The Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride ending with a 26.2-mile marathon run. What went on from the very instant I decided to attempt it to finally finishing the race taught me more than I could have ever learned from a college degree of study.
“It was like anything that has ever been worthwhile in my life; it was hard, painful and memorable.” Michael Lantz
It was like anything that has ever been worthwhile in my life; it was hard, painful and memorable. I learned a great deal about the conflict of my body hurting and wanting to stop and my mind playing tricks on me, tempting me to quit.
If I had to sum up the top three things I learned about myself it would include these.
I learned that my level of commitment is equal to the importance I place on my goals and dreams. When I decided to do my first Ironman on April 15, 2007, I was all in. I was not going to let anything get in the way of crossing that finish line.
Commitment is a feeling. It’s also a shield for me. A shield to knock away the fiery darts that were shot at me. Of course, the most darts shot at me were from myself. I didn’t doubt I could do it, I doubted “how” to prepare for it. Afterall, I’d had never done an Ironman before. I didn’t even know how to swim at the time. But the feeling of commitment kept me going down those dark deep allays. I had to learn “how” to prepare for it.
It was a shield to protect my mind from the naysayers; those well-meaning friends and others telling me not do it because I would get hurt or fail. What I learned from my shield of commitment is that the darts others were throwing at me were really their doubt in themselves. That really helped me stay focused on what I was doing and away from the other’s focus for me.
The feeling of commitment kept me engaged in the long hours of training. The first time I did a “long run”, perhaps for a few hours, I didn’t know what to expect. Then the pain after several hours of running taught me that it wasn’t that bad and that I could do it. I kept knocking down my doubts by just forging ahead. It was almost like a puzzle. I had to keep looking for the right piece to fit into it’s assigned spot. Once the piece was correctly placed, I no longer had to devote time looking for it.
I learned that I could duplicate commitment. It wasn’t some esoteric concept that only a few people ever obtain. It was tangible and available to me whenever I needed it. It had to always be 100%. If the feeling was less than 100% then it really wasn’t a commitment at all. If less than the full feeling it would be more like a wish.
Commitment is the beginning of all change.
From the day I decided to cross an Ironman finish line I was scared. The only way to move past the feeling of fear is to actually do it. That act is a courageous one. I learned the value of having fear; it teaches us to rely on our own courage. My courage is unique to me. I now understand what courage feels like. In a strange way, I rely on my courage more and more for many aspects of my life because, in reality, everything new I do is scary to me. I get anxious. My forehead sweats. My heart rate increases.
Courage during the Ironman moves me forward from the start, all the way through 140.6 miles, to the finish line. Every inch of the race takes courage. I learned that everything I do, from writing this blog post to running an errand at the store, takes courage. Courage is no more than a willing action exercised in faith. It takes courage to have faith.
I’ve been fortunate to have finished 15 Ironman triathlons and each one I’m scared at the start. In my first Ironman, the feeling was no different than my last Ironman at the beginning of the race. While I’ve experienced the 140.6 miles before, each time it’s unique. Each time I have pain. Each time I have to push myself to keep going. Each time I’m using courage to keep going.
I’m very grateful that I know how uncomfortable it is to exercise courage and realize it’s not going to kill me.
I learned that my rewards in life, as also in the Ironman, are only on the other side of courage.
God Created a Body to Use to Experience Life to the Fullest
I’ve fully learned the concept of “Use it or lose it.” I believe it was the great humorous speaker of the 20s and 30s Will Rogers who said, “If you’re not going forward, you’re going backward.” It’s the 2nd laws of thermodynamics, “The entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.”, i.e., if I’m not moving forward, the entropy, or disorder, will increase.
I’m amazed at what my body can do. Yet, it has its own timetable for growth or decline. As I stressed my body in training it would grow into a higher level to withstand the stress. Then I could repeat the process by adding additional stress and it would grow again. I also learned how fast it would decline without the stress, the “use it or lose it” truth.
I learned that this process experienced by my body also applied to my mind. In fact, I first had to stress my mind to a higher level before I could stress my body. That was a huge discovery for me.
It’s not been until training for Ironman #16, this November 19, 2017, in Tempe, Arizona, that I’ve progressed by leaps and bounds above my health and strength of any prior Ironman. Before this year I hadn’t moved my mindset past a certain level. Frankly, the past fifteen finishes I’ve had a limiting belief. This year, with the discovery of an issue in my body, I had to look outside of the realms of my belief and really test a fringe concept with some serious courage, that I’ve been able to really grow. And again, the body did what it was capable of doing, it’s stronger and leaner than ever before.
I believe, for the very first time, I could win. Before, because I hadn’t learned this concept, only believed I’d finish. Now with this new belief have really stressed my body with more intensity and volume of training than ever before. I’m eating way different and my body is responding to the belief of reaching a level to win.
I’ve received more from my participation in the Ironman than any other sport I’ve ever done. It’s taught me so much about life. That the Ironman is important but it’s not the most important aspect of my life. There is a Creator that made Ironman and every other wholesome and good thing in life. It is my love for my Creator that I’m thankful for Ironman.
Hopefully, with God’s grace on November 19, 2017, I’ll be crowned Champion! I suppose regardless of where I end up in the race because I participated at 100% commitment and using courage, I am a Champion!
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