Before the memories of Ironman Canada become hazy with time, I want to reflect on the lessons I learned. So many people told me how sorry they were that my experience was so full of suffering and pain. But I'm not sorry. I believe my 2nd Ironman was meant to be that way and because of it, I learned invaluable life lessons much more meaningful than if it had been easy. Each Ironman is a unique journey with different lessons to teach me. My Ironmans are deep spiritual quests for personal growth and inner strength. That is the essence of why I do them. Therefore, I am thankful for the hard-earned lessons learned in Ironman Canada. Yes, I suffered more than I ever have before. But I wouldn't have learned them any other way.
1. Thou Shalt be Humble
I trained more than I ever had before, and I was in the best shape of my life coming into Ironman Canada. I had worked hard to increase my speed and was proud of the level I had achieved. I had high expectations coming into this race. I was certain I could PR, given that my first Ironman had been in brutal conditions (high heat and wind). I was quickly stripped of all ego in this race as my sick stomach wracked my body with twisting pain and contortions throughout the day. I was soundly humbled by the Ironman gods. I had to throw away all preconceived notions of speed and hang onto the goal of just finishing. Ego only hurts you in an Ironman. Just get rid of it.
2. Thou Shalt have NO Expectations
As I mentioned above, I had high expectations. I dreamed of a huge PR. It was not to be. No matter how much you've planned, trained, or prepared, you just don't know what the Ironman gods have in store for you on race day. You can't control how you're going to feel or what the weather is going to be like. It's dangerous to have time goals. Unless you're fine with dropping out if you don't meet your time goals, you MUST have other goals that take precedence over time. In other words, the goal of just finishing. I would have liked to add "Just finish and have a good time in the process" but unfortunately, having a good time was not in the cards for me. But I had other rewards.
3. Thou Shalt be Tested
I had been told there would be a point on the course where I would go through an extreme low. I had experienced this before. Just not that low. I've never experienced such suffering in a race or training before. I was warned I would ask myself at some point, "Why the hell am I doing this?" I scoffed. I'm not going to ask myself that, I naively believed. I love doing this. I love Ironmans. But no one loves Ironmans when doing an Ironman. All you have to do is watch the pained grimaces and vacant stares of the athletes doing one of the races to know that an immense amount of pain and suffering is experienced in one of these races. No matter how fast you are, well-trained, or strong you are, you will ask yourself at some point, "Why am I here? Is this worth it?" And that's when you discover the stuff you are made of. How strong you are. And why you really are out there to begin with and whether or not it's worth it.
4. Thou Shalt have Compassion
I am deeply embarrassed to admit that I used to silently tease others who DNF'ed or even struggled to come in just before midnight on an Ironman. I am so sorry I ever felt that way. I was ignorant. Each athlete's Ironman journey is done alone. Even though spectators are cheering you on, they cheer from the outside, like someone peering through the glass of an aquarium. Even the athletes that run side by side on the course are alone. No one understands what you are going through but you. The struggles you experience, the pain you suffer, the thoughts that plague you, those are yours and yours alone. So to those of you who don't finish, or don't make the cut-off, my heart goes out to you. I am so sorry I ever thought less of you. I am sorry I used to think anyone could finish an Ironman. Because I was wrong. So very wrong. Finishing an Ironman is H.A.R.D. No matter what. As a matter of fact, I now realize that those who drop out or miss the cutt-off suffer leagues more than those who finish, and especially those who finish under 14 hours. Because those athletes are having an incredibly tough, incredibly unfortunate day. I cannot fathom the amount of suffering those athletes must be feeling.
All in all, I am grateful for the lessons Ironman Canada taught me. Never again will I underestimate how hard an Ironman is, no matter how many I've done. I've never experienced such pain and suffering before, and I definitely had my God moment out there on the bike course, my revelation, stripped of everything but my soul, nothing else remaining. And I rose up from the ashes, and continued to put one foot in front of the other. When I reached the finish line, it was nothing short of glorious, victorious, triumphant rapture. I'd like to believe, I am a stronger, more humble, more compassionate person on the other side of that finish line. Nothing comes easy, that's for sure. But I'm glad. Because I wouldn't reap all the gains and benefits if it was easy.