With Perseverance, “Anything is Possible”
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” This quote by my idol, Coach Vince Lombardi, never resonated more with me then at Ironman Lake Placid Sunday.
Ironman (IM) is a perfect metaphor about life; it’s the journey. You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other; there will be unexpected challenges, some far more severe than others. The IM motto is “anything is possible.”
Completing IM Lake Placid 2016 was the long-term goal I set 17 months ago, after I was diagnosed with cancer. IM Lake Placid is considered one of the toughest IMs in the world. Many asked why I did not select an “easier” IM. People that know me know I would not have it any other way. With Lauren’s (my wife) unflinching support over the past 17 months, I crossed the finish line at Lake Placid, but not without challenges.
The 2.4 mile swim was brutal. There are 3,000 athletes (that’s 12,000 churning limbs). Who said swimming is not a contact sport? Imagine being in a washing machine; envision playing hockey without pads. I was already dealing with a shoulder injury sustained in a skiing accident in March. Being hit or hitting others during the swim stroke was painful. This does not happen when you are training in a pool with a lane to yourself! The contact cannot be avoided, but it definitely hurts (and saps energy!). IM swim strategy dictates that you save your energy for the long day ahead. Being kicked in the face and receiving a bloody nose compounded my obstacles. The strategy of starting toward the back of the pack did not work. When I raced at IM Lake Placid 2010, I had broken ribs and could not afford a kick to the upper body. The strategy of hanging back worked in 2010.
The 112 mile bike was tough on the sore shoulder; all the vibration transfers to the shoulders. Having to change 3 flat tires did not help my time. Also, one of the side effects from my surgery is bladder control, I had to stop at every aid station (one every 10 miles) – yikes! Hot weather is my ally; sweating means less visits to the port-a-potty! Lake Placid was mild Sunday (most would say the weather was awesome!).
The 26.2 mile run started out well. The shoulder felt better. The discomfort shifted to feet. I developed hot spots, eventually coverings a majority of the bottom of both feet, making each strike to the ground painful. I stopped to get medical aid; they recommended soaking my feet in ice water. I reluctantly agreed, knowing this would take precious time. It worked – for about 10 miles. The pain came back, so I returned to the medical tent for the same treatment. With the focus on my feet; nutrition was neglected. I was weak and dizzy. Drinking cola at the last aid station helped and sustained me to the finish line.
So, getting to the finish line at this IM was tough – physically and mentally. I have completed every race I have started; I was determined for this race not to be my first DNF (did not finish). Half the challenge of an IM is mental (some say more). During those really tough times in the darkness on the run, I kept thinking about the reasons I chose this race: a goal I set to focus on beyond my health issues, to honor my dear friend Bill Rollings (this horrible disease took him away too soon) and all the people that have been impacted by my story of hope, inspiration and awareness.
With all this said, IM Lake Placid was a celebration of life. I am so grateful that I was able to get back to the point where I could be active, train and even race! I beat cancer! High-fiving the “Voice of the Ironman,” Mike Reilly, at the finish line was a special moment.
I am humbled to know that my story of hope, inspiration and awareness Is making a difference in the fight against cancer. I am so honored to be representing ZERO – End Prostate Cancer. So far, I have raised over $20,000 for ZERO. Knowing that 97 cents of every dollar I raise goes to research and education is a big reason I have embraced this charity. Representing ZERO and racing at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in October will give me an international platform to continue to spread my message to a much larger audience. Every small donation has a huge impact; Click here to view my ZERO fundraising page.
I would like to thank my generous sponsors Vitality Sports Medicine and CyberDefenses, Inc.
LIFE IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT