The triathlon lifestyle is a hardcore one. As I immerse myself in the culture and the people involved in this sport I am becoming acutely aware of how incredible the people who call this a life are. And I am one of them. I LOVE this sport, I LOVE the people I am meeting, I LOVE the drive and that there are always people better, stronger and faster than you. I love how there is camaraderie and teamship in this sport, but put us out in a racing space and we will leave each other in the dust. Strong makes strong.
Following the Half IRONMAN I was searching for that next big event to get me over the post race blues. I found it in a big group bike ride going from Mesa to Payson. The 80 mile trek is a doozy with over 7500 feet of climbing. Not to mention that we had to leave at 3AM to beat the heat. You can call yourself officially crazy when you are up at 1:30AM.....by choice.....for a bike ride.
To be honest I didn't exactly train for the ride and went into the event fairly under prepared. The longest ride I rode was 50 and I have never gone beyond 62. BUT, like I said before.....I knew I could do it. It's a mind game....I know I'm strong enough. I just knew I might have to dig deep to find it.
My girlfriend Bridgit and I hung onto each other for the entire ride and man was it a challenge. The first 50 miles were glorious. Cool, fun, just the right amount of climbing. Then I got tired, my toes were going numb and cramping, the sun came out and started pounding and then the hills just kept going up, up, up.
There is an invincibility myth about triathletes. That somehow we just have this innate ability to do big things. Okay, we are fit and driven, but we aren't super special people. We just know how to dig. There inevitably comes a time in a race, a training ride, a run or a swim when you are tired, fried and just flat done. On the surface you literally have nothing left. "I can't" starts to swirl in your head. This moment happened twice on this ride to Payson. So much up. Both times I mentally cracked and had tears......"how am I going to finish this?" I didn't know, but this is what I did know: I was going to keep pedaling until I either fell off the bike or got to the top. And I got to the top.
I came into the final water stop 11 miles from the end exhausted, cramping, tired and HOT. The volunteer smiled at me "You only have 11 more miles to go and its all uphill!" You have got to be kidding. I started and after a couple miles of heavy climbing, the hill got in, got in my head. 3 miles up the hill I stopped. Reset. Shared some camaraderie with Bridgit and together we made the collective choice to keep fighting. Lets do this. I dug....and I found the will, the strength and the fire to go. 7 miles later we crested the final hill and rolled into Payson. My legs did it. My body did it. My body is strong. My mind is getting there. The ride wasn't easy.....not by a long shot, but I dug deep and I found it.
I hope my girls understand this concept as they watch me. Life is an endurance sport and there will be days where you just don't think you have what it takes. Everything will tell you "I can't" and you will come to a metaphorical hill bigger than you've seen. In a defining moment you will look up and say "No way" or you will turn inward, silence the negative voice, dig down past the "I can'ts" and "No ways" and find it. That it that gets you over hills and obstacles, through valleys and dark spots and up 11 miles of climbing in 100 degree weather after 65 miles in the saddle. That "it" is what leads to glory, to empowerment, to a world bigger and more full of possibilities than you ever could imagine. But to find it......you gotta dig.