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On Mon, 27 Jun 2005 17:20:16 +0000 (UTC), Wendy
There's a storytelling guild in my department, and I was thinking
about how to talk about doing a triathlon in a way that would be
interesting to people who were not part of the sport. For example,
a race report that talked about course details, how many people
were drafting on the bike, etc., would probably lose the audience.
So would getting too didactic about the rules, though it might be
worth making the point that a tri is not a free-for-all (or at
least shouldn't be). Any ideas? Ruth Kazez has written some
wonderful posts, and I've thought about introducing her.
You might be interested in the following. It's origins are from
another posting by Ruth Kazez in which we were discussing the TV
coverage of IM Hawaii and how it couldn't capture the emotions, but if
they did, those of a last hour finisher would be interesting.
I use this each year on the GHFT forum to sort of slap the faces of
the IronVirgins, to give them a littel encouragement, albeit somewhat
This is going to be a scary post for some folks – those of you like me
who know we are going to finish at the back.
Given the doubts of many IronVirgins right about now, I post something
like this each year. Why? Because it helps to know you aren’t alone in
Those of us who are not physically blessed face fears that our faster,
more gifted brethren don’t – the real, numbing, fear of not even
finishing. For us, it's not just a matter of 'wanting" it and then
going out and training enough. It's a matter of not really knowing if
pushing yourself 100% through a year of training and the race will be
enough - if you'll even make the cut-offs and the final finish.
It's a struggle against your physical limitations, against your age,
against the limitation of training imposed by families and careers.
Against your own mind.
But you keep training, believing in yourself, refusing to accept
limits that will keep you from succeeding, pushing your doubts back
into a small corner of your mind and barricading them behind a
wall of bravado. But they sneak out, usually in the middle of a bad
run or a miserable bike, taunting you, mocking your efforts. "You? An
Ironman? Don't make me laugh."
But still you keep training, pressing, pushing those negative thoughts
down. And then the race arrives and the reality of your insanity
becomes obvious. No more excuses, no more bravado, do it or go home a
failure without even a finisher's T-shirt. You have no thoughts of
"finishing under 14" as an acceptable goal. You can't kid yourself,
you don't even know if you'll finish, period.
You realize that all those fantasies of how you'll feel at the finish
line, how you'll react, how you'll hold your arms aloft in victory,
are still just that - fantasies. And the race stands between you and
those fantasies. Will they be realized? Or will your dreams be crushed
and shattered by the reality of the marathon - your pathetic body
limping and shuffling across a now deserted and darkened "finish
line." As a loser.
Your whole race will be nagged by one thought – will I finish? How you
handle that can determine your success. There are special
considerations you will have to deal with.
Being a last hour finisher means going it alone on the bike on the
second loop. The small cheering crowd that pushed the rest up Sugar
Loaf isn't there any more. There aren't others to pace off, to hang
with, to draw energy from. You're back there by yourself, sometimes
with no other bikes in sight. Just you and the road, the heat, the
wind, and your doubts.
Being a last hour finisher can mean going it alone during the hardest,
darkest part of the run – the last loop around the lake. Oh, the first
loop was fine, when most of the faster folks were still out there. You
can almost pretend you’re one of them. The second loop isn’t even all
that bad. Despite the darkness, you can still see quite a few folks.
But on the third loop, reality sets in. Other sufferers are few and
far between. If you’re lucky, you might match up with someone doing
your pace. But chances are, you’re in for a long, dark, lonely lap.
It’s impossible to describe the fatigue you will feel. None of your
training can really prepare you for it. Because it’s dark and because
you’re alone, the fatigue is magnified. It can grow and grow until
it’s all you think about.
A certain numbness sets in. But the reality of not finishing always
snaps you back. Panic can slowly set in as your watch ticks inevitably
toward 12:00 and your run pace slows. Numbed by 15 hours of heat and
exertion, you can't even calculate your pace. How many miles? What was
the last mile marker? How much time to the cut-off?
And then there are the demons. The devils on the side of the road,
inviting you to stop and end the pain. There are two types - the first
ones mock you and tell you you're too tired, too old, too stupid to
know you can't do it. End the suffering, don't prolong the inevitable.
Quit now, out here in the dark, where nobody can see your shame.
The others are more beguiling. They’ll offer a hundred reasons why
quitting is OK. You’ve done your best. You tried. No-one could expect
any more. It was a noble effort. There’s always next year.
It sounds acceptable, but if you quit, you’ll find that those enticing
demons were only the first ones in disguise. They’ll turn on you and
mock you and taunt you. Don’t give in to their alluring call. You have
to ignore them and keep going.
But where do you find the guts to go on? Where do find the iron
determination needed to chase those demons away? To shut them up?
You find it in your heart. In your soul. In your inner reason for
doing this thing. You find it in your own bravado. You said you were
going to do it. How can you let your family and friends down? They’re
pulling for you. They’ve made sacrifices, too.
Trust in yourself.
Believe in yourself.
Use the inner strength that you’ve built through those long hours of
It’s worth it. The feeling you get when crossing that finish line is
unlike anything else. For me it was just an incredible feeling of
utter, profound, satisfaction. It lives with you forever.
Some cry, some laugh. All are changed.
Special Effects lighting,