When I chose my first 70.3 race, I went where all my friends were going — Muskoka Canada. And while I love the area and the people, I probably could have chosen a slightly more beginner-friendly course since I was tackling the distance in just my second year of endurance sports.
So as the questions about me doing an Ironman began to emerge, I was drawn to not just try the distance. I wanted the right race.
I found it. The Esprit Triathlon in Montreal was a course that was flat, with a lot of loops and a perfect swim set-up.
But perhaps the best thing about the Esprit Triathlon was the feeling of family at every turn.
It started for me when Mark and I were welcomed into his cousin’s home. She and her husband not only allowed us to stay with them (making for a more comfortable environment than a hotel room) but also laid out everything we needed and gave us space to relax and prepare. Seriously, the details can mean a lot — even if it’s as simple as leaving out the pasta pot and strainer.
Race director Danny McCann, who has been organizing the event for 25 years and recently was inducted into the Canadian Triathlon Hall of Fame, not only runs a quality event, but is dedicated to helping people finish the Ironman. He wants you to succeed and that feeling comes through all day long. Trust me, knowing that every single person involved is committed to supporting you and seeing you finish makes a huge difference. It’s an extra burst of confidence. It puts you in a comfort zone.
Of course, that support sometimes came en francais which meant I didn’t quite understand it. On the bike course, supports and fellow competitors would shout out encouragement. When I didn’t understand I smiled, nodded and gave a thumbs-up. When No. 59 in the Esprit race (I knew she was in my race by her number and red race bib) yelled to me, “Way to go 60!” without any hint of accent, I knew we could converse.
Turns out No. 59 was also doing her first Ironman. I passed her several times on the bike and we gave each other encouragement. At one point, it seemed like she was worried about making the bike cutoff. I assured her she had plenty of time. I tried to find her on the run course, but didn’t. I sent out positive energy to her though and found out later, from her sister on the sideline, that she had two laps of the run course to go. In the final results, I discovered that Maria Helena Meirinho of Kingston, finished in 16:12:12. I wish she had come to the awards brunch on Sunday. I would have loved to talk to her without navigating around a turn in between flying Olympic-distance cyclists.
The run course was gong to be the most difficult part of the race from a mental standpoint. I had heard the stories from other Ironman finishers about mentally getting through that part of the race.
But the complete horror never came.
Oh, it hurt physically. It was hard. But at this point, I was running with friends. My buddy Larry, whom I have known for a year since interviewing him for a story on Ironman Lake Placid, was with me and I met his posse — Woody and Joe, both doing the Ironman, along with Tom and Chris. Eventually, we all ended upon the run course together. I don’t know if I held them back from running faster or more often than they normally would. The thought did cross my mind. But my appreciation is endless. We chatted. We sang. I listened to their stories.
The entire atmosphere kept me from spiraling into any doubt.
The thoughts and well-wishes of my friends far and wide, most notably delivered to me via Facebook, helped spur me on, too. One friend, Mary, noted after I finished, “Now is that enough to slay the dragon of doubt?”
Indeed, it may just be.
See, getting through the Ironman, or any challenging task, comes down to you. I realize I was the only person to get myself through the race. I was the one who did the training, the taper, the preparation. I was the only one who could actually get myself through it.
But part of creating the life we want involves drawing in exactly what we need to succeed and be happy. I needed people like Best Boyfriend Mark and Maria and Larry and the gang. I needed a race director like Danny and a race like Esprit. And I found them. Because I focused on what I wanted, in my life and in this race.
The universe supports you when you live your most authentic self. What you need will just show up.
It feels like magic. But when we stop forcing action and instead let action flow from our feelings and thoughts and places of quiet, universal support becomes an every day occurrence.