Change in Perspective

 

Ironman

 

About 10 years ago my husband of 11 years announced to me that he wanted to compete in an Ironman Triathlon. This was surprising news considering he had not worked out in years, and although he was active in sports in high school he had not shown any interest in participating other than turning on the TV.

Not wanting to seem like I doubter, I offered a fairly noncommittal “hum.” I was pretty sure this was not going to go anywhere so I engaged in a little conversation.

“Isn’t that the big thing they do in Hawaii?” I asked.

“Yes, but you have to qualify for Hawaii, they have other competitions all over the US that you do not have to qualify for.” He explained.

“Well, what exactly is a triathlon?” I ventured.

“A competition where you swim 2.4 miles, then you bike for 112 miles and then you run 26.2 miles” he patiently explained.

“All in one day?” was my uninformed question.

“Yes!” he enthusiastically explained.

In my mind, I thought there was no way anyone could possibly do all that in one day, certainly not my wonderful husband.

The next week my loving husband announced he was going for a run, in Tennessee where the humidity averaged 80% and the temperatures even at 5:00 am often exceeded 85 degrees. He returned home soon, covered in sweat and soaking wet. I was pretty sure this was not going to last too long but I tried to be encouraging and supportive. “I am proud of you for trying.” I replied.

Soon my husband joined a gym and continued to focus on improving his health. He worked out and slowly he was able to get back into fighting shape, so to speak.

After several months of training he asked me how I felt about him doing an Ironman in San Francisco so we could combine a trip to see my sister with a race for him. Interested I started asking questions. “That could be cool, where would you race?” I inquired.

“Well you swim from Alcatraz and then you bike and swim a route in the city.” He explained.

“Wait a minute, you SWIM from ALCATRAZ? Are you kidding? You can’t swim from Alcatraz; they put Alcatraz out there for a reason! No one escapes from Alcatraz! There are sharks in the water for heavens sake!” I shrieked passionately!

I have never actually told my husband no when he presented a new idea or plan, but this was something totally different. There was no way I could go along with this hair-brain plan even if I got to see my sister out of it!

“Can’t you find a race where you swim in a lake or something?” I begged him.

“OK,” he replied just moderately defeated.

“ I  want to be supportive, but come on, Alcatraz?” I begged again.

Months later he came back to me with a new plan. “How about Utah?” he asked testing the water so to speak.

“I found a new race that I think would work. Ironman is hosting an inaugural race in Provo, Utah next summer. I would swim in a small lake just out side of town. Then I’d bike in the mountains and run in town. What do you think?” he asked as he pitched his new plan.

“Sounds great to me, let’s do it.” I endorsed his big plan.

I spent the next several months watching my husband set seriously challenging goals and then every day take little steps toward that goal. He worked hard, he trained hard, he ran, he biked and he swam. He read books and he studied tapes. I was impressed and I became a believer.

About a year later we packed the van and headed west to Utah.

The day of the big race we woke very early, I could tell he was both excited and a little scared. I am sure he was wondering if he had trained enough and if he had what it took to handle the mental challenge.

Hours later the kids and I stood on the shore of the lake and watched in awe as 2000 competitors all dressed in black wet suits and matching purple swim caps jumped into the water almost as one, and began the grueling day ahead of them.

Having never been at an event like this, I stood just trying to take it all in and understand how this all works. The lake wasn’t big but the wind was really blowing hard. It was impossible to see how the competitors could handle the huge swells, almost 4 feet high.

Finally, I got brave and asked a woman and man standing next to me on the shore- line. “How do the swimmers handle waves like that?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t know” came the reply. “I have never seen conditions this bad.” They honestly answered me. Fear started to swell in my heart.

“How well does your husband swim?” they asked me.

“Oh I don’t know! He can swim in the pool at the Recreation Center in our neighborhood, but I have no idea how well he will do in a lake with 4 feet swells!” I answered. My voice rising as it started to reflect my hysterical nerves.

Within seconds the Ironman officials announced they were calling the race because of the unsafe conditions. They were announcing it right now and the athletes would soon be coming back in.

I stood on the shore frantically searching for my husband when suddenly, I saw a recreational boat roaring toward the dock. I could see a man and woman kneeling on the floor of the boat pushing on something. Much to my horror, I realized they were doing CPR on an athlete as they came to a sudden stop, an ambulance siren ringing in my ears.

“Oh my God!” I whispered, panic rising in my blood.

I struggled to maintain some semblance of control, I did have my three small children with me and I did not want to scare them. I found a race official and asked how I could find my husband.

The volunteer sadly replied that they had no idea who was out of the water and who was not. The only thing they could suggest was that I go stand by his bike because that is where his transition bag would be and if he were out of the water he’d go there for dry clothing. “This was the best they could offer me?” I thought!

I did as I was instructed and I waited there for almost 90 minutes until I finally saw my husband coming on shore and heading toward the bike rack. In nearly a full out panic by now, I rushed to him and gave him a huge hug. He pulled back from me giving me a strange look “what are you doing” he asked.

“Where have you been?” the words rushed out of me.

“What do you mean? I have been swimming.” He replied a bit disgusted.

“There are all kinds of people missing, don’t you get it? They called the race almost 90 minutes ago and I couldn’t find you anywhere. I was afraid something had happened to you! They took two people away in ambulances!” The words rushed out of me.

“I am fine, I thought I was swimming a good race. I had no idea they cancelled the race.” He calmly explained to me a bit embarrassed by the way I was acting.

Finally, assured my husband was fine and in good shape I relaxed just a bit.

The race officials got the situation back under control and restarted the race with the bike and the run soon to follow. I spent the rest of the day watching for my husbnad to bike and run by, the kids and I cheering him on as best we could.

My husband did something really cool that day, he showed me that amazing things can happen once you change your perspective. Once he decided he wanted to complete an Ironman he changed his perspective about what was possible. As soon as he believed he could do it he simply took many little steps toward his goal until his goal became a reality. He taught me that once you decide to do something, anything could happen, even something that should be impossible.

One of my goals in life is to help my husband make a dream come true. I tried to be his support team and believe in him when he needed it the most. The sad thing is that he is the one who taught me the most that day. It was a powerful lesson for me.

I have never been so proud of my husband as I was when the announcer loudly proclaimed in the microphone, “Dan you are an Ironman!”

Later, laughing about the excitement of the day I told him he might as well have done the Alcatraz Ironman, it couldn’t have been much more dangerous than this one was!

Ironman Dan

 

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list.”

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