“The pain of discipline weighs ounces whereas the pain of regret weighs tons.” – Jim Rohn
Completing my third Ironman was an immense challenge that required months of dedicated training and unwavering perseverance. It took 600+ hours of training over six months and was a constant process of pushing my limits, mentally and physically. But my family, friends, and supporters’ cheers and uplifting messages fueled my determination and helped me overcome every obstacle along my Ironman journey. While the road to the Ironman finish line was filled with adversity, it was also overflowing with life lessons and silver linings, which I’d love to share with you now.
The Ironman is…
For those who may not be familiar with the Ironman Triathlon, it is one of the most challenging sporting events in the world. Organized by the World Triathlon Corporation, it is a series of long-distance races. The Ironman is a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a marathon 26.22-mile run wrapped into one event. As you can imagine, it challenges you in every way possible – mentally and physically.
Lesson #1: Anything Is Possible!
The race day started early, with a 3:45 am wake-up call for what I hoped would be my personal Ironman best: I aimed to beat my previous record of 13 hours and 56 minutes.
After a short shuttle ride from the hotel, we gathered at Keystone Lake in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, adversity started before the race began – the start time was delayed an hour due to foggy conditions. This wait was not something I had anticipated, so it was nerve-wracking. I felt like I was already “behind” an hour, so negative thoughts tried to creep in.
However, I told myself I needed to stay positive, employing breathing techniques to keep my heart rate steady and conserve energy. Although I had a challenging day ahead of me, I reminded myself that anything is possible, and we always are capable of more than we think. Thanks to my breathing techniques and positive thinking, I kept myself psyched up and prepared for the exciting race ahead!
Lesson #2: Look to Positive Influences During Tough Times
At around 7:54 am, I entered the water for the 2.4-mile swim. Despite a few adjustments to my goggles and veering off course at times, the relatively calm water and manageable currents aided my progress. I completed the swim in 1 hour and 44 minutes, slightly shy of my goal but a decent start.
Transitioning to the bike leg of the Ironman, I began to face more challenges. The hilly and uneven terrain tested my endurance, but I managed to maintain a good pace. Unfortunately, at mile 93, I encountered a flat tire on a bumpy road. Regrettably, the levers – a necessary tool to change the flat – were missing. In preparing for the race, I never checked my gear, so I was not as prepared as I could have been for this setback.
So, I had to wait for a mobile tech to arrive. I began to worry, “What if the tech takes too long? What if this really delays me, and I run out of time to finish?” Waiting in the 80-degree heat began to take a toll on my energy and momentum.
But, during this period of waiting, something incredible happened. Other athletes who passed me began to reassure me. These words of encouragement may have seemed insignificant to them, but they meant the world to me. I was reminded never to underestimate the power of looking to positive influences around you when you’re going through adversity.
Lesson #3: There Is Power in Kindness
Despite my best efforts to refuel my body, I finished the bike leg in 7 hours and 33 minutes. I battled physical and mental fatigue as I transitioned to the 26.2-mile marathon. The earlier setbacks weighed on me, but I reminded myself of my coach’s advice to consider this day as the reward for all my hard work.
My pace slowed, and I struggled with cramping and dehydration. But at just the perfect time – around mile 15 – an inspiring 14-year-old volunteer named Liam approached me on the course. He offered to play some music and ran alongside me. He provided a much-needed mental boost as he played three AC/DC songs (per my request). Liam’s enthusiasm and kind gesture lifted my spirits and carried me through the next mile and a half. It also gave me the encouragement to keep going and finish the race.
Liam may never understand the influence of his kindness that day, but it was powerful. We should all remember this throughout our everyday lives – you never know much strength your compassion may bring to someone else!
The Ironman Finish Line
With sheer determination, I persevered and crossed the finish line in 15 hours, 29 minutes, and 48 seconds. Overcoming adversities throughout the race made the achievement even more meaningful, and I discovered silver linings in every obstacle I encountered.
My Ironman journey reminds me of the power of positivity, the strength of the human spirit, and the limitless possibilities that await when we embrace challenges with grace and determination. Let’s continue to inspire and uplift one another as we strive for greatness in our lives.
Want to Read About My First Two Ironman Triathlons?
Challenges, adversities, and silver linings have accompanied each Ironman finish line I’ve crossed. Each experience has been unique and brought lessons of mental toughness, grit, and resilience. To read more about my previous Ironman Triathlons, check out Thriving in the Storm: Nine Principles to Help You Overcome Any Adversity.