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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:

JAMER123 8/19/2013 10:36PM

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You fought your might and won!! That is stamina and well done!! But remember to take care of your body as it is the only one you will ever have in this life!! WTG!!!

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CLAYARTIST 8/19/2013 10:19PM

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PAULINE1123 8/19/2013 10:07PM

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GARDENCHRIS 8/19/2013 9:25PM

    What an AWESOME STORY of personal courage!!!! GOOD for you ..... you have it in you! emoticon emoticon

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PATRICIAANN46 8/19/2013 6:49PM

  What a great blog.......... emoticon

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DUXGRL1 8/19/2013 6:19PM

    Robert, you are always inspiring but this just GOT me:

"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 could also substitute giving up for quitting in so many contexts.

That learned behavior thing...TRUE!

I am going to copy this onto an index card and LOOK AT IT whenever I feel weak...it explains why I have never made it all the way to a weight loss goal.

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JOANNHUNT 8/19/2013 4:24PM

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LISA_FRAME 8/19/2013 4:05PM

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IAMAGEMLOVER 8/19/2013 4:04PM

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WORLDSERIES11 8/19/2013 4:01PM

    Your accomplishment is all the greater because of what you endured!!
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LEAH956A 8/19/2013 3:22PM

    Congratulations!! Mental toughness is an amazing ally. One that comes only with a whole heck of a lot of training. What a great success story.

Also, those socks are fantastic!

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CATIATM 8/19/2013 3:03PM

    I don't know - I think you need to rethink your wardrobe. Those are some sweet socks, and you really rocked the look! emoticon

emoticon emoticon emoticon m emoticon

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MRSRIGS1 8/19/2013 2:57PM

    WOW, you are wonderful! emoticon

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ROCKYCPA 8/19/2013 2:01PM

    emoticon emoticon

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JSEATTLE 8/19/2013 1:58PM

  Thank you for sharing this wonderful act of kindness. Great accomplishment for you and a wonderful memory for all. That is just the best!!

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BLPRETTYGIRL1 8/19/2013 1:55PM

    emoticon on your inspiration and the race. emoticon

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LIVELYGIRL2 8/19/2013 1:28PM

  That's quite a story. It makes us all want to do more. I think the lady was wonderful to give her socks. I know that would be a big difference. I don't know if it is proper, but if my socks are thin, I wear two pairs and it works nicely.

I tried to run but I got a weird pains in one hip after awhile. If I had an actual person to show me how to run and stretch, it probably would work better. I had books and articles.

Keep up the amazing work !!! So proud of you Robert. emoticon

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BAMAJAM 8/19/2013 1:16PM

  LOOK--- At this FAN CLUB you have here! Congratulations to you!!
I must add that I loved the sock story-- heartwarming (foot warming) indeed! LOL

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BUTTERFLY-1976 8/19/2013 12:52PM

    Great Blog.

LOVE the socks!! Don't think you'll look at Oscar the Grouch the same way now. Lol.

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DMSGLASS 8/19/2013 12:33PM

    Your writing and personal insights as so inspiring! Way to go!!

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JUSGETTENBY42 8/19/2013 12:33PM

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NDKARIKARI 8/19/2013 12:32PM

    so inspired by you. Thank you for showing us that those who are successful in their journeys don't have it easier, they have the mental fortitude and courage to weather the obstacles. You are awesome!

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4-1HEALTHYCYNDI 8/19/2013 12:20PM

    What a powerful blog and testament to your courage and determination. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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NEPTUNE1939 8/19/2013 10:48AM

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MONTREAL12 8/19/2013 10:04AM

  Your personal journey becomes a lesson in perseverence and success for all that have the pleasure of reading your story. Congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. This is after-all only the beginning. emoticon

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JIBBIE49 8/19/2013 10:00AM

    STAR

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TINY67 8/19/2013 9:57AM

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SHOAPIE 8/19/2013 9:36AM

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HENLADY11 8/19/2013 9:34AM

  congragulations again!

Thank you for sharing that.

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NEWMOM20121 8/19/2013 9:20AM

    Thank you so much for sharing.

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GINGERLY4 8/19/2013 9:16AM

    Awesome, love the socks!

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UWPALUM 8/19/2013 9:07AM

    So excited for your experience. Learning about yourself in the face of a brick wall is what life should be about...great job!

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GOOSIEMOON 8/19/2013 8:58AM

    emoticon You are an inspiration!

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BOILHAM 8/19/2013 8:56AM

    Like I said before, you're a beast! I'm almost embarrassed to say this, after reading of your remarkable achievements, my following remarks seem insignificant to me. But, you might like to hear them anyway. Because of you, I have decided to attempt a Sprint Triathlon. I can't swim much anymore and my biking skills are nil. I'm 66 years old, but I am determined to finish a Sprint Triathlon, something I've been thinking about for the last year or so.
You are truly an inspiration to me.

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LCRUMLEY81 8/19/2013 8:49AM

  great post

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WORKNPROGRESS49 8/19/2013 8:38AM

    emoticon

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IDICEM 8/19/2013 8:38AM

  Congratulations again for a job well done. And I love the socks! emoticon

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SBARGANZ 8/19/2013 8:31AM

    Great job sticking it through.

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JERICHO1991 8/19/2013 8:28AM

    Thanks for sharing your victory, and all the trials along the way.

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NEWTINK 8/19/2013 8:19AM

    You sure have come much further than 70.3 miles and I am proud of you emoticon

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OPTIMIST1948 8/19/2013 8:12AM

    Ah yes. The joy of socks. Thank you for reminding me why I love them so during my tris - even tho they take extra time during T1.

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SJKENT1 8/19/2013 8:04AM

    Love the socks... Robert thanks for letting us in on your journey.

You are so right, the determination must come from me.

Forging on... (I may need to change my "handle" to remind me of this)
Sandra

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MILLEDGE2 8/19/2013 7:58AM

    I have been thrilled to hear about every aspect of this experience and every victory you earned. But the story of the socks is what made the tears flow (GOOD tears, though). You started my day off with an extra dose of determination!

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ROXYZMOM 8/19/2013 7:51AM

    Awesome blog! And you did great! I am so glad you kept going, though I never had a doubt you wouldn't. You have climbed many mountains and seen the other side.

The socks are priceless!!

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LOGOULD 8/19/2013 7:46AM

    I am SO INCREDIBLY PROUD of you - and you've got me crying WAY TO EARLY on a Monday morning! Hope you are enjoying your recovery time!

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SPARKLISE 8/19/2013 7:42AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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NILLAPEPSI 8/19/2013 7:39AM

    I've said it before & I'll say it again: I'm so proud of you! I know this race was unbelievable hard, but I'm glad you didn't quit. I was praying for you the whole time. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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WATERDIAMONDS 8/19/2013 7:12AM

    Quit quitting. How simple is that?

Thank you.


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BESSHAILE 8/19/2013 6:58AM

    Oh Yeah
I remember
I remember my personal Goliath
I was done
It had defeated me
There was nothing left
Except the fact that I had to go on anyway
I did
Thank you for reminding me of that moment.
You've sent your courage out into the universe now. It will be there for someone else to tap into someday when he needs it the most.

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STEVIELG 8/19/2013 6:56AM

    emoticon

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