Santa (the Contessa) was very good to me this year as she gave me the green light to attempt another Ironman when I turn 65 in October 2019. Ironman holds a special place in my heart and has helped me through some rough patches in my life.
I caught the Ironman bug after my father passed away from pancreatic cancer twenty years ago. My father and I were very close, he was my best friend and fishing buddy and fishing buddies are hard to replace. Growing up I spent a lot of time with him outdoors going on all kinds of adventures and later our fishing trips served as my brief respite from the stresses associated with working and raising a young family. I remember him saying just before he passed that he was worried about me and as usual he was right, I struggled for a long time after he was gone.
One day I was watching the Ironman World Championship and it featured a story about a son and father called Team Hoyt, watching their story that day changed my world. Rick (the son) was a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Dick (the father) refused to have Rick institutionalized even though he couldn’t walk or speak his eyes would follow Dick and his wife as they moved around the room. The family would take Rick sledding, swimming and even taught him the alphabet and basic words, they treated like any other child. As technology advanced Rick was given an interactive computer, he could highlight letters of the alphabet by just a simple tap with his head against a head piece attached to his wheelchair. One day Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a five mile charity run which meant Dick had to push Rick in a wheel chair to the finish line which he did. Later that night after the race Rick told his father “Dad, when I’m running it feels like I’m not handicapped” and that is when the magic started.
Those words led to over 1,000 races completed including six ironman competitions. Dick would pull Rick in a boat with a bungee cord attached to his waist for the swimming stage. For the biking stage, Rick rode a special two-seater bicycle and then Dick would push Rick in his custom made running chair to the finishing line. Rick was once asked, if he could give his father one thing, what would it be and he replied that I would like for my dad to sit in the chair so I could push him for once. There was something about the special bond between them that touched me deeply and before I knew it I was training for my first Ironman and believe me it wasn’t easy because I didn’t know how to swim and couldn’t run around the block without catching my breath a few times.
But like they say if there is a will there is a way. Whenever I got discouraged and felt like quitting I just thought about the Hoyts and got my inspiration back and eventually went on to complete my own Ironman. Ironman taught me that I’m capable of some awesome things if I want it bad enough. It also helped get me through some tough times, a divorce, two bad bosses in a row, and getting pushed out of the bank after a thirty-six year career. It gave me the strength and confidence to co-author a book, create my own blog, start up a retirement coaching business and do public speaking. For the record writing a book and public speaking was way harder for me than doing an Ironman.
Most people think you have to be some kind of superman to be able to complete an Ironman but reality is that Ironman is within the reach of most people provided that you want it bad enough and are willing to do the work. If you ever have a chance to watch an ironman race ignore the pro athletes and instead focus on the age groupers at the back of the pack. You will be surprised by what you see as they come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, just like you and me. They all have their own reason for being there and it’s that reason that keeps them going until they get across that finish line. I can’t watch Ironman on tv without tears coming to my eyes knowing that they are giving it everything they have to prove to themselves that they are good enough. It’s a true test of will, it’s you vs you. There is no hiding in an Ironman.
The oldest Ironman finisher on record is Sister Madonna Buder aka The Iron Nun (picture above) who completed it in 2012 at age 82. What cracks me up is that they have to keep establishing new age groups as she gets older. What Sister Madonna reminds me of is that we still have time, there is hope for us all.
The moral of this story is that you can accomplish whatever you want in this life, get in shape, find a new job, start a new business, you just gotta wanna!