Pain Now, Pride Later
Writing these words ten days after I emblazoned them on a bright, handwritten cheer sign for Ironman Boulder, I still get the chills. I continue to be moved to tears imagining the bodies race past my mind’s eye. The pain must be worth it. The suffering is transformed to something greater than those arduous moments and hours for these athletes, I must believe.
How do we make sense of brutal moments of physical discomfort, mind-fucking total done-ness to push beyond and complete incredible feats, like the more than 2,500 athletes who became Ironmen and women on August 2nd before my eyes in Boulder, CO?
I have watched my husband’s slow-mo transformation from overweight bar owner to cyclist and age-placing athlete over months and years, but nothing prepared me for the thrill and emotion of his transformation over 12 hours and 18 minutes to Ironman.
I couldn’t sleep a wink the night before the race. I had pre-race course jitters FOR him. While running with him and his training buddy and best pal, Jon, the day before the race I intentionally had to hold back from unsolicited, nervous advice-giving, like “honey, you should shorten your stride” and “you’ve only ever run fifteen miles before” and “a lot can happen in twelve hours, don’t over do it”, to finally listening to a super-conscious voice of reason telling me to shut the #&@$*! up. It was not the time to question/worry/insert my opinion.
Later that day I was tubing with my daughters in the Boulder (freezing cold) Creek and one of my daughters was complaining about the cold. The other one shot back, “make use of suffering”…straight from the inked arm of their father.
Make use of Suffering…
Reminiscent of Sensible self-denial, straight from the pages of my Outward Bound instructor’s manual nearly two decades ago (no wonder we found each other).
…there’s a theme…
Tenacity, my favorite word, danced through my mind all day at the race, like it does nearly every day of my life. Stick-to-it-ive-ness.
– the quality or fact of being able to grip something firmly; grip.
synonyms: persistence, determination, perseverance, doggedness, strength of purpose, tirelessness, indefatigability, resolution, resoluteness, resolve, firmness, patience, purposefulness, staunchness, steadfastness, staying power, endurance, stamina, stubbornness, intransigence, obstinacy, obduracy, pertinacity
– the quality or fact of being very determined; determination.
– the quality or fact of continuing to exist; persistence.
I’ve witnessed a lot of amazing athletic events over my life of four decades, hell, I’ve accomplished many myself, but nothing stirred the emotion quite like spectating the Ironman race this month. I cried, no, wept, at times and not just for the love and complete admiration of my husband, but for all the hours, blisters, sacrifices and hard miles each athlete endured to make it down that final finishers.
I was not prepared for the mess I felt inside. That mercurial assertions ranging from “those people are crazy, I would never do that” to “wait, I want to someday hear Mike Reilly announce my name, followed by the invocation, “You are an Ironman”.
I dreamt those words over and over that night, as my waking mind slipped into sleep mind and I listened to Mike Reilly continue to invoke the incoming athletes 16 and 17 hours later, from my bedroom in Boulder.
There is something that translates from Ironman to every day success, and it’s not the winning of any medal on Ironman race day for the majority or the luck of the draw in other sport talents. It’s hard-earned miles and endless pain transformed into purpose that is the making of the Ironman; these largely successful people in life, whatever they do in their real day-to-day lives, that make them kick ass because they are tenacious, because they sensibly deny themselves from time to time and maybe even daily or weekly to be great. They re-commit to their goals, they re-commit to themselves, enduring disappointment, boredom and pain.
I waver between the simple pursuit of feeling good, the path of least resistance and following my bliss to straight up grit, pain and pushing through to a greater strength as an athlete (and person).
True athletes are not the gifted and talented, they are the tenacious, the ones that recommit when the glory of signing up for the race has past and the passion fades. The most successful continue to train when it’s not convenient and stay home even when wine sounds more fun than water the night before a training day.
Tenacity is my mantra. The Ironman is my muse right now. I am not declaring in any way, whatsoever, that I will ever do one, but for now, I am going to ride the wave of inspiration I experienced throughout those twelve hours on the course as a spouse and supporter.
What gets you out of bed and moving, inspired to greatness even when the moment is not inherently moving you?
Is it worth overriding your current pain and discomfort, knowing the pride you will feel after?
I want to hear from you.
Write/call/email/post your experiences with pushing yourself to greatness and your struggles, too.
We can work this out and motivate each other to greatness.