Monday, September 16, 2013
One of the really cool parts of the Ironman for me was having Mike Reilly doing the announcing. Reilly has been the “Voice of Ironnman” for the past 25 years, announcing the World Championships in Kona every year as well as over one hundred other Ironman races. As one article on Reilly said “to some athletes, hearing Reilly say those four, iconic words is just about as important as making it to the finish line. When his voice booms “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” over that microphone, lifelong dreams are realized.”
I know that as I did my training, imagining that moment was incredibly motivating and emotional for me. And when it actually happened, it was magical - I never imagined that I would cross to the sounds of “I come from a Land Down Under” by Men At Work (maybe I’ll need to add that one to my running mix) – but having Reilly say those words and then quickly mention that I’m a mother of four was a moment that I’ll probably replay in my mind for the rest of my life.
So, having Reilly make an appearance at the Athlete’s Banquet a couple of days before the race was a huge treat. I looked forward to hearing words of wisdom from this man who had been at the finish line to see tens of thousands of athletes complete their journeys. I’m sure that over the past quarter-decade he has seen it all. When he spoke, this is the advice that Reilly gave. “During the race a lot of things will happen that you can’t control. But there is one thing that you can control. Your attitude.” That’s it. Seriously? Have a good attitude? I was left feeling a little let down that his advice was so basic. Where was the magic secret to finishing the Ironman?
As it turns out, that WAS the magic secret. In the weeks leading up to the race I have to admit that I was somewhere between scared and terrified depending on the day. Sure I had done a lot of training, but was it enough? I could go through a long list of things that I could have, maybe should have done better. More running. Longer bike rides. More hills. Spinning over the winter. More swimming. More, more, more….
But on race day, the reality was that I had to work with whatever level of fitness and proficiency that I had built. Instead of focusing on all the things I could have done better, I chose to focus on what I had done well. Training on the actual bike course. Increasing my comfort level swimming in open water. Improving my running technique. And most importantly, coming in to the race un-injured and feeling physically well. And I thought about everything that I had learned from endurance races over the past few years. How to eat during the race. How to pace myself. How to come up with a race plan and then adapt it to changing conditions.
During the race itself I tried to keep the positive attitude going. I smiled whenever I could. I thanked every volunteer and cheering spectator I saw (and learned that the more energy you give out, the more you get back). When the going got rough I concentrated on what was not hurting (my feet are killing me, but wow, my knees are really holding up well!) And I tried to think about how far I had come instead of how far I still had to go. The absolute best feeling of the day was half-way through the marathon when I knew that I had only 21KM left to go and 5 hours left before the midnight cut-off. I knew that as long as I kept putting one foot in front of the other I would be an IRONMAN! From that point onward it felt like a bit of a party – the sun had gone down, the volunteers were still pumped up and all that was left was to get to the finish line and hear Reilly say those words.
So what is the weight-loss lesson here? There are many, many things in life you can’t control. But you can control your attitude. You can choose to focus on what you are doing right (I’m drinking more water, I’m eating way more vegetables) instead of on what you could have done better (damn you Pumpkin Spice Lattes!). You can focus on what is feeling good instead of what is hurting. You can celebrate how far you’ve come instead of dreading how far you still have to go. You can give positive energy to others and others will send it right back at you. None of us are perfect – we can all be doing things better or doing more, more, more – so let’s stop beating up on ourselves and try to enjoy this journey. It sounds simple, but it’s true – attitude is everything!