They say the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I can attest to that. I’ve done it.
They say the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I can attest to that. You see I’ve eaten an elephant before. This is that story.
I was in the finisher shoot. The music was loud, but not a clear loud, it was a muffled sort of loud, the kind that lets you know there is definitely music playing but the words are incomprehensible. The cheering voices drowned out the clarity of the lyrics. The finish line lights could be seen from blocks away. Three steps away now. I can’t believe I actually made it. Two steps. 1 year of training and it’s all finished. One step. “I finally completed something.” Finish Line. “I just finished an Ironman Triathlon. I can literally do anything I set my mind too.”
June 29th, 2014 5:30 am. Race morning was brisk. I suppose however that every morning at 5:30 am is brisk. I walked with my race day bag in hand over to a group of rather cheery morning people with paint sticks in their hands eagerly awaiting to accomplish their task of marking the bodies of these incredibly fit, and some not so incredibly fit, triathletes. As the clock ticked closer and closer to the race time of 6:30 am. I literally could feel the tension rise. It all came down to this. There was no more training days left. There were no more quick laps in the pool. There were no more bike rides to get ready. There were no more last minute runs. This was it. All the bikes were lined up. The smell of neoprene laid thick in the atmosphere. A few people were doing yoga, others were stretching and meditating, a group of friends snapping some pictures with their loved ones. I was praying. Praying hard that I wouldn’t drown in the 2.4 mile swim that I was about to go on. Some people have dedicated their entire lives to this sport. The few, the really dedicated, together they have spent 100’s of thousands of dollars on equipment and travel from the United States to all over the planet. Their bikes look like Ferraris but with only two wheels. $25,000 and higher per machine. Most of us though, we just wanted a personal challenge.
That’s why I was there. See, I grew up with ADHD. A very unscientific explanation for this is that I had a very difficult time doing two things: sitting still and finishing something. I was the king at not finishing. Books, homework, projects, and sentences, you name it and I probably didn’t finish it. Except for sandwiches, I always finished sandwiches. It’s not that I wasn’t good at any of these things; it just that I got bored really easily. This had a profound negative effect on my psyche. Not being able to finish things leads one to believe that they are sometimes incapable of ever starting. It’s a fear that holds you back from pursuing the call of God on your life. It’s a fear that keeps people from doing things like… going to college.
The swim went flawlessly, five minutes shorter than I anticipated. Then came the bike. I would settle in for what would be some the most grueling 7 hours of my life.
Mile marker 80. Breath. Pedal. Breath. Pedal. Didn’t I hear horror stories about this mile marker? Because I still had 32 miles left on the bike and a 26 mile marathon to finish. The psychological effect that it has on one’s brain is indescribable. One bite at a time. Breath. Pedal. Breath. CRAMP. What’s wrong? Listen to your body. Salt. Aid station. I need salt. “Does anyone have any salt at all? Chips, pretzel, anything?” “No sorry.” “CRAP. This hurts.” I had made a drastic miscalculation of sodium intake. It wasn’t exactly my fault. The bike route travels south on highway 95. Today there was 35 mile per hour head winds and that meant harder work to pedal and harder work meant more salt intake. Now I was out and the doubts of whether I was going to finish began to creep in and grow a little bit louder with every pedal. Breath. Pedal. Breath. Pedal.
After dismounting the bike I began my 26.2 mile marathon. This was without a doubt one of the most difficult things I had ever done. It’s not wise to look at the marathon as 26 miles. In doing so there was a high percentage chance that you would succumb to the psychological burdens that the previous day has wrought. A much better tactic and one that I adhered to for the duration of the race was to instead look at as one mile, twenty six times. One bite at a time. Anybody can run a mile. I suppose if you can’t run it you could at least walk, and if that didn’t work, although your pride may be wounded, you could resort to crawling on your hands and knees.
The sun faded 2 hours ago. It was dark. And I was cold. I had no Idea what time it was but I knew I was finally close to the finish. As I rounded the last corner from Seventh Street on to Sherman I saw the bright lights of the finish line. Some random bystander looked at me at said “You did it man. You are going to be an Ironman.” I thought to myself, holy crap. I am”. It was downhill from Seventh to First Street. My friends started running with me at about Third Street screaming some incomprehensible encouragement. I had actually done it.
I was in the final shoot. The music was loud, but not a clear loud, it was a muffled sort of loud the kind that lets you know there is definitely music playing but the words are incomprehensible. The cheering voices drowned out the clarity of the lyrics. The finish line lights could be seen from blocks away. Three steps away now. I can’t believe I actually made it. Two steps. 1 year of training and it’s all finished. One step. “I finally completed something.” Finish Line. “I just finished an ironman. I can literally do anything I want.”
It was at this moment that I realized one is not defined by past habits or ideologies; rather one is defined by the most present mindset and attitude. I had finished. I knew at that moment, I could do anything.