Monday, June 30, 2008

On Finishing And Starting Again

"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour,
whatever he does, whoever he is.

"The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
--C.S. Lewis

If you take over 13 hours to race an Ironman, you will be watching the sun drift lazily and reluctantly below the mountains as you finally turn around between miles 20 and 21 on the run course in Idaho. The lake shimmers like molten gold, and if you're as lucky as we were, a breeze blows off the water with the promise of a cool night ahead. It is at this point that things start to really improve. Lies and pain give way to truth and painful joy.

For much of the previous hours, you have been fighting big negative thoughts with little rhythmic ones.Some people would say it is the psyche that's picking on you, asking you rhetorical questions that have no purpose on a race course, questions like:

"What are you doing?"

"You've already done one of these. What's the point? Look at those people already finishing. You'll never be as fast as they are, even if you quit your job and trained full time."

"If you're going to be THIS slow, you might as well walk. Why keep on running?"

"Nobody will care if you quit."

It might be the psyche--it might be Lucifer. Whatever. It serves no purpose for good. You will care if you quit. You know it beyond certainty, and you complain to yourself when you walk. So you drown out Lucifer--or yourself--with white noise--little thoughts as simple as the rhythm of your foot strikes and the song in your head.

"I'm gonna break
gonna break my
gonna break my rusty cage and run."

And as the sun finally disappears into twilight, the road tips up as you come back into town for the final time.

You can see the towers from the resort on the skyline, and you know you will reach them. That is where you will finish. The course is mostly quiet now. Many of the neighbors have gone inside for the night. You can see them through their windows. But some are still there. Someone who has been in their front yard all day cheering Ironmen in all shapes and sizes tells you it is 1.7 miles to the finish. Someone else is there later to tell you it is 1.2 miles. Yet again, another man on a bike, who has been in the same spot since you last saw him more than an hour ago, says, "Three more turns. You've got this. Good job." And one more angel whom you encounter unawares says, "six blocks; only six blocks."

You can hear the music and the loudspeakers and see the lights, and like whirling faster and faster down a funnel, it gets tighter, narrower, crazier and louder until you are just carried along. Somewhere you hear your name shouted and your child grabs your hand. Both of you are swept down the chute:

And even though the earth tilts sideways and your body starts to chill and shake and shiver, you know.

You know that those questions in your head were nonsense, lies that only seem true under stress.

You know that you'll do this again.

And you know why.

Because seeking comfort and avoiding pain are suitable motivations only for lower animals, not for human beings bearing the image of God.

Because pain and risk are the worthy price for taking the gift of life and using it.

Because burying the gift of your one and only life in the ground rather than drinking it dry and sucking the marrow from the bones is a sin.

Because $10,000 raised to fight the disease that grips your wife is only just beginning.

Because the reward of the hard journey is far better than the anesthesia of couch and table.

Because the happy few that live the adventurous life never let you feel alone.

Because everyone gets 60 minutes per hour to journey toward the future, and those 60 minutes should be full to overflowing.

Because the broad and plain highway does not go to your desired destination. The traffic is awful and the scenery sucks.

Because the narrow way is beautiful.

Because, you need it.


Because you're an Ironman.


:) said...

My. Hero.

/prints out entire post and pins it on office wall/



Ditto Flatman's response. You wrote a prayer of thanksgiving, gratitude and hope.

Spokane Al said...

Your post was moving and absolutely spot on!

Congratulations on your race and your ability to capture the essence in words for the rest of us.

Stef0115 said...

Yeah this post needs to be printed. Probably the best I've seen since starting to lurk on your blog.

I'm going to email you about raising money for MS. Hope you don't mind. :-)

Congratulations on your finish. Great photos thanks for sharing them.

Kevin said...

I am speechless. Just amazing words

trigirl82 said...

Excellent. Congrats on your finish!

Benson said...

A thousand words
and more.


Garry said...

That's it!!! You have just collected all the disjointed thoughts I have had as I do these races and put them in a prayer for all Ironman participants.
Awesome race report and awesome race! Congratulations and thank you for putting the pen to paper and explaining why we do this again and again.

21stCenturyMom said...

As others have pointed out that was very well said.

Both you and Momo have said that you need Ironman. What's up next?

Alili said...

"Because pain and risk are the worthy price for taking the gift of life and using it."

That's a keeper. Bravo Greyhound.

Jumper 2.0 said...

Beautifully written!

Yep, I may just have to copy this one and read it every once in a while.

Fe-lady said...

Spot. On.

So glad I got to meet you and your family...

So yeah, where next?

(I will remember this post when I am on the course, next year..God willing.)

CoachLiz said...

And all we need in the back ground is "Fanfare for the Common Man"

You fought the demons and you came out victorious. It is true that finishing an Ironman changes a person. They learn that they can overcome the inner voice telling them to choose to take the easy road rather than surviving the crucible.

Carrie said...

It belongs in print. You are masterful with words. It was so good to see you and the family again!

monica said...


that's all i gotta say...

RBR said...

By far the greatest crossing finish line photo ever taken.

Beautiful. I have nothing to add, it was worth the wait and just beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Tammy said...

Wow.. you have a way with words. Great story, report, thoughts. You captured it all so well...Ironman.

Rainmaker said...

Great post - very well written. Congrats btw!

Born To Endure said...

Yes...what the others have said..congrats and I need to keep reading this over and over..thanks!

triguyjt said...

stupendous post. I'm with flat words would fall off the cliff in keeping up with your prose... and this.
(And even though the earth tilts sideways and your body starts to chill and shake and shiver, you know.

You know that those questions in your head were nonsense, lies that only seem true under stress.

You know that you'll do this again.

And you know why.)

Thats some wicked, wicked wordage greyhound.. I will print this bad boy out and refer others to it....

and yes..congrats on another ironman finish and on planning to do another..

Kim said...

oh my god i have tears in my eyes. incredible post. i heart you.

Brent Buckner said...

Great post.
Glad you're doing what you need to.

SWTrigal said...

Great finishing picture and description!

momo said...

exactly perfect. thank you, k. you brought tears to my eyes, too.

we need to.

Supalinds said...

Your words, the way you put them together, they are beautiful. They have the ability to bring it all into focus, to feel like we were right next to you on your journey. We were there!!

Congratulations, Ironman - you made us proud.

Pharmie said...

AMEN! Congrats again on a great race, and thanks for putting into words how I've felt all along.

Unknown said...

Great post! And congrats.

Scott said...

Maybe you do it to help those like me keep going. Thank you!

Jane said...

Superpounce is growing up!

Since this race was fairly early, what are you going to do the rest of the season?

Real Deal said...

Wow. With 12 days left until my first Ironman, that was awesome to read. Thanks!

Donald said...

I bookmarked this before going out of town so I could absorb it better on my return.

I'm glad I did. It's absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

Congrats, Ironman.

Junie B said...

Must. print. off.


Unknown said...

Oh wow. Wow. Wow. I needed this. You have no idea how badly I needed this.

Jill Ann said...

You inspire learn to swim for the 5th time. No dropping out. What a story.

Congrats and I hope to meet you one day. We need more people like you...

Tracy said...

Wow you so rock. Just amazing!