New Motivation in Seven minutes, 52 seconds
Two hours, 27 minutes and 52 seconds is a long time to spend swimming. It also was the start to my first attempt at an Ironman Triathlon race on Nov. 17, 2013, in Arizona.
Unfortunately, that extra seven minutes, 52 seconds doomed the rest of my race. To continue the triathlon, I had to finish the 2.4-mile swim in two hours and 20 minutes or less.
Ever since my grandmother and I watched Julie Moss crawl across the finish line in 1982 at the Ironman World Championships, I’ve been intrigued by the race. It consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. There are races held around the world, and the one in Arizona was the day after my birthday, so, in my mind, it was the logical one to train for.
I started slowly by swimming a bit and riding a trainer in my basement. I also broke three treadmills. Just bad luck, I hoped. I bought all the right equipment, read the books and prepared as well as I could. I enlisted a trainer and a swim coach for a while, but later did it on my own.
My training went well. But I could have done more. There were opportunities I missed and I thought I had done enough. That, and a vacation just three weeks before the race kept me preoccupied. But I still believed I was ready. I believed I would finish right before the midnight cutoff.
On the day of the race I felt pretty good. The water was about 65 degrees and 2,500 strangers were in it with me. The gun sounded, and suddenly I felt like I was in a high-powered washing machine. I was kicked, swam over and jostled by every one of those other swimmers. I lost focus, rhythm and some confidence. But I was determined. I couldn’t get my stroke back, so I swam breaststroke instead of freestyle. It was tough. I was behind, but had a volunteer in a kayak encouraging me the entire way.
I swam farther than I ever had in my life, but still just missed the cutoff. The extra seven minutes and 52 seconds was my undoing.
At the time, I was upset. I was even more upset the next morning, when I saw a finisher hobbling around the hotel lobby.
Then, my anger turned into determination and resolve.
If he could do it, so could I. I had the knowledge, I had the training, I had the support – all I needed was the speed. I could fix that.
Training for the Ironman is like the obstacles we face every day. We can try, and we can fail, but most important, we can overcome our challenges. It’s in each of us to make the effort if we so choose.
I know I’ll sign up for another Ironman, and I will finish. To me, it’s about the challenge and the effort and when it is done, the finish line.
My next Ironman, I expect to hear at the finish line, “Mark Romney, “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”
Oh, and I’ll get the tattoo.