The things I learned helping at Ironman Canada…

03 Sep

I have come to learn some very important lessons this past Sunday.

On Sunday, August 28, 2011 my husband competed in Ironman Canada in Penticton, BC.  For anyone who has never heard of an Ironman, it is a triathlon where the athletes swim 4km, bike 180km and then run 42km. It is a grueling day for him. I have watched him train for years, but the lessons I learned were not from him.

To help pass the long day, I volunteered in the Women’s Change Tent.  There, I helped the athletes get ready for the next leg of the race.  I would organize the items in their gear bag, help them get their shirts down over their backs and then pack what they didn’t need back in their bag and move it to where they would pick it up at the end of the day.  It was a lot of work, yet very rewarding.  I spent roughly 5 minutes with each woman I helped.

What did I learn?

  1. These women know perseverance. They just pushed through the pain and the heat and finished the race.
  2. They know how to set goals. One woman I spoke with decided one year ago to register for this Ironman. She did some biking and running but pretty much had to learn to swim!
  3. They know how to gracefully accept defeat. Each leg of the race has a cut off time. If you do not make it to the transition area before that time, you may not continue. They cry, then they hold their head high and accept it as experience, “I will learn from this and do things differently the next time”.
  4. They need encouragement. Some of them came off their bike not sure if they could carry on. I would need to help them prepare for the run while gently telling them that they can do it.
  5. They understand that it’s okay to take a break now and again.  The best story of the day was about an athlete that was really feeling the heat. He got off his bike, laid down in the grass and asked a spectator to wake him in half an hour!  Many of the women took the time to rest in the change tent even if it was just for 2 minutes.
  6. They can laugh at themselves and circumstances beyond their control.  Another great story was from a woman who went to use the port-a-potty after gearing up for the bike.  She was carrying her helmet with her bike gloves inside.  She slipped going in, her hand landed in the urinal and one of her gloves flew into the toilet.  The only thing she could do was pick it out, she needed them for the ride!  She said all day her hand smelled like crap and it just made her laugh.

How does this translate into real life?

  1. If they can persevere on a day like that I can certainly do it in the small things.  I can get up and put in 5k.  I can eat healthy on a daily basis.  I can get through the laundry and housecleaning.  I know that it doesn’t seem like Ironman and housecleaning go together, but I must persevere in the things that are part of my life!
  2. We can all set goals.  They don’t have to be big.  Maybe it is just a goal to get out for a walk three times a week.  Maybe it is to plan each week’s meals on a Sunday night.  Whatever it is, we all need goals and then we need to head back to number one and persevere so that we can meet those goals.  I need goals to keep running, so I sign up for local 5k and 10k races, they keep me motivated.
  3. I have learned that when I fall down from my goals, that I just have to refocus and move on.  If healthy eating is my goal, then one bad day should not turn into a bad week.  I just need to pick myself up, refocus and remember what my goals are.  I will not let defeat get the better of me, each day and each hour I can start fresh.
  4. I do need encouragement.  That comes in many forms.  I’m encouraged when I step on the scale and it goes down.  I’m encouraged when my clothes fit just a little better.  I’m encouraged when I finish my run in the time that I expect.  I feel great when I feel the sweat just pour off my face after a great workout.  I’m totally encouraged by my husband.  He treads that lightly because he doesn’t want to accidentally discourage me, but he is really awesome.  My friends encourage me.  It is important to surround yourself with the type of friends who will help you achieve your goals.
  5. No one can go 100km/hour forever.  Give yourself permission to enjoy life.
  6. Laughter is good for the soul.  Thankfully, my kids are really good at helping me with this one.  It kind of goes hand in hand with defeat.  Learn to laugh at your mistakes, learn from them and move on.

I learned some good lessons and I hope to implement them for a long time to come.


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