And Boy Did We Ever Learn.
Life is not all about having things your way. You can wish, organize, dream, prepare, rehearse, and plan over and over and over again, but still sometimes your best laid plans fall short.
Just ask the Alabama football team. Clemson was a touchdown underdog taking on perhaps the greatest college football team that ever took a field; Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide. Clemson was behind by double-digits in the fourth quarter but never gave up and with 2 minutes left to play, drove down the field to become the highly improbable National Champions. Great for Clemson, not so great for Alabama.
In sports there is always a life lesson to be had.
Someone wins, someone loses, but everyone has the opportunity to learn from it. The learning part is how you get better. It is awe-inspiring to watch athletes perform and see their never-give-up attitudes. To get knocked down, get back up again, try harder, train harder, and keep focused on their goal the whole time. There are so many athletes who have had the rug taken out from under them but never let that stop them from learning and doing better next time. Just Google, “Athletes who never gave up” and you get 1,890,000 results.
I think the intrigue in sports is that the lessons sports teach us are not just sport-related, but are life-related.
This past October, Dad and I learned a lot. We were blessed to have been given the opportunity to compete in what is called the most brutal one day endurance event on the planet – the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
While it was not our first triathlon, it was our first-ever triathlon of this magnitude.
Unfortunately, Dad and I were unable to get to the Finish Line. A huge squall during the swim, blew the boat Dad was pulling me in, which depleted a lot of his energy. Even after swimming 200 yards extra against a strong wind and current, we came in better than the time we were shooting for. We made it halfway on the bike, but were unable to make the bike cut-off time. However, we never quit.
We learned a lot that day and the days leading up to that moment. Lessons that relate to competing in an Ironman but lessons that can also be carried on into life.
1. The first step in becoming an Ironman is to sign up.
Ironman makes it pretty simple for you to do. Just answer a few questions and you are on your way to wearing the famous M-Dot tattoo proudly on your body! There are all sorts of reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t sign up: “Maybe next year when my time is freed up a little more”, “I want to find a partner to train with first”, “Where would I even begin?” For most people, signing up for a race is often the hardest part. An Ironman race is a challenge and once you sign up, you have committed to doing it. You are now committed to face your fears. Life, too, has all sorts of challenges in it that can be terrifying to face at times, but it’s in that first step when you start moving forward that you begin to really live your life and take that leap of faith. Lesson Learned: The first step is always the hardest — but also the most rewarding.
2. The sun in Hawaii is intense and can really blind your vision. The importance of sunglasses during an Ironman cannot be overstated.
Not only do they protect your eyes from the damages of the sun, but they help to reduce the glare allowing you to see what’s ahead. That way you can be prepared and stay focused on the road and your race. Fortunately. we had the great folks from the Rudy Project provide us with these great shades! We all need to wear “sunglasses” going through life. Sometimes it is easy to get distracted by the glare of other things which can take you off course and on the wrong path. Having our sights set on what we want to attain will help us to avoid distractions and keep our eyes on our planned final destination.
Lesson Learned: Stay focused on your goal even when there are things that are trying to blind you from attaining it.
3. Vince Lombardi, Lou Holtz, Bobby Knight, Sparky Anderson. Thad Beaty. Nicole Serraiocco.
You may have not heard of the last two names, but they are just as special. They are Dad and I’s coaches, mentors, and friends. I don’t know where we would be without them. They have coached us, prodded us, looked out for us, inspired us, made us laugh and they have made it their mission to help us accomplish our goals at the expense of their time, their talent and a lot of effort. They may not be in the whose who of famous coaches (yet!) but they are in our hearts. Everyone needs a Thad and Nicole in their lives.
Lesson Learned: We all need people in our lives who will challenge us to be better human beings.
4. The Ironman Kona course is known for a lot of challenges and the hills are one of them.
There is the infamous road to Hawi, the scenic overlook hill just before the airport, the hill as you head out to the Queen K highway, and then there’s the steep Palani hill. All of these hills challenge you mentally and physically to a point where you don’t think you are going to make it. Life is full of hills. Big or small challenges that test your strength. But the thing to remember is that where there is a climb up, there is always going to be a time to coast down. And those climbs make you stronger in the process. If you can remember that, then the uphill battles won’t be as bad….and the view from the top is amazing!
Lesson Learned: The hardest up-hill battles you face make you stronger and in the end can give you a better perspective on life and what is truly important.
5. Dad is training extremely hard and rarely, if ever, complains.
His mornings start at 4:30am. After a two-hour workout, he then goes to work where he has the responsibility of others on his shoulders. He comes home, catches up with my mom on the day’s events, attends a basketball game for my youngest sister, helps my other sister with her accounting class over the phone, and then trains some more for about 2 hours each night. Here’s the kicker…he doesn’t do it so he can be called an Ironman…he does it for me. He does it so that I have a shot at becoming an Ironman. Everyone needs a person in their life that loves them. Someone who makes decisions based on what the one they love wants and not so much on what they want. Someone who will give there all for you and then when they have had enough, will give a little more. Someone who loves you for you, unconditionally you. Everyone should have someone in their life like my Dad. Lesson Learned: Selfless love is invaluable.
These are just some of the things I learned from doing the Ironman World Championship race with Dad in October. There will be more to come in my next post. This race taught me so many lessons that I can apply to life. I hope they are helpful to you as well.
Taking One Step at a Time,