Monday, March 16, 2015
THE GREATEST 25 YARDS OF MY LIFE
I am much closer to starting my next Ironman than the finish of my last one. There are
less than five months until I begin another grueling 140.6 mile journey through the
Adirondacks in upstate New York and I am using the last 25 yards of the 2014 Ironman
in Lake Placid to motivate me and get me through my training.
The last 25 yards of my first Ironman last July were quite simply, the greatest 25 yards
of my life.
In my 50 years of earth, never has such a short distance contained so much joy, happiness,
exhilaration, satisfaction, and yes, even gratitude. I didn't set a record, win anything, or
qualify for the Ironman in Kona, but those 25 yards down the finishing chute turned out
to be one of the greatest experiences of my life.
The journey to that moment started about 7 months earlier when I began training for my
first Ironman in earnest. I didn't follow any programs, hire a coach, or have a set work out
schedule. With work and the everyday experiences of life, I worked out when I could.
If I felt the need to bike a 100 miles, I'd do it. If I felt I needed to swim three miles every
day for a week, I did that. I ran a lot until I got plantar fasciitis, which was the worst thing
I've ever experienced during my career in sports.
My training wasn't scientific, but I can assure you, I worked my ass off, investing a great
amount of sweat equity into the 2014 Ironman in Lake Placid. My goal wasn't just to finish,
I was a decent athlete and too much of a competitor to be satisfied with just picking up
a medal for getting in under the 17 hours required to get it.
I wanted to finish strong and do it with a big smile on my face. I considered
the Ironman to be part of life's journey with challenges, obstacles, and a test to see what
you are truly made of. I envisioned when I crossed the finish line it would be
one helluva celebration in the greatest venue on the Ironman circuit.
Lake Placid is a magical place and one of my favorite places to be in the summer. It
has great charm, character, and of course, history. The finish to the event is on the
same Olympic oval where Eric Heiden wowed the world by winning five gold medals in
speedskating in the 1980 Winter Games. Just off to the right is the hockey arena where
the United States put their signature on the "Miracle on Ice." All of it, along with the
clean air of the Adirondacks, was intoxicating.
When I entered the oval after more than 140 miles of swimming, biking, and running,
I did what I also do when I'm about to finish a race. I had thoughts of my late father
and said to myself, "Dad, let's bring it on home." We finish every race together. When I
saw the flames of the mini-Olympic cauldron burning brightly about fifty yards ahead
of me, I remembered what an Ironman veteran said to me just three days before:
"Make sure you enjoy the last 25 yards of the race. Don't sprint to the finish to
improve your time. If you do it right, you'll remember it for the rest of your life."
When I passed the Olympic cauldron and headed down the straightaway to the finish,
I got a mile-wide grin on my face and raised my arms in triumph. After all the hours
of pain and buckets of sweat, this was the time to celebrate and enjoy it. When I hit
the Ironman "mats" which signified the start of the 25-yard finishing chute I got the
I had seen thousands of people finish the Ironman on television over the years and
it felt like an out of body experience. It was downright cool.
I kept my hands raised until I hit the finish line and then threw them down in
celebration. I immediately looked for my sister, Kara, and her family. I knew they'd
be right there at the finish. I wish you knew how much Kara means to me. She pushed
me, inspired me, and has helped me in so many ways. I love her and to have her
and her little kids at the finish line made it all the more memorable.
Plus, she is a great photographer who captured all these moments that I will never forget.
When I finished, the event volunteers tin foil thing on me, which I'm
not sure what it helps for, then I went and had a joyous celebration with Kara, her
great husband, Chad, and her kids. Tired? I wasn't. Exhausted? Are you kidding me?
I was on this adrenaline-fueled, natural high. It was spine-tingling and amazing. After
140 miles, those last 25 yards were the greatest I've ever experienced in my life.
I'm doing the Ironman again on July 27. It will be another challenge and I'm not
sure I'll be able to duplicate the feelings of last year. But that's OK, the finish of
my first Ironman was perfect and perfection only happens every so often.