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Of Courage, Of Compassion..Lessons From The Triathlon

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Now for the rest of the story. I really received some object lessons during my triathlon that I wanted to pass on before I got into yammering on about the technical aspects. As I mentioned in my previous blog, The first 30 miles of the bike course were relentless and brutal. Two hills in particular were merciless. By the time I hit the big one at mile 23, I was pretty much out of gas. Mind you , I did not train on flat and fast terrain by any stretch. Those hills at the race are to be respected.

I got about 20-30 yards into a 1.5 mile steep climb and my legs seized up. Hard cramps in quads, hamstrings and calves and I was forced to dismount. Mentally I had been pushed to a place that I had never been before. I had heard stories about moments like these but never really experienced it until now. I got a taste of it during my marathon in 2011, but this was a full course meal.

Of Courage:

Moments like that strip you down to the raw. There is no "fake it 'till you make it". All pretense is stripped away and you are forced to face yourself on the barest level. I was borderline panic because I knew that time was slipping away along with my dream of finishing, and then there was the pain. All I could do was just stand there in the rain. I had fallen behind the pack and reality was setting in. The only sounds I could hear was the downpour hitting the leafy canopy above me. It was dead quiet. No cheering, no cowbells, no companionship from other suffering athletes. I was totally alone.

I wanted to quit. I could feel my throat choking up from the anxiety to where I could hardly breathe. I was almost sobbing and I was alone standing in front of what looked like a mountain that threatened to take away all I have ever trained for.

It was at that moment that I decided to march. I had no other options and I could not let my dream go for the temporary relief of the SAG wagon that I knew would be there soon, patrolling for stragglers. My carbon soled cycling shoes are not meant for walking. It was the most awkward experience ever, hobbling up the side of the hill, pushing my bike in a race where the clock was ticking. Every step was like torture and I knew i was destroying my shoes but I had no choice. It was that or give up.

I made it to the top and experienced a personal victory. I wasn't the fastest but I was the most determined. Like I figured, if I had quit and given in to the voices screaming in my head, i would have recovered myself in the SAG wagon and would have lived with the fact that I could have gone on and finished only if I had allowed myself to recover on the course. It is intense when you are going through it but you can recover quickly enough where you can snap back and continue on if you are willing to change your expectations..

Take away lesson: There will be a moment in your journey when you will be in the same situation. You will be alone and facing your mountain, with no workout buddy to prop you up, and no support. You will be at the end of your rope and doubting if you can hang on. It is in that moment that you must make your choice. You must forge on in spite of every feeling you have because feelings are temporary. The regret of quitting is forever and will define you for the rest of your journey. I firmly believe that if we quit often enough, it can be a learned behavior. Once a certain level of difficulty is reached, our heart reaches for the eject button. I lived like that for a long time and that is why I never seemed to make it past a 20 lb weight loss until one day I quit quitting. It's good to have friends, support, and a positive environment but your determination had better rise above all of that for those moments when you will face your Goliath.


Of Compassion:

Once I got into transition to get ready for the run, I was in fight or flight mode and was not thinking very clearly. They were going to let me continue and all I could focus on was getting the heck out of there. In the process, I had misplaced my running socks. I said forget it and went without socks. That proved to be the greatest tactical error of the whole event. My shoes were soaked from the all day rain and my feet were sliding around.

Sores and blisters.

By mile 6 of the half marathon portion of the event, my heel was rubbed raw and blisters were starting to form. Every step was like dipping my foot in liquid fire. It was about that time that a support vehicle that was fully stocked stopped by and asked if I needed anything. I was desperate and I asked if they had any duct tape or anything I could wrap on my feet. She shrugged for lack of options but then offered her socks. I figured it was a nice gesture but lets face it, I'm a guy, I have size 12+ feet and she is a girl and probably wears much smaller socks but I was willing to try ANYTHING. At this point, it wouldn't have mattered if they were hot pink Tinkerbell socks or some other equally ego destroying configuration. When you are desperate, anything is a gift from heaven. She stopped and took them off... they FIT! and instant relief set in. I doubled up both socks on my bad foot and moved on, thanking her profusely.

Her socks


I wore those socks proudly through to the finish line..



Take away lesson: Her simple act of kindness, that may have seemed very small at the time, probably saved my race. No act of compassion is too small or insignificant. If you are willing to gut it out and endure, your help will come to you but you will never know what that is like if you condition yourself to giving up every time a certain level of discomfort is reached. To see the miracle, you must forge through the darkness first.
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WOOFERCOALBOY 2/12/2014 7:32PM

    Yay, socks!

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JUST_TRI_IT 10/16/2013 9:18AM

    So glad I stopped by to read about your journey today!! Fantastic lessons.

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IMSMILEY88 10/16/2013 9:16AM

    What terrific socks! And a terrific lady.

Thanks for your post. Wow. Yes, I think you are right... if we quit often enough, it becomes a habit. I'm in a 'bad habit' place right now. And, it'll be tough to change! But, I can!

I loved reading your story. I could just see you walking up that hill... wow. Again, I'm so proud of you for sticking with it... and for teaching us that WE CAN, too!

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LUEYGIRL 9/8/2013 2:57PM

    Can I tell you that I just read this today, 9/8/2013 when I am once again facing the challenge that a lack of consistency is just not working, period. Yesterday, I had the thought of why resisting that candy bar when that little effort will not mean anything because I am still getting.

I had to turn it around and tell myself again that everything little thing in the right direction is part of the right way to go.

I have to do this. I've done it before, just the circumstances of my life are different. I'm tired of watching the scale go up slowly yet surely and being shocked when pictures, clothing sizes and the way I feel just validate what the scale says.

I needed to read this. I'm on the journey, on the hill. Thanks.

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MAYBER 9/7/2013 8:52PM

    Amazing thank you for sharing your experience
There are kind people in this world
one day at a time

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ALIDOSHA 9/4/2013 6:16PM

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DELLMEL 8/29/2013 8:18AM

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RUNNER4LIFE08 8/27/2013 8:50AM

    Running without socks does suck and it causes major pain. What a generous volunteer that had really cute socks! And what a great story you have to share from your experience. Did you send the socks back?

You are truly an inspiration on completing this race!

emoticon on your accomplishment!!!

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NUMD97 8/25/2013 12:59PM

    Robert, you are beyond amazing. You are absolutely right: At the most critical moments one must look deep inside and pull out that last piece of reserve to continue on our own personal journeys by just doing it. No one else other than ourselves at those critical junctures in our path can make that decision for us.

I just so love your words. And I so needed to read this today. To say that you are an inspiration is meager, because it does not fully capture what you bring to this community. You are, without a doubt, one of its brightest stars.

And I thank you for unselfishly giving of yourself so that we, still in the trenches, can learn by your example.

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SHANNONY84 8/24/2013 9:35AM

    Your so inspiring! Thank you for sharing as always!

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JUSGETTENBY42 8/23/2013 2:41PM

    emoticon

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TYKXBOY 8/23/2013 12:48PM

    You suffered and you were tested and you persevered. That is the true spirit of the race you ran. I am so proud of you, Robert. I have quit over lesser challenges in my racing years and if there's anything I learned, it's that fighting and finishing last will always trump the feeling of giving in and quitting. Obviously, there are times when quitting is the right thing to do, but I love that mental toughness that you showed. Mr. Never-Give-Up!
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JIBBIE49 8/23/2013 5:54AM

   
emoticon Great to see your blog featured in the Spark Mail. What an honor. emoticon

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WHITEANGEL4 8/23/2013 1:19AM

    Great for sticking it out. You are a winner

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SBARGANZ 8/22/2013 11:30PM

    Nice. Thank you for putting your thoughts and actions into words.

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JERICHO1991 8/22/2013 8:49PM

    Let's here it for courage and compassion.

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JANETTEB553 8/22/2013 4:04PM

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ALIDOSHA 8/22/2013 3:37PM

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ROSES4ME1 8/22/2013 3:12PM

    Awesome! Just Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing this entire journey and for being such an inspiration to those of us who are just starting to imagine what might be possilble if we just don't quit.

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LISA_FRAME 8/22/2013 11:42AM

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TBOURLON 8/22/2013 10:03AM

    I think sometimes we need a hard slap in the face to make us realize how much we are hurting ourselves. Your blog is like a wake-up call to me, especially that bit about "quitting becomes a habit." I often see myself as a failure (and lament about it), but I never thought about how I might be training for failure. Lack of perserverance, so many distractions from life, and letting one slip-up end everything. It's not just my dieting, it's my budget and other areas of my life. Today I would just like to finish ONE THING I've started this year - just one! My life is littered with half-finished (or barely started) then abandoned projects. And I'm not in the pain you were in, it's just a bad habit. Quitting is easier. Time to feel some pain, and get through it. Many thanks! emoticon

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LUV2RUN72 8/22/2013 8:18AM

    You are so inspiring!

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PENOWOK 8/22/2013 7:11AM

    Oh that pride that keeps us from achieving! Glad you decided the socks were more important than ego.

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STEVIEBEE569 8/22/2013 7:06AM

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ASCIESZKA 8/22/2013 2:31AM

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JANTWO 8/22/2013 12:47AM

    Great blog!!!! Very inspiring and insightful. Thank you for sharing!!!!

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FLSUNSHINEGRL 8/21/2013 11:57PM

    That is so inspirational!!!! Thank you soo much 4 sharing!!

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DOTTY7267 8/21/2013 4:18PM

    Great blog posting, and just what I needed today! I have been off the site for over 2 months, and just decided to give it another try, in spite of what I was mentally feeling, and I'm so glad I did!

Comment edited on: 8/21/2013 4:18:52 PM

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ONTHEPATH2 8/21/2013 4:08PM

    You rock those socks!!! Way to go and way to finish!!! emoticon

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GLENMORRISGIRL 8/21/2013 4:03PM

  My ultimate goal is to compete in a triathlon - you're story is pure inspiration!

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SAMMYNMK 8/21/2013 2:53PM

  Thanks for this amazing blog. It reminds me to DIG DEEPLY when I start having poor ideas about my food intake.

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RENATA144 8/21/2013 2:38PM

  you are truly emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
You are such an Amazing Inspirtion !!!

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NJPRINCESS9091 8/21/2013 9:56AM

    emoticon

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50PLUSBABY 8/21/2013 9:38AM

  Good job not quitting, I needed that today. cute socks I bet nobody even cared that they were faminine. Keep up the good work.


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FARIS71 8/21/2013 9:14AM

    Inspiring again. Thank you!!

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LADYGWEN25 8/21/2013 7:34AM

    Robert... i can't say enough how proud of you i am... You inspire me, renew my spirit when it's down.. You're awesome my friend... best thing about your blog i like... is your realization that sometimes the part of the journey that is hard earned is worth MORE than any easy finish. Great job on your success. :)

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MUSOLF6 8/21/2013 7:23AM

    emoticon emoticon

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SEAJESS 8/21/2013 2:43AM

    Those are your lucky sox! Hope you get a pair of your own to wear in your next triathalon... and one to give away?

Congratulations on your true grit and your finish!

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ROXYCARIN 8/21/2013 12:55AM

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DUSTYPRAIRIE 8/20/2013 9:03PM

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NIKO27 8/20/2013 7:59PM

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JRRING 8/20/2013 5:42PM

  love the shoes!

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WADINGMOOSE 8/20/2013 9:51AM

    I always enjoy your blogs, you're a fantastic writer. And I think it's awesome that you will likely always associate Oscar the Grouch with this amazing success.

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SQUIRRELLYONE 8/20/2013 9:09AM

    I'm glad you had a great race! BAM!

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IKACEY 8/20/2013 4:33AM

    I am so glad to hear that after all you have gone through lately and the set backs to getting there you were able to make it there and finish! That was truly emoticon I found myself a bit misty eyed while reading this! Like Duxgrl1 I am copying that statement to my inspirational folder to re read when I feel like giving up. Maybe this time I will finally get to the goal too. That was pure raw courage and determination at its best! emoticon

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KIRSTENCO 8/20/2013 4:21AM

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CORNERKICK 8/20/2013 1:31AM

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BLUEJEAN99 8/20/2013 1:18AM

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CLPURNELL 8/19/2013 10:45PM

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ILIKETOZUMBA 8/19/2013 10:39PM

    Amazing!!!! Congratulations again on finishing and persevering through so much!! LOL I *love* those Oscar the Grouch socks....glad they helped you! :)

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