You Can Do It
“You can do it.”
These four words may sound simple enough, but their significance is powerful, if you believe in them.
I wanted to write this piece to share a little more about why this race means so much to so many people and with the hope that anyone reading this who thinks, ‘they can’t’ will come away thinking, ‘they can’…do anything they set their mind to…
So we begin:
The energy here at the start of race week in Kona is tangible; it’s only the first day and already downtown Kailua is abuzz with activity.
I jumped in on it already yesterday, when I met my coach for a loop of the swim course first thing in the morning, prior to my second Kona coffee of the morning.
The air temps are lovely, the typical ‘already hot and humid and it’s not even 7 am’, which couldn’t be more perfect for anyone who likes racing in the heat, the swim not too choppy and, since the official start wasn’t until this morning, just a tiny bit of a hint of calm before the storm.
Later today, it’ll be another story.
While athletes have already been trickling in little by little, soon they’ll be coming in en masse.
Athlete registration, the mandatory meetings, the last few days of taper / tuning / training and, perhaps the most important at this time, the mental prep and physical rest.
The very first time I qualified for Kona, it happened at a qualifier held over a year in advance, the 2005 Ironman Wisconsin.
This afforded me the luxury of being able to come see the race in person that year well in advance of racing the next year.
And although I’d done four iron distance races by that time, I had no idea what to expect when I finally got to Kona.
Let’s back up a little.
It’s worth noting that when I first got into the sport, I was anything but naturally fast.
I’ve written about my journey as an athlete before, but more specifically as it pertained to running and how I went from being a recreational age grouper to a competitive athlete.
With triathlon, I started out doing sprint distances, then gradually went longer, and even though I’d heard about Kona when I first began the sport, never in a million years did I really think I’d make it.
My first ironman back in 2001, took me over 15 hours, for context.
I had no clue what I was doing.
So in much so in fact that I never even said out loud that one day, I’d like to race in Kona.
It wasn’t due to lack of confidence; rather, I can say retrospectively that it was simply due to a lack of knowing how to set goals and work hard to achieve them.
So if you’re a reasonably fit age group athlete that’s neither the fastest nor the slowest, it’s fair to understand that you may not believe in your own ability to have great success in anything, be it sport, or work or life!
But then it happens.
You set a small goal and achieve it and then the proverbial Pandora’s box opens. (Can you say that in reference to a good thing?).
What exactly prompted me to decide to utter out loud that I wanted to qualify for Kona, I don’t quite know, and if I recall correctly, I think I was so surprised at it myself that I made a joke about it right afterwards.
But whatever it was, a tiny little spark perhaps, it was strong enough to push me to decide to go for it.
My finishing time at that Ironman wasn’t necessarily the fastest time, but it happened to be enough to garner me a 4th place age group in the Women’s 25-29 division (Gosh,I was young! That race was a week before I turned 30), which, after the roll down, allowed me the honor to accept my very first Kona slot, for the 27th annual Ironman World Championships in 2006.
I hired a coach, I got my training plan in gear and I put in the work.
Back then, I didn’t take days off (the more, the better, I thought), I didn’t get massage (that’d be nice, but it’s a luxury, I thought), I didn’t make sleep a priority (better to get more work in, I thought) and I was just getting the hang of my real paleo diet, so I was still in transition from the healthy but not quite lean looking athlete I was to the physique I’d been working hard for, for so long.
(Note: becoming lean wasn’t from ironman training it was from high fat + paleo. Just saying).
So in other words, despite my education in exercise physiology and being in triathlon for seven years at that point, I still had a lot to learn.
So when I got into Kona for the first time, I was a wreck.
I was scared, panic stricken, unsure of myself and ultimately, I think, unaware about how to accept the fact that I’d actually met an unattainable, or so I thought, goal.
Kind of like when our dogs chased a coyote and cornered it, but then didn’t know what to do next.
But I powered through it and did the best I could at that moment in time.
It was an emotional day, a powerful day, a profound day and a significant day all at the same time.
I learned so much but perhaps the most important thing of all was that there’s just as much of a chance, if not more, of following a positive decision you make to its end than there is a negative one.
And as soon as you say, ‘I can’t’, you won’t.
But when you begin to say, and believe, ‘you can’…well, the world is your oyster!