One’s personal inspiration or reason to keep slogging on after fifteen hours of swimming, biking and running can be anything. Whatever it is, it could also be a reason to quit. I didn’t finish my first attempt at a full distance Ironman because I let the unkind words of the Sour-faced whiny man I called my boyfriend at the time bother me. The discord between us was like a virus. When asked by me what was wrong the night before I flew out to Spokane, WA he gave me his list of grievances. I took that garbage in my head with me on race day, and I just couldn’t get started on the second loop of the bike course. On the flight home with him I sat in shame next to two IM CdA finishers in my seat row. I had a broken record of a tune playing in my head, “I would have, I could have, I should have.”
The next May I flew out to Sydney to do Ironman Australia. My best friend Linda came along for support. Sour-faced whiny man had ended our relationship a week after my first Ironman attempt the year before. The stakes were higher this time for a completion as it was my first international overseas trip, and it was very expensive. The bike course is no joke for the untrained. I used the still existing hurt from Jerk-boy, and I sailed up Matt Flinders both times. I got onto the run course knowing that I had a very tight time frame for success against the last cutoff. My first loop was a simply happy to be there loop. My third one was “I will show you Sour-faced whiny man that I will win.” Quite a lot of anger, hurt, and sorrow bundled into a pretty good for me run pace. I made it with fourteen minutes to spare. When I crossed the finish line, something in my thinking shifted. I saw goodness in people, I had hope, and I knew that my experience was the outcome of something good.
This “why” item changes frequently for me, and I do not put a lot of thought into it. I let it be a reflection of the things currently happening in my life. When I raced in Wiesbaden, I think that I went slower because the announcer man had this lovely accent and he was very attractive. I just wanted to gawk at him for the whole run. I think I that I got two ‘ganders’ in before I crossed the finish line as the second to the last racer. I went all the way to Germany to beat a lady that lived twenty miles away from me here in Colorado. I am not someone whom really finds the power in positive only inspiration. Fear and anger will always get me more focused and faster on the bike and the run. However, I have found that over the years, I cannot find things to be realistically angry enough for it to last over the course of a full distanced Ironman race.
On my third attempt at the Ironman Coeur D’Alene full distanced race, I finally made it to the run course with enough time to get it done. I was whispering “Guardian angel be my light.”, over and over. A reference to a dead uncle that had ran marathons, and a fourteen-year-old niece that died at St. Jude’s hospital in November of 2001. At mile twenty-one, I hear someone chasing after me while holding onto one of those mylar space blankets. I think to myself, “What the hell? No one is racing now. We are trying to survive and get our piece of tin.”. This woman says in heavily French accented English, “I am sick. Please can I run with you as it is dark?”. Oh no, no, no… Please don’t ask me for help. I will help you. I will throw my race if I think you need help. “Shit.”. So I say, “If you can keep up, of course.”. I couldn’t stand the crinkling noise of the stupid blanket, and she was getting slower. Again, my third attempt and I was close. At the next aid station, I ditched her. Then as I was running from the aid station, I hear from someone driving in the road slowly, “Madame, my wife is sick. She is scared. Can she run with you?”. Heavily French accented English words again filling my ears. Damn it. Well, I had prayed and asked that God help me finish, and of course there was bargaining involved. Long story drawn up short, I finished with eleven minutes to spare, and Agnes finished with eight seconds to spare. I have since raced with her in Wanaka, New Zealand, Weymouth in the U.K., and I saw her on the run course here in Boulder when I was volunteering at the last aid station before the finish.
So, when you think about your “why”, remember that it can be from a positive or negative experience. Either can be equally effective. Be brave enough to pray and open to what can come your way because of it. Acknowledge that it is something, always something and embrace it. Never quit, force them to take the chip from you. In this case, you have peace of mind and the confidence that you really did give it everything you had.