July 22 | 21 days to go
I’m often asked what do I think is going to be the hardest part about an endurance triathlon. Most times, my answer is different, depending on what I’m feeling that day, but usually its one of the same three things: 1) finding the time to train, 2) nutrition – what to eat in a normal training day and what to eat during the race to have enough energy to race for 7 continuous hours, or 3) running for 2+ hours after 4+ hours of swimming and biking. Then this answer is usually followed up by either a “wow, that’s a lot”, or “I don’t know how you do it”. The answer to that statement, how I do it, is not hard: I made a choice. Last October I made the choice to start this journey, once that choice was made, I have relied on four words that I’ve adopted over the last two years as my pillars of strength, and my method to get up from setbacks and continue working towards a better future.
Four words, well five technically, that changed my life. Four ideas that became the cornerstones of my healing and ideas I continue to rely upon them to push towards this giant goal of completing a half-Ironman race 21 short days from today. These thoughts are things I’ve picked up along the way, learned from people a lot smarter than I am, read somewhere or heard someone speak about but together they are a powerful recipe that provides, for me, hope of a brighter future.
Information, Inspiration, Hard Work and Dedication
These are the ideas that helped me get through heart disease, brain cancer and these four ideas are continuing to help me aim for the goal of completing a half-Ironman next month.
Information | Learning as much as you can about something. There is great power in knowledge and with power comes the ability to overcome the fear of beginning. Sometimes the hardest step in any journey is the first one. Gaining information is the tool that has helped me to overcome stagnation, fear and launched me into progress. After the diagnosis of heart disease I read books by Dr. Ornish and Dr. Esselstyn about reversing Heart Disease; after the brain cancer diagnosis I read books like Anti-Cancer – A New Way of Life, and when I decided to run a triathlon, I immediately bought books like Strength Training for Triathletes. The point is that by gathering information, the fear dissipates, the cliff you think you are standing on the edge of is actually the base of a mountain, and the newfound information can serve as a map to the summit.
Inspiration | No journey up a mountain can be completed with knowledge alone. Many times, during cardiac rehab, throughout chemotherapy, and training for this triathlon, I have thought about giving up, thought about reducing my expectations for myself, or thought about skipping a workout. Its’ in these moments that I rely on inspiration to keep me going. Inspiration exists all around us, if we stop only to look and take it in. During cardiac rehab, I was inspired by the opportunity to regain my health. To see people 20 years older than I was, showing up and being committed to cardiac rehab as a means to live their best lives inspired me to do the same. In my cancer battle, I was inspired by the other cancer patients choosing to fight and the friends and family that supported me constantly.
Friends would send me pictures of their “DavisStrong” bands, a source of inspiration. Scott Treon, a friend and coworker who fought courageously through his brain cancer journey. Scott inspired me more than I ever had the chance to tell him.
Hard Work | Once you commit to doing something, once you make the choice to get up and keep going, know that its going to be hard work. Heart disease was hard, losing 30 pounds through Cardiac Rehab required hard work. Brain Cancer was hard. Enduring radiation and chemotherapy while trying to build a family and raise two young daughters was hard. Sometimes in life the things that are the most important are also the most difficult. We can’t be afraid to put in the hard work that is necessary to fulfill our dreams. Training for a triathlon has been hard work. My workout schedule is typically early morning before the girls wake up or 8:30 at night as they are making their way to bed. I am trying to minimize the amount of time I am away from them, the result of this choice is that training is hard. Running a 60 minute interval training after a long day of work and parenting is hard work. But it is also worthwhile. The mantra I keep repeating when the training is hard is the same mantra I used during the hard times of cancer “YOU ARE NOT DONE YET, KEEP GOING“
This weekend I had my “race prep” training. Friday night swim workout was 2,700 yards, Saturday Brick (bike to run) workout was a 30 mile bike followed by a 10 mile run. This weekend’s work was hard, but I wouldn’t have made it through them without gutting out some hard workouts that were 500 yards in the pool, 10 miles on the bike or 2 mile runs. Hard is relative. Building strength in training is a lot like building love, hope and gratitude, it’s about muscles that require work to build.
Dedication | Probably the most important of the four. To really achieve our dreams requires a level of dedication that is stronger than the doubts that creep in and distract us from achieving our goals. Every day I have a choice, do I workout like my training plan says I should, or do I take a night off. It’s been 917 days since I was diagnosed with cancer. It is due to the dedication I have to be healthy, to be strong, and to be a positive example for my kids and my community that I would even be able to exercise for 42 miles like I did this weekend. I’ve had to make the choice to remain dedicated to the goal and that means dedicating myself to take each step, one at a time, that leads from where I’ve been to where I want to go.
To wrap up today’s post, I want to make a clarification, dedication is different than perfection. I do not always choose to follow my training plan, I sometimes choose to take the night off. I sometimes choose to have the cake, I sometimes choose to sleep in, and I sometimes am not the picture of hope and strength I wish to be. But that is ok. I am not perfect, and I don’t expect myself to be. Being dedicated to reach a goal is about allowing yourself to be imperfect. To know yourself and know when you need to reach back into the bank of information and inspiration to get back on track. Be dedicated to progress, don’t be afraid to fail, treat each failure as a learning opportunity.
Three weeks ago I had signed up for a 1/3 Ironman event at Cowan Lake. This 1.2 mile swim, 36.6 mile bike and 9.3 mile run event was the last stop on my race training before my half Ironman. It was 100 degrees out that day, and humid. About 10 minutes into the run, I couldn’t go any further, I had reached the limit of my ability to move with any degree of pace. I had swam the 1.2, biked the 36.6 and was about 1.5 miles into the run. With 8 miles to go, I was gassed, but I remained dedicated to the goal. I walked for 5 more miles and completed 6.2 miles of the run course. And I decided to end my race.
Here’s the lesson though, although “ending the race” may feel like not being dedicated, in truth deciding to end the race is the embodiment of my dedication. I knew three things that day 1) this was not the biggest race of my season, 2) I’ve met my quota of hospital visits over the past two years and 3) if I keep going, I will be down for a week recovering. So I stopped. But in stopping, I was able to stay on track of my training and this weekend’s output proved that decision to be a wise one. I remained dedicated to the larger goal and reached back into the information and inspiration bucket and got right back on track. Dedication is not about success and failure, its about persistence and choosing to get back up once you are able. The other great thing about ending the race early, my girls got to finish with me. The race team was nice enough to give them each medals, and to them, they didn’t see a quitter, they didn’t know I stopped one lap (3.1 miles short of the goal), they saw their daddy working towards his goals, and they got to have a medal around their neck to prove it. Remember when I mentioned that more is caught than taught? This was a catching moment.