“You paid $650 to do a race? What do you get for that?”
I heard those questions a hundred times when I was training for Ironman and always responded meekly with something like, “Well, a t-shirt, a medal, and the right to say I’m an Ironman.” I knew I’d get a lot more, but it was hard to express in the beginning.
As I sit here today without a race on the calendar, it becomes a lot clearer. It’s the first time since I started running in January 2013 that I have not had a firm goal on the horizon, and I can already tell how easy it would be to fall out of pattern.
Signing up for Ironman felt like the epitome. I would do many races along the way, but that big gorilla was always hanging out in the corner. I couldn’t escape him, and in a twisted way, I didn’t want to.
He was my nemesis and my guiding light. He was the one I feared and craved at once. It was a love/hate relationship for the ages.
There were many days I hoped it was a nightmare and others when it was my only dream. Ironman is living on the edge. It is exciting, painful, alive.
It’s a strange paradox because I believe humans were built to move, but we are also becoming lazy creatures. We don’t have to write letters, we just roll over in our bed and type notes on our phone. We don’t go to the bank or the library or the football games. We make them come to us.
So what did I get for my 650 bucks?
Ironman doesn’t budge. It just waits for you show up. And you’d better be ready when you get there or it will eat you alive.
What did I get for my $650?
Great friends with positive attitudes
I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see the same people lining up on the beach at 6 am, three days a week to “practice” swimming. We are not professionals, we pay to do this! And we don’t get paid to ride 6 hours on a brutally hilly road in the rain or run hill repeats past aging couples holding hands on the Greenway. We embrace the challenges because they are there.
What did that 650 dollar investment get me?
A better connection with the people that matter most
Like most, my Ironman declaration didn’t initially resonate with my friends and family. I’m sure it was an afterthought, or at the most, “Mike’s got another crazy idea.” But as time went on, they saw the dedication Ironman demands. They saw changes in me. Positive changes, physically and mentally. They saw passion, determination, and commitment. And it was contagious.
My Ironman training piqued curiosities and inspired change in others. I can’t tell you how many people told me, yes ME, that what I was doing inspired THEM. More proof that what you do really does matter. People really do care. And when you break it down, isn’t that what we really want from our relationships?
What did I get for $650?
A memory of a lifetime
The first day of school, high school graduation, going to college, getting your diploma, your team winning the World Series, your wedding . . . then most start the cycle over by re-living those memorable moments vicariously through their own children. We need those sparks to keep us going. And, for me, the one without children, that’s probably why Ironman was so important. It was a big, juicy reminder that life doesn’t have to fade away without memorable moments that seize every fiber of your being.
A couple hours after the race I finally got around to reading my text messages. The first one I read said, “Congratulations! You must feel dead!” I replied with this simple line, “Actually I feel more alive than I have in 10 years.”
And that’s what I got for my $650.