WOW....what a weekend it shaped up to be a week ago today. Whether I'm racing or spectating, I always get a huge rush of inspiration when I watch an Ironman. It is my personal passion, but even if you don't compete in Ironman or Triathlon...you can't help but leave there feeling that your life has somehow changed. For the better.
This year, it was an extra special day as my Mom was attempting to become an Ironman Finisher at age 60! This is probably one of the most difficult blogs I'll ever write because how do you sum up several years and a special connection with your mother on a blog post? I can't do it 100% justice, but I will come as close as possible.
In 2007, I competed in and finished my first Ironman Triathlon. It was a triumph that I will cherish for the rest of my life. But I had no idea the profound effect it would have on others so close to me. It seems as though my entire family changed direction that day. My sister, Cheryl, went on to be an Ironman Finisher last year...all while being a new mother, getting promoted at work, moving into a new house, being a loving wife, and trying to stay awake long enough to keep in touch with friends and family :) My dad suffered a heart attack about a year before that Ironman...since that day in September of 2007, he has given up smoking, cleaned up his diet (he still loves his Tommy's beef, but we can let that slide), and goes to the gym to workout 3-4X per week. I'm so proud of him. My sister and brother in law, Lisa and Andy, have changed their diets in hopes to get a little healthier and lead by example for my Nephew, Devin. My brother in law John just finished his first couple of 5K's and is taking personal training 1X per week now in addition to kicking some azz on the Hockey rink. My lovely wife, Ana, who has supported me unconditionally through the last 6 years, is a Marathon finisher, multiple time Olympic Triathlete, and has even muttered the words "Ironman in my future" on occasion.
But it is my Mom that has made perhaps the biggest transformation. In 2007, coming off surgery, as she hugged me at the finish line....she was easily 80lbs heavier than today. She had never competed in athletics and she had never done a thing for herself...it always about raising her family. I'm sure the start of this story isn't terribly unique....but it will get there!
Fast forward to last Sunday....my mom started from very humble beginnings. Running for 1 MINUTE on the treadmill....swimming 15 yards across a pool....and riding a hybrid bike with jeans on. Since those days in October of 2007....she has completed numerous sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, countless road running races, 2 MARATHONS (PR of 4:43!), and 2 HALF IRONMAN triathlons. She is 60 years old...ZERO athletic background.
My mom did it right. She asked for help...got great coaching along the way....and stayed consistent in her training and new lifestyle. She had many hurdles to overcome. The sheer fact that she was not a 22 year old starting out, brought on many aches and pains. She needed to seek medical attention from time to time...doctors, chiropractors, and massage. But she held it together! Perhaps the most difficult part of the journey to last weekend was the mental side. There were constant doubts about did she belong? Could she do this? What the hell was she thinking signing up for this? Well, all those doubts proved laughable last Sunday.
My Mom absolutely crushed the Ironman last weekend. She made a comment to me that there were less than 10 people in her age group, it was in a negative tone. I took it the EXACT opposite way...only 10 or so people had the COURAGE to even think about doing something like this as a 60 year old woman. She should be HONORED to be at that starting line and represent the MILLIONS of woman that wish they could do what she is doing, regardless of their age. I think my Mom took that to heart....there hasn't been another negative comment since.
Mom killed the swim. She came from zero swimming background...when she was in school, they didn't have girls sports! So much like me, she started by barely being able to swim across the pool. Last Sunday, she came out 2nd in her Age Group over a 2.4 MILE swim. We were so excited to see her!
Out on the bike....she was equally strong. It didn't take long for mom to get the lead in her Age Group. When we saw her...she was all smiles! I wasn't worried at all about her completing the bike portion of the race...but....she needed to keep moving. There are cutoffs in Ironman...if you don't hit them, your day is over right then and there. I knew there would be ZERO issues with her making it as long as she stuck to her plan, didn't stop, and didn't have any crazy mishaps....like cramps, flat tire, etc... Well....she absolutely SMASHED 112 MILES on the bike. And for those of you that haven't been to Madison, Wisconsin....it is not flat. The Madison Ironman course is best described as a rollercoaster with RELENTLESS hills. Through consistent and dedicated training....mom made that 112 miles look EASY.
Out on the run....mom just stayed steady. The first 6 miles of the MARATHON were rough. But they are for everyone. After I saw her the first time at mile 6....she settled into a groove and just focused on putting 1 mile together at a time. She kept moving forward...despite the pain of 10+ hours of racing, the uneasy stomach you get from eating Astronaut food all day, and the tremendous mental strength it takes to be focused hour after hour. The "wall" didn't really hit until about mile 21 for mom. It was dark...but she pressed forward. There really is only one ultimate goal in Ironman racing....FINISH. And my mom was determined to do that. With about 1.5miles to go....I ran out to make sure she was OK. Her GPS tracker had stopped working and the "protective son" in me said go find her. So I ran out to mile 24.5 and found mom walking. She was in GREAT spirits...but I could tell she was a little disappointed to not be able to run. She told me she wanted to save it for the finish chute. The funny thing about racing an Ironman is that you never know when your body will say "FU, I'm done." And when that happens....think of my mom....she said SHUT UP LEGS and kept going! I have a few very fond memories of my Ironman races, and I hope to have a few more. But none will be as special as walking the last 1.5miles of my mom's Ironman with her. It had come full circle....she was inspired by my first race...I helped her a bit along the way...and here we were, making our way to the finish line together. I couldn't think of a more perfect, or proud, moment as her son in my life. My mom inspired HUNDREDS of people along the way...and not just on that day. I had gas station attendant's jaws dropping at the sheer mention of what she was doing. Random spectators would be floored by her story on race day. I will forever be proud of my mom and her accomplishment. She is truly a inspiration to all.
Well, not only did mom finish....but she ran down the chute. She high fived fans and owned the finish line like the winner did a few hours earlier. She deserved it. I told my mom, you don't sign up for the Ironman race....you sign up for the training. And now she knows, the feeling of running down an Ironman finishing chute is indescribable. Mom, you are in a very elite group now...."I don't belong" should NEVER be in your vocabulary again.
And, as if finishing wasn't enough. My mom had the nerve to take her competitors to the WOOD SHED and WON her division! Are you kidding me? 1st time out and my mother WON. She earned her right to go Kona and compete in the World Championships! I was absolutely FLOORED when I heard this. I always say, "finish the first, race the rest." Well I guess she showed me! What an unbelievable finish to a magical day. My mom is an Ironman Finisher....AND....a KONA Qualifer! At age 60.
So, to mom: "I'm truly inspired by you. I guess the whole family knows where the "Original Iron" comes from now! I hope to one day be setting the example that you set last week. Anything is possible if you are passionate enough about it. You have taught me that throughout my life and you showed me by example last weekend. This blog will never truly capture my profound inspiration, but hopefully it will be one that you can print out and know that your son is deeply touched by his mom's desire to live. Thank you mom....I'm a better person today because of last Sunday. I love you."
Dedication, Passion, Results