High Noon November 18, 2012
I have been riding my bike for eternity at an extremely high level feeling my consciousness awaken to a higher state of awareness. Meditating on the inner and outer worlds while engaged in movement creates a feeling of unity; a sense of being right with the universe. You are doing what you are supposed to be. My quiet mind brings out a powerful response. A blissfully enlightening spiritual unity envelopes my being. I AM. The essence of yourself reveals the wonderful. These moments teach you to be more alive. You learn to seek out these states of supreme wakefulness in every aspect of your life. The joy builds, it is overpowering. You feel the awe of life.
Looking at my watch snaps me out of the astral travel and the mind starts ruminating. Realizing that I was about to get off my bike right at noon puzzled me. The math was simple, starting the race at 6:45am and getting off the bike at noon meant I had completed the swim-bike combo in 5:15. But how? My only other time doing an Ironman, I had gone too fast and came in at 5:25, hitting a wall at the end of the bike. Did I swim 10 minutes faster? That wasn’t possible. The bike felt too good to be faster. But I must have biked 10 minutes faster? Wow. And how?
I was getting off the bike in 4th position after holding 25.5 mph for 4:24:19. The pro field was enormous with the IM bike world record holder entering T2 first ‘only’ 7 minutes in front of me. I had just had a ride to remember, but it felt like a blurrrrr…
I ride blind; no electronics save my watch that is just telling time. I love to train and especially race on feel. To find the flow you must let go.
Letting go of certain aspects of the external world allow for a supreme concentration. Your vision narrows the perception of space and time. I travel time.
Something special happened. An astral projection or out of body experience had lifted me to a higher realm. Grasping and understanding the why’s make life’s journey challenging and rewarding. My training had just set me up to find the flow and race to my potential. Satisfaction for an athlete comes from racing to your potential and recognizing the feat. Stepping outside the boundaries into the ‘unattainable’ is what makes sport so compelling and enriching. Starting the run I struggle to understand how I had gone so much faster and felt so much better doing it? Knowing I’m racing so well is invigorating.
Much of it, is obviously, the training and having a curious and open mind has taught me much over the 20+ years of endurance racing. If only I knew what I now know when I was 17. C’est la vie. I used to think talent was the critical element to sporting success. Today, I know better. Life experience will trump talent every time. This drives me as a coach and athlete to keep improving my knowledge base. There is also the artful blend of passion and feeling that mirrors up with the science.
I started training for this Ironman in October after finishing the US Open Triathlon in Dallas. I didn’t feel ready to be done racing for the year and felt my fitness was still on the way up. After closing out the summer with a few Olympic distance races, I gave myself 5 weeks of training to morph into an Ironman athlete. For the swim and bike this worked remarkably well. Now, what can one do with just 2 training runs over 2 hours in an Ironman marathon? Hopefully, run the whole way….
Just over a mile into the run I stop to spend a few moments in the loo. I come out feeling ready for the next 25 miles. I have never ran a marathon (having walked 10 miles in my only other IM) and so my goal for the run is simply to run the entire marathon.
At the aid stations I go on shopping sprees. “Everything” is my common response to inquiries from the volunteers. I throw ice down my suit, gulp down cola, gulp on sports drink, down some water, toss water on my body and repeat at every aid station. I felt like swiss cheese; all that hydration seemingly vanishing in the desert sun.
I hear my daughter, Lola chanting (who is at home in Boise), “Allez, allez, allez, papa!” I smile and become grateful. I start imagining my family, viewing them remotely. Seconds later a boy about Lola’s age gets completely animated. The excitement seemed to come out of nowhere. The little 2 year old starts running to meet me yelling, “Gooo, go, go, gooo, goo, Go! The moment overwhelms me. Coincidence? The smile on my face says it all, the tears behind my sunglasses conceal the overpowering joy.
Balancing life with Ironman training is a daunting task for anyone. Racing in the professional field as a dad and husband with a 4 months old son and daughter 2 years older, as well as a full time coach at the Y made every second of the day matter. My wife’s support, love, and strength empowered me. My kids innocence and curiosity for life and the need for their parents kept me ever present in their world. If there was time after that, I trained. Never as much as I wanted but always letting the life scale determine the amount.
One of my most important tasks of the day for the life scale turned out to be watching the kids for at least an hour to allow for my wife to have her own time. Her balance tied right in line with mine.
Coaching both an adult and youth program with the Y’s Triclub is rewarding on so many levels. The job is challenging with endless potential. Interacting with individuals as a catalyst for providing a passionate way to be healthy fills a need to be helpful and to give. Growing a community of people empowered with their health is creating a special place in Boise. Being a small part of the driving force for a better, stronger community is and will be a lifelong goal.
After biking mile after mile and now running, mile after mile I find strength in being a positive influence, in belonging to a community, in the humility of being a dad and husband. My identity had little to do with being an Ironman. It had everything to do with being a seeker, being curious, being present, being adventurous and discovering more about myself and the realities of the world we live in. It goes that deep because your body and mind are screaming at you to stop, that’s enough, let’s take a little break.
The reasons for continuing and finishing an Ironman in the wake of so much pressure to stop are what make it all the more rewarding to persevere. Everyone who crosses that line has been on a remarkable journey, not just on the day but for life. If they are able to tune in, the lessons are far reaching and magnificent. The power of the human spirit, of every single human’s spirit is staggering. One lesson, is that of empathy, for the human condition and our ability to love and overcome the impossible.
Finishing becomes an instant, an eternal moment that helps cast a ray of light on the depths of the ever present ‘moment’. I crossed the line with my family and an entire community back home in Boise in my heart. A lasting memory to be replayed while representing a small pin, signifying, “I was here” on the life map. The journey continues fresh and full of wonder.
Thanks Ryan Compagnone for many of the photos above, I’ll appreciate the memories for years to come.