Growing up in a family of 8 boys and 1 girl, I have always been a fairly competitive person. As an adult, I ran in many local races, such as the Crescent City Classic. Around 2003, one of my brothers started running and recruited me to join him in longer distance races. From 2003 to 2012, we ran a number of local races, including numerous half marathons. When I finally ran my first marathon, I hated the last 6 miles and swore I would never do it again.
In April of 2013, a friend of mine heard that I was swimming laps at the YMCA pool, in addition to running. He suggested that I try a triathlon. So, I bought a bike and completed a short triathlon in May. I was hooked!
Fast forward to May 2017. After completing 4 marathons, over 30 triathlons, including 6 Half Ironman races, I took the plunge and signed up for Ironman Florida in Panama City. I was certainly concerned about being able to complete a one day event consisting of a 2.4 mile swim in the Gulf, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and ultimately a full marathon (26.2 mile). It’s a giant undertaking.
Whether you want to lose 40 pounds, get your college degree, or start your own business, there is a similar blueprint to follow. First, you must have a vision to which you are dedicated. You must be willing to sacrifice. Second, you must have a good plan and employ the expertise and experience of others who have gone before you. Third, you must have a reasonable timetable. You can’t expect to lose 40 pounds in one month. Fourth, you must follow the plan and not vary unless conditions change. There will be speedbumps. You will have to be flexible and ready to adjust. Fifth, you must keep the vision of the finish line in your head at all times.
So my journey to eat the elephant began in early May of 2017. I put “skin in the game” by forking up about $800 to register, and another $450 for a hotel for 3 nights in Panama City. I had approximately 6 months to train for the race. I began talking to people who had completed Ironman races. I watched YouTube videos of various aspects of training and completing the Ironman. I hired a certified coach who had done Ironman races. The elephant was huge, but many others had eaten it. So my swims, bike rides and runs became longer and longer over the months. I was right on schedule until I hit that dreaded speedbump 12 weeks before the race, when I injured my foot. It was time to adjust. I realized that I couldn’t run, but I could walk. I started walking like crazy.
As race week approached, I was nervously excited. My coach helped me create a game plan for the race. First, swim only as fast as you can comfortably breathe. Second, watch the power/watts on the bike computer, not your speed; pace yourself at an effort you can maintain for 6 hours. Third, a walk/jog ratio plan was put into place. Also, throughout the race, make sure to fuel properly. We developed a detailed plan for calorie intake along the way.
The race started at daybreak and I finished in the dark. I followed the plan and the race went very smoothly. The finish line chute was incredible, lined with screaming fans, bright lights and loud music. As the announcer shouted,” Dan Prados, You are an Ironman”, I felt an amazing feeling of accomplishment. I really did it. I ate the elephant.
As the New Year approaches, what is your Ironman? Yours is probably different than mine. However, we all need something to shoot for, to keep life exciting. What is it that you would really like to accomplish, but you can’t seem to get started? Make a decision. You are much stronger than you think. The first step is often the hardest. When you cross that finish line, you will have more confidence to carry out that next goal. Make 2018 an epic year.
- Dream big
- Create a solid game plan, employing the expertise of others
- Have a reasonable timetable
- Adjust for speedbumps
- Keep the picture of the finish line in your mind at all times
- Don’t give up!