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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.

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
DAUGHTER9MOONS 8/19/2013 6:48AM


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SHERYLP461 8/19/2013 6:25AM

    You are amazing Robert, from the first moment you decided to join the race until it was over, you have let nothing stand in your way. Loved reading this blog

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NASFKAB 8/19/2013 6:12AM

  emoticon emoticon emoticon

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INCREDIBLYME 8/19/2013 5:36AM

    lessons from the trenches are the ones we learn best- thanks for sharing and congrats on pushing through to the end emoticon

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WILDKAT781 8/19/2013 5:25AM

    emoticon emoticon

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HAPPYMENOW58 8/19/2013 5:08AM

    Loved your blog! Well done! Thanks for the inspiration.....

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LRSILVER 8/19/2013 4:43AM

    Amazing story. You are awesome. Keep it up.

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STRIVERONE 8/18/2013 10:21PM

    That bit with the socks is truly amazing. What an excellent person! That you pushed through the tough spot doesn't surprise me at all.

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CM_GARDNER78 8/18/2013 10:21PM

    Oh my GOSH! I just LOVE the Oscar the Grouch socks!!! HAHAHAHAHA! That is absolutely priceless!! I am so proud I could burst of you for NOT giving in!!!! Pushing through - and as always with a great story to tell! Every time I read a blog of yours, I start to feel like I can do it. A little at a's chipping away at me. :-) This is a great blog - as always. But this one really spoke to my heart! Way to go Robert! Blazing trails for the rest of us to follow! That's why I know your class will be SUCH a success!!!! :-) (((HUGS)))

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DALID414 8/18/2013 10:18PM

    I'm sure you'll never think of Oscar the Grouch in the same way again. I know I won't.

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_JODI404 8/18/2013 9:44PM

    I am just blown away by what you faced and overcame in this race.

What an awesome and meaningful lesson to share!!! Our bodies can go a lot further when our mind is trying to tell us to stop.

All that OCD planning --I cannot believe that happened with your socks!! What a gift for her to give you her (super awesome!) socks!! Definitely a miracle when you needed one.

So proud of you accomplishments Robert!! I'm cheering you on for whatever is next!!

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RUDITUDI2000 8/18/2013 9:32PM

    You are so right Robert! You rock!

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-STARRYEYED- 8/18/2013 8:28PM


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ALIHIKES 8/18/2013 8:28PM

    Very inspiring blog, thanks for sharing it. I loved the socks! and the story behind the socks. I hope we all can find it in ourselves to be generous and thoughtful.

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    Thanks for sharing with us! The socks are cute!

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LEWILL1982 8/18/2013 7:44PM

    I loved this, I almost cried reading it! Save this, you could give a great commencement speech at somebody's graduation one day. I am so inspired by you. Congratulations for finishing your race and never giving up!

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FITFOODIE806 8/18/2013 6:43PM

    The socks! I love the sock story. Oh, Robert, how I love your writing and crazy crazy awesome determination.

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GOING-STRONG 8/18/2013 6:40PM

    Words cannot express how happy I am for you. That empowerment of finishing something you started cannot be measured.


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KATHIC2 8/18/2013 6:03PM

  You rock! In so many ways...this blog needs to saved for eternity.

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DIANNEMT 8/18/2013 5:51PM

    Again--I am so proud of you for finishing--and your story makes it even MORE of a victory. Remember--that gal that gave you her socks was from WI--and WI people are the BEST! (Grew up in WI--don't live there now but that is HOME and GOD'S COUNTRY--as well as Packerland.)

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COLOR-BLUE 8/18/2013 5:46PM


You're reminding me of Paul Harvey, when he use to say, "and here's the rest of the story." I was cringing, when I was reading about your blisters, as I've had them on my feet before, and they can be excruciating!!!

You made me proud, the way you finished the race, in spite of your circumstances. You're a WINNER!!! Just emoticon and forge on, and let the next episode unfold!!! I'm looking forward to reading all about it.

Be blessed,

- Nancy Jean -

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WATERMELLEN 8/18/2013 5:46PM

    You. Are. Tough.

So wonderful that ONEKIDSMOM was there for you at the finish to celebrate! Loved the video.

Bet you're keeping those socks.

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SALLY_MANDER 8/18/2013 5:45PM

    You are incredible :)

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TIGER_LILY_613 8/18/2013 5:24PM

  Amazing story ! Thank you for sharing this ! emoticon emoticon

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DEE797 8/18/2013 4:51PM

    Thanks for sharing what you learned from completing your race. WTG!

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LIVEDAILY 8/18/2013 4:46PM

    Determination, grit, courage, more determination, and a Sesame Street angel....what amazing gifts to be given!!

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TRAVELGRRL 8/18/2013 4:31PM

    Thank you for sharing your AWESOME ACCOMPLISHMENT as well as the lessons learned! Just what I needed to hear today. I am so proud of you.

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ARCHIMEDESII 8/18/2013 3:47PM

    What a totally awesome story !!! Congratulations on crossing the finish line. I'm sure it was an amazing physical, mental and emotional challenge.

And I think I'm going to go out and find some kicker Sesame Street (or maybe Sponge Bob) socks to wear when I run my very first half marathon in September.

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MEMKEEPR 8/18/2013 2:40PM

    Wonderful story

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COCK-ROBIN 8/18/2013 2:28PM


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WENDYSPARKS 8/18/2013 2:09PM


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MOBYCARP 8/18/2013 2:09PM

    That is true grit.

I might have made it past the bike issue, because I wouldn't be wearing clip-on shoes; then again, I might not have even with decent shoes for walking the bike. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it past the blisters.

You really *don't* quit, ever!

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BLUENOSE63 8/18/2013 1:54PM


These lessons you have learned will carry you through each and every race you do from now on and it won't matter the distance. Once again, I cried as I did in your other blog but it was happy tears to now that you achieved your dream! You believed you could fly....and guess what....YOU DID!!!

Sending hugs from Ontario Canada


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MSLZZY 8/18/2013 1:49PM

    A very powerful message! Thanks for sharing!

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JUNEAU2010 8/18/2013 1:43PM

    Those socks may be the best trophy ever!

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RUNNERRACHEL 8/18/2013 1:28PM

    Your determination is SO amazing! What an amazing lesson! Love that her act of kindness had such a profound effect and really helped you in the race! Very touching! emoticon

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COOP9002 8/18/2013 1:22PM

    Thanks for sharing your story. It's awesome to see how your journey has transformed you.

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DEBRITA01 8/18/2013 1:16PM

    Loved this blog and the lessons you've shared. You are a testament to the power of never giving matter what. emoticon

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ALDEBARANIAN 8/18/2013 1:02PM

    Thank you.

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KARRENLYNN 8/18/2013 12:47PM

    What great lessons you learned. And you've trained your mind as well. I'm happy for your successes and the obstacles you powered thru on your way to victory.

Have a great week,


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HAPPYSOUL91 8/18/2013 12:40PM

    wow, you showed me there is a way to get through, might not be how you pictured it but just keep going!

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LINDAK25 8/18/2013 12:22PM

    Okay, you made me cry. It really does take courage to go on and you did it. Congratulations to you! It's wonderful to reaffirm that when given the opportunity, people rise to the occasion with incredible acts of courage and compassion. It may seem like such a small thing sometimes but it changes you--you faced your demons and were given a gift of compassion. What an incredible day!

Oscar the Grouch socks? So cool! Note to self: always pack two pairs of socks! Bare feet, wet or dry is just asking for trouble.

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VICKYMARIEC 8/18/2013 12:19PM

    Amazing lessons learned. Thanks for the words of wisdom. I'm walking 60 miles in November. Even though I'm training with a team now, when I'm out there they won't be with me. Makes me nervous as I want and will wlalk all 60 miles. Thanks again!

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LSPIZZA 8/18/2013 12:13PM

    Frame the socks too! I had the worst time with my socks in my half marathon.and they were my regular socks. Great blog!

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SATCHMO99 8/18/2013 11:53AM

    Sock prayers answered. God does work in the most mysterious ways emoticon

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SLIMMERJESSE 8/18/2013 11:53AM

    Great blog!

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JOYCRN 8/18/2013 11:50AM

    I just finished Chrissie Wellington's book, A Life Without Limits, yesterday. You are in the same camp as her, finishing despite the obstacles. I have made a plan for doing triathlon. I have done a couple of "minis" before but need to be humble enough to do what I need to do to "tri" again. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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ONEKIDSMOM 8/18/2013 11:48AM

    I teared up over the socks story... all over again! God Bless you, Robert. You are a courageous man, and a fine example to all of us... mental toughness wins over physical obstacles! Spark on! emoticon

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CAREN_BLUEJEANS 8/18/2013 11:46AM

    Robert, love the story...and the socks! BTW I've been thinking about doing a video today about socks.

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