumed multiple times. I dove into graduate school and discovered a field of study that I am absolutely obsessed with and have dreams of starting a career in. I had the opportunity to be a TA and got a hunger for teaching that won’t go away. My church went through a dramatic change as we all but shut down and then relaunched. Our coffee shop, Community Grounds, just opened last week. My worship team has changed and grown, and how I’ve led them and the church has changed and grown. My eyes have been opened to the depth of friendships and community I have in my life, and I have been so richly blessed. I’ve led my workplace through multiple crises, dried many tears, and spent many sleepless nights by bedsides and in prayer. Most significantly, a few months ago I found myself completely overwhelmed and drowning in years and years of unresolved and unacknowledged issues and emotions. I had to conquer my greatest fear: facing myself and everything I spent a very long time trying to ignore. And while I ultimately was the one that did the hard work, I was pulled out and pulled through (sometimes… mostly… kicking and screaming) by the most amazing people anyone could have the privilege of knowing. I cannot put into words how blessed I feel — to know who I am, to have the community of friends and family that I have, to have faced myself and grown so much, to have passion and excitement for my future (both personally and professionally), to be a part of the best church in the world, and to see how far I’ve come in my training and health.
Triathlons have always paralleled life. In January 2015, as I began training, my life began changing at the same time. And on the journey in the past 18 months, I’ve had the highest highs and the lowest lows in nearly every area of my life. And now that I’m finally – FINALLY – just a few days away from racing IRONMAN Vineman, I can see more clearly now than ever before that the Ironman is just the exclamation point of the personal journey I’ve been on. So much has happened. So much has changed. I am a vastly different person today than I was 18 months ago — and as I type that sentence, I can’t hold back the tears of gratefulness and appreciation. I hope I finish the race, but if I don’t, I won’t cry. I won’t be too disappointed. And as I sit here now, I’m peaceful, content, and not nervous at all. When I think of the race, all I feel is joy. Because I know that I have nothing to prove on race day. Every step and every day of the last 18 months has been life changing. The Ironman isn’t my “hardest thing.” The journey was.
And on Saturday morning at 7am, the journey will be over. The race itself will simply be the victory lap.