The Ironman Attitude

My good friend, Rob Myers and his wife, Erika Olson Myers are both “Ironmen,” a de-gendered term that describes people who put endurance to the ultimate test. This week he contributes thoughts on his own roller-coaster ride, as an athlete, a husband and a father.

“Toeing the start line of Ironman is more challenging than the race itself.” That’s a statement you’ll hear often from those who surround themselves in this whack-a-do sport. Ironman Indiana provided its fair share of obstacles and wow, were they exceptional:  The family and I battled Covid in May, Julia’s mental health and hospitalization twice in 6 months, a nagging groin injury and a kidney stone that sprung up 3 days before the race.  It felt like the race Gods were telling me something (like don’t do this frickin’ race).  If it were easy, it wouldn’t be as meaningful, and Ironman Indiana has taught and shown me “The prize is in the process.”

Getting to that starting line was hard, damn hard after 2020 throwing us all out of routine and impacting our lives deeper than we’ll possibly know.  That beloved and comforting routine went out the door. I was used to waking up at 4:30am, heading to the gym and training knowing race season is earned during these long, cold, tiring, and arduous months.  But I lost it: “it” is that motivation, that drive, and I thought “hey, doing a race in 2021 will cure me.” Sadly, no race can cure what’s deep in the core, no race can replace mental health, no race can heal a struggling family or help your child fight her mental health battle. I thought it could and I was wrong, way wrong, but the prize is in the process.

All year I wanted to quit, looked at deferring and constantly questioned “why the hell am I doing this?” I remembered my “why” and when reflecting upon the past 10 months, the journey was purposeful even though I couldn’t quite see it right away.  After some self-reflection, I was able to see that I needed help to be a better father, friend, and husband. It is ok to not be ok. It is ok to be vulnerable.  This sport is very ego centric and often for all the wrong reasons.  We all compare our times, our results and THAT is the thief of joy, robbing us of our real accomplishments.  The real accomplishments are those ones that change you, that give insight into your deeper self.  I am now brave enough to ask for help and reaching out to my network for support.  I have begun working on my own mental health journey as we support and help Julia through hers.  That’s the prize. Not the finish time, not the medal, not the t-shirt. And If you haven’t change during Ironman, you’re likely not doing it right.

I proudly made it to the starting line on Saturday. It was the culmination of the process. Race day is your second prize where you get to “enjoy” a long day with thousands of your teammates, your friends and family cheering from afar.  It really is fun! Don’t ask me why or how but looking back at all those miles and months training it is amazing to see all these people on the course knowing what they’ve gone through to get there.  That is the sheer joy of the event and it is powerful.

I was able to race with two friends all day, cheering them on as we all race for something deeper than a medal and some cheers.  Bill Ogden and Dave VanEpps, you both are amazing humans. You are both incredibly giving, sharing your stories, listening to my journey and most important caring. Thank you for your friendship and support.  I also was able to share this day with Erika Olson Myers and my girls.  They were there for that long day, cheering in the rain and helping me get to the next checkpoint so I could see them. Seeing them was the energy boost that Red Bull gives you at 2:00am in Vegas. Those of you that provided cheer from afar, thank you!  I had 26.2 long miles to run and many of you were in my thoughts during that time. Please know you provided me a smile and laugh when it was dark and tough.

The race itself? It’s an Ironman and it is hard. That’s the understatement of the year, right?  I don’t want to bore you with the glorious details of 140.6 miles of swimming, biking, and running.  Here is the “TLDR”: I swam fast and easy and am super happy with my progress here. The bike was a tough with more wind that slowed things down and the run was good until mile 10 where I blew out my groin (MRI on Monday, likely torn) and had to run/walk 16 miles.  All said and done I’m satisfied and proud, but you always want more, or less in this instance.

I had a goal and came up short an hour short (stupid groin) but that’s Ironman. It’s a long day and anything can happen.  The prize is in the process and we learn, adjust, and move forward, just like life. I can’t wait to toe it up again soon but first need to heal up. (stupid groin). I’ll be cheering you all on in your life journeys and battles.  And finally know it is ok to ask for help. Just do it. I am.