Ironman Lake Placid: Welcome to the club boys!

Let’s start with my shorts. They are my favorite running shorts — dark blue with a great liner, good fit and good track record for keeping me cool. I should know the brand name, but alas, I don’t. I only know I bought them in the St. Bonaventure University bookstore and I like them. On Sunday, it took all of 15 minutes for them to become completely soaked in my own sweat as I went off on a long run, such was the level of humidity at 6:30 in the morning. I focused on the distance, on getting through a hard workout, instead of on things like my average pace and sopping wet shorts. Putting in the effort and having the right attitude have to count for something, correct?

My vacation began with a trip to Binghamton to visit my brother, sister-in-law and (most importantly) my niece, Ellie. To keep my life simple, I went to the campus of Binghamton University to click off my 15-miles, doing some creative loops and adding in a lap or two on the track just to break things up and give my body a rest from the complete and total hills of the campus roads. (Seriously, no part of this campus if flat.)

I *heart* this water fountain. For real.

By the time I hit the second half of my run, it looked as if I had gone through a sprinkler such was my level of sweat. I was careful to keep hydrated and would like to take this opportunity to sing the praises of the public water fountain, particularly the one located near the Binghamton University track. I loved this water fountain so much, I took a picture of it. For real. The water wasn’t ice cold, but it was cool and had strong pressure to leap out of the spout. I wonder if public water fountains are going the way of the public pay phone — since everyone carries around their own mobile phone or bottle of water, no need to provide the public service. As a runner, cyclist and generally active human being, I plead with municipalities to create and maintain water fountains. Should I ever run for office, this would be my platform. But I digress.

Hills and humidity were conspiring to make this a slow, difficult and mentally challenging run. Ah, but then I remembered what day it was. Sunday was Ironman Lake Placid, one of my most favorite days of the year, and among the number of people I knew completing the 140.6 miles, three of them were good friends and first-timers. I thought of them on my run, how they were pushing themselves, challenging themselves, and facing obstacles much greater than I on my little 15-mile hilly run. My attitude stayed on the positive side, even as my legs were sore and I gave up looking at my splits lest I start to judge the quality of the run based on an arbitrary numeric value. I was out here running. That was the key. Those guys were out in Lake Placid, living to the fullest and learning a bit more about themselves. Different branches of the same tree for us on this day and I finished my run happy with my effort and attitude while sending positive thoughts to the gang in Lake Placid.

As I made my way from Binghamton to Massachusetts for phrase two of my vacation, I checked in on the IMers progress via Internet, text message and phone calls with Mark. Hitch finished in 10 hours, 32 minutes, surely slower than he wanted but still an amazing time and one that has me in awe of his ability and his drive. (Initial word, too, was that he got sick during the race. Seriously, dude, you kick ass.)

Corey and John also finished, each in the 14-hour range. Corey trained for Ironman while he and his wife welcomed their first daughter, Giada, into the world, a task which I can’t begin to imagine for a new father. John, meanwhile, separated his shoulder two weeks before the race, yet managed to not only finish, but turning in an amazingly strong performance.

Part of me is jealous, wanting that race-day experience again for myself. Part of me is inspired, reminded that I am capable of so much more than I believe I am. And part of me wants to welcome them into the club. Sometimes, I forget that I’ve done an Ironman, that I’ve gone through all the same training and doubt and anxiety and swings of confidence. But the Ironman does change you — because you realize that you are strong and capable and confident, that you can keep going when you think you’re ready to give up, that setbacks are not catastrophic but merely new challenges. You realize that whatever it is you want — really want — you can probably get. And if you don’t get it exactly the way you imagined, it’s because you’ve been given an incredible gift from the universe. You just need to see the opportunity.

Welcome to the Ironman Club, guys. As you enjoy your recovery, you get the ask the most exciting and terrifying question: What’s next?

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