my first ironman duathlon
“Dear Ironman Chattanooga Athletes-
Due to significant flooding and record-breaking rains that Chattanooga and the surrounding areas in Tennessee have recently experienced, IRONMAN and local city officials have determined that in the interest of athlete safety, it is necessary to cancel the swim portion of the 2018 Little Debbie IRONMAN Chattanooga triathlon presented by McKee A Family Bakery.”
This was the opening paragraph of the “Important Race Announcement” email that broke my heart. My mind immediately went into angry, “poor me” mode. The race was in two days and I didn’t even realize this was going to be an issue. I had been spending more time at the pool and had really been looking forward to this fast down current swim, as this leg is my weakest of the three disciplines. And now, it was just over. I wasn’t going to be able to officially have a fifth full Ironman under my belt. Even though the race is still going to be over 140.6 miles due to the bike being 116 miles compared to the normal 112 mile bike distance, it still wasn’t going to be a triathlon. Just a stupid, 142.2 mile duathlon. My immediate reaction was to just not do it anymore, and the excuses started flooding my brain. I mean, I was still not fully recovered from the Barkley Fall Classic just two weeks ago and I was battling with foot pain that was affecting my running. I would have to make a five hour drive to Chattanooga, and miss the Lions play on Sunday (ok maybe that’s a bonus…). Plus, I have already done four other Ironman races, why should I waste my time on something that would have an asterisk by its name? But then I thought of all the training I had done up to this point, and how I wouldn’t be able to stand thinking about everyone out on the course Sunday while I was sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. And even though I am not an overly religious person, I also thought about a prayer. I remember when I was maybe 12 or 13 my dad gave me and my siblings a medallion with the beginning of the Serenity Prayer engraved on the back. He told us it was his dad’s, our Grandpa Smith’s, favorite prayer. It’s a simple prayer, but extremely meaningful. The first three lines read: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” I have included the full prayer at the end of this post, but those beginning words have always stuck with me, and it seemed appropriate that they popped back into my mind at this time. There are so many things that we cannot control in life, and a lot of times we let those moments overwhelm us to the point that we don’t see all of the things that we can control. We let one set-back or disappointment define us, but if we just change our perspective a bit we should see that while many things are beyond our control, these circumstances can open up new opportunities.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
There are many things I cannot control about this, or any, race. Weather, flooding, other racers, the outline of the course-these are all aspects that I cannot change. But there is so much that I can influence, and really it starts with my attitude about tomorrow. Sure, to put it simply, it sucks that the swim is cancelled. But hey, I have never done an Ironman Duathlon before, so that’s pretty cool. I won’t have to worry about swallowing E.coli (no one likes drinking poop water), or getting kicked in the face during the swim. I get to sleep in a couple extra hours and my body will be fresh at the start of the bike leg and, even though its four miles longer, I could potentially get a great split! And it could really help my hydration and nutrition during the run without having that extra hour plus from the swim early in the day. I realize that it’s okay to be disappointed, but that shouldn’t prevent me from going out and enjoying this race and all it has to offer. Anyone that crosses that finish line tomorrow after 142.2 miles should be pretty darn proud of themselves. That is a distance few can cover, and while it won’t technically be a “triathlon”, I think everyone should still consider themselves an Ironman. Plus, it means that I just have an excuse to sign up for another one soon. And while my legs may still be a bit tired and heavy from the Barkley Fall Classic, I will do everything I can to prepare myself for Sunday. As I sit here in my Tennessee hotel room I am wearing my new favorite recovery tool, my Air Relax compression boots, and finalizing my nutrition and hydration plan for tonight and tomorrow to at least maximize what I can bring to the course tomorrow. I’m controlling what I can control.
This goes far beyond just this race. No matter what your goals are, it’s important not to worry or dwell on the circumstances that you cannot control. You will never be able to control the weather, getting older, or what other people think, do or say. I may not have the endurance that I had ten years ago, and my body doesn’t recover the way it used to, but instead of wishing I was younger I am just going to work harder to push myself to MY limits, and no one else’s. There are always going to be people that are in better shape and much faster than me. Instead of thinking that I can never compete with or be them, I will continue strive to be the best athlete that I can be. I cannot control how other people view me or if they agree or disagree with my beliefs or opinions and that’s okay too. I will focus on what I can control, because why waste your energy on what you can’t?
the serenity prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next. Amen.