Slightly over a week ago I had the absolute pleasure of volunteering at the 2010 Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
A beautiful lake in the Idaho Panhandle may seem like an absolutely random place for this Canadian to show up but really it’s not. Currently, I live about a 3 1/2 hour away from CDA. When I heard (through Punk Rock Tri Guy’s blog) that this was the site of a full Ironman I knew I had to be there. It was only a couple of days before the event that I was able to confirm that I would be able to attend but that didn’t matter – I was just happy to be heading down.
I spent the night before the event in a friend’s vacation home in Sandpoint; that put me about an hour away from CDA. Of course this meant that I had to wake up at the crack of dawn to make sure I was on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene in time for the start of the Ironman pros. Another reason to arrive early? To meet up with Punk Rock Tri Guy (and family). This was going to be Ron’s first ever Ironman and I was excited for him. Just the mere fact that he was willing to walk up to the shores of the lake and take on that monumental task (!) made him a hero in my eyes.
Waiting for the race to start you could cut the excitement and nerves. The competitors were just ready to go and their supporters were ready to get their cheer on.
Honestly,when I signed up to volunteer I thought I would have fun but nothing could have prepared me for how life altering this event would be.
The Ironman is about so much more than the race itself; it’s about the stories that have brought each competitor to that day.
It’s about the absolute joy and triumph on the faces of the competitors.
It’s about the first time competitor that barely misses a beat and smokes the swim.
It’s about the fact that the swim portion of the Ironman took the bulk of the competitors approximately an hour an forty-five minutes. Call me a mere mortal but I would have deemed that a very long workout and called it a day.
And yet these men and women were about to head out for an over 100 mile bike ride. And as if that wasn’t enough, they were going to chase the bike ride down with a marathon. Insanity.
While the competitors were making their way around a seriously hard bike course, I headed to (wo)man Run Aid Station #1. It was only then that the immensity of the event started to hit me.
While we were waiting for the runners to arrive we could hear the announcer on the loudspeaker telling us about the competitors. There was the man who used to weigh over 460 lbs and lost over 250 (!!!). No Biggest Loser type help. Just good old fashioned hard work. I do hope he finished. I hope he knows how much he inspired me.
One of the most amazing things was seeing the different shapes, sizes, and ages of the competitors. I saw elderly people run by me – not hobble by – but run!!! I saw men and women that looked like they had no business being Ironmen and yet there they were – proving everyone wrong. Defying the stereotypes.
By the point people ran by us they had been racing for the better part of the day. And yet, some of them managed to run by with completely fresh legs and sound totally in control when declining fuel. I’m looking at you Mr. Potts.
Calling the Ironman gruelling is an understatement of epic proportions. Yet no one complained. Never once did I hear people say they wanted to quit. They all pushed themselves beyond what I thought any human body could accomplish. And they did with style and grace.
Right then and there I resolved to never complain about a workout again. If these people could be out there for over a dozen hours surely I could manage to find a way to push through a four mile run or a hard P90X workout. Surely I could do more.
And that’s why Ironman CDA changed my life – it forever altered my concept of what I can achieve. It takes determination, discipline, and strength of character but you really can accomplish anything. Sure, I had heard that before but I didn’t really believe it until that day on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Every single one of those competitors taught me something. From the ones that smoked the race to the ones that missed the cut off. And especially the one that finished triumphantly with 900 seconds to spare (a massive congratulations to you Ron!).
I spent days letting the experience sink in. Admittedly, I gushed about it to absolutely anyone that would listen. And you know what? Some ten days later I can’t stop thinking about the race. It’s changed my life. I will forever be grateful to the competitors for allowing me to share in their day in even the smallest of ways. It was a privilege and an honour.
There really are no limits.