Kona Report 2009, October 11, 2009
“You can learn a lot about life on the Big island of Hawaii.” These are the words of notorious telecaster Al Trautwig. Never have these words rung more true for me than they did yesterday as I made my way to the finish line on Alii Drive. As I write my report on yesterday’s activi
ties I hope I will be able to capture the feelings and lessons I learned as I made my way over some of the most beautiful and harshest environment on all of Mother Earth.
The day was here the moment had arrived and I was feeling ready to perform on the world’s biggest stage. After checking things over on the bike I got my swim skin on that a few days before cut me pretty good on my ribs and knew it would only be worse after the swim today. I caught up to Chrystel gave her my love and with all the other athletes headed into the Pacific. The swim began like any before, a massive push where blows were traded and we swam like spawning salmon to the turnaround. I stayed calm and relaxed in the water and just kept a good steady stroke. I never felt like I was pushing too hard. I felt in control and was having a great race. When I got to the pier, everything was running according to plan. I had a quick transition and I was on my bike a few seconds over 1 hour. I saw Chrystel as I left gave her a quick smile and headed out.
My plan on the bike was to stay in control and then see if I could go harder after the turn at Hawi. But, even more important was making a push after the turn at Kawaihae on the way back to town. This entire week the wind has been blowing from north to south and as we made our way north it was doing just that. I thought to myself, “cool, then I will have a tail wind on the way back”. The wind changed and I had a headwind coming back into town. I realized that the wind here is not predictable other than you can expect it to be hard and above all else don’t count on it staying the same. My bike leg was very frustrating from the go, I watched as packs of riders would go by and I would fall out of the draft zone only to be passed by another pack. I felt like everyone had more power than I did. The bike leg was the most painful ride I have had. I tried to pick up the pace but couldn’t. All my power was gone. I had nothing in me. I did not know what was wrong. By that point I was overwhelmed with a lot of negativity running through me and I was
doing my best to push it aside and concentrate on the marathon ahead. I kept thinking about what Chrystel told me, that all I could control was my attitude and I tried really hard to do so.
After finally getting off the bike, I proceeded through transition and got back to my natural environment. I ran well and in control, but I just could not get into my rhythm. Everything was off. I had moments of good pacing followed by moments of wanting to just walk to the finish. Thoughts of quitting even crossed my mind, but I could not let it go there. I went through highs and lows throughout the entire day. My thoughts had changed as my goals changed from my time goals to merely finishing and everything bad that was happening changed as I changed my perspective. I saw Chrystel on the run a few times and she was cheering me on to have a great run and telling me how good and strong I
looked. It helped me so much, but it wasn’t enough. Pretty soon my pace slowed as it did on the bike and there was nothing I could do about it. My body was not responding as I am used to it responding. It let me down and I did not know what to do about it. The pain was all consuming, I thought about my brother Doug at the Spud telling us “even my hair hurt” and I could relate to him at that time.
During my moments of deep pain, frustration, depression, and fear, in those dark times, I would change my thoughts to thoughts of gratitude and love. I was thankful for the volunteers’ who gave me words of encouragement and gave me food and fluid to keep me going. I was thankful for my loving wife who in spite of my imperfections has not quit on me and supported me as I pursue my passion. I was thankful for my wonderful son Will who always brings a smile to my face and is as easy going as they come. I was thankful to be there in the race that not many people get to do and to see truly great athletes perform majestically even when my situation was saying the conditions are too tough. I was thankful to my friends and family for their support. I focused on love as well. One of my fears was that my family and friends would be disappointed in me for not doing as well as I had prepared. I only needed to think of the love in my life and I knew they would not be and would be behind me even on my worst day.
The lessons I learn during my races are not different from the lessons in life. We have good and bad days and moments where we want to just walk or even quit. But during those times, if we take time to be grateful for what is good and focus on the love that is in all things, it will bring us out the pit of despair with renewed hope and spirit to soldier on because the finish line awaits. And no matter what kind of day you are having, it is sure to bring a smile to your face.
One of the most magical places on earth is the final stretch down ALII Drive. It is as if all of the problems and pain you were experiencing before are taken away and you find new life in yourself brought on by the cheering crowd and the finish line. If there is a heaven, I would imagine that it would be similar to finishing an Ironman where the highs and lows of life are gone and only the ultimate high awaits you as you cross the finish line. I say thank you to everyone for your love and support and I hope we can all find strength in each other to overcome any obstacle that comes our way.
Yesterday was a rough day. I never left the pain cave from the moment I got on the bike. I have no excuses, no injuries. I was not sick. Everything was just off. We all have good days and we all have bad days, and yesterday was the worse time to have one of those bad days, but it is what happened. I know I will keep playing the day in my head over and over again, trying to figure out what went wrong, what I could have done different to have a better day.
Now is the time to pick up the pieces and concentrate on the future and the great things to come. I am truly thankful for everyone in my life and all the support I have received. I feel I have let you down and feel such deep sadness.I am picking my head up and looking at 2010 as the year of redemption. I have a goal to come back to Kona and have a stellar race. I will. I know I can, and “All that I can, We will”.