My favorite thing about Ironman triathlons is the simple fact that anybody can do one...seriously. It doesn't take a unique skill or ability like throwing a 95 mph fastball or being able to dunk a basketball. You don't have to be strong, tall, fast, smart, or even very coordinated. All it really takes is an attitude that says, "I will not quit." Let's face it, none of us are going to get called up to the major leagues. We'll never play in the Super Bowl, or get drafted into the NBA. But there's almost nothing keeping you from becoming an Ironman! I've personally seen a blind man, a woman in a wheelchair, an amputee, and a 74 year old man cross the Ironman finish line! It's a larger-than-life moment that anyone can accomplish.
Last Sunday I crossed the Ironman finish line for my second time. It was a completely different experience in many ways from the first Ironman I completed in 2009. This time around there wasn't any curiosity or sense of wonderment. I knew exactly how long and difficult the day would be. This time it wasn't a question of "Can I do this?". It was now a question of "Can I do this faster?". And I knew that finishing the bike ride didn't really mean that I was almost done. Being my second-time around didn't make it any easier. My feet cramped up on the bike, my legs tried to quit on me during the run, and at times it took everything I had just to keep from throwing up.
But as I swam, biked, and ran through Louisville this year, the biggest and best difference was the fact that my wife, Kerry and our two sons were there to cheer me on. When I first became an Ironman in 2009 we lived in Okinawa, Japan, and they weren't able to travel with me to Louisville for the race. They were such a huge part of my training and support that I knew something was missing as I crossed the finish line 9,000 miles away from them.
This year was different though; they were right there with me! Yelling and ringing those signature Ironman cowbells, my family encouraged and fueled me throughout the race with their cheers. The road trip, the race, and the room service brought us closer together as a family. I doubt that my kids will forget staying up way beyond their bedtime to stand in the streets with the cheering crowd and hear the announcer declare their dad an Ironman. But more importantly, I hope they learned that they don't have to be the fastest, or the tallest, or become all-star athletes to accomplish something great. All they really have to do is never give up.
David Mills is author of The Distance: An Average Joe's Path to Balancing Family, Work, And Triathlon available now on Amazon. To find out more visit www.TheDistanceBook.com.