If you are a triathlete, are thinking of doing your first triathlon, know a triathlete and wonder why the hell we do what we do, or have a penchant for the dramatic, then you must watch the 2009 Ironman World Championships DVD. I thought the DVD was a consolation prize for not being selected in the 2010 Kona Ironman lottery. How wrong I was.
A few weeks ago I started watching the DVD during a bike trainer session. This morning, I finished the video.
Maybe it's better put that the DVD finished me. I was emotionally drained as they showed the final few finishers cross the line -- staggering, delirious, pained. Some joyous for barely making the cut-off time. Others absolutely crushed for missing their goal after spending 17 hours trying their best. The Ironman can be quite cruel. Trying your best simply isn't good enough -- if you don't hit that 17-hour deadline, it's as if you didn't even show up.
Watching competitors' dreams either exalted or annihilated tore me apart. I sat on the couch eating breakfast, feeling a wall of emotion flood my eyes. The tears started pouring down my face as footage was shown of a man with one leg completely breaking down on the final few miles of the marathon, even with his entire family trying to encourage him with every step. Another woman, 76, called her friend to pick her up during the bike ride because she was having trouble maintaining her balance.
All these tales led me to do things in front of a TV I don't normally do. I clapped with people finished. I shouted encouragement as if I was in the stands.
And I found myself repeating one phrase over and over until I was practically sobbing: "I WILL finish."
"I WILL finish."
"I WILL FINISH!"
"I WILL finish."
I can't tell if I was trying to convince myself I'd finish my Ironman no matter what, or that I was above the physical and mental breakdowns and those images of demise and dejection won't touch me that day. I think it's a little bit of both.
It doesn't really matter though. What struck me as the DVD ended was just how vested I am in this journey. It is a statement about who I am. A competitor. And I want this so damn bad. I really hope nothing will stand in my way on November 21. But if it does, I will most certainly remember this morning on the couch. I will remember the tears. The visions. My solitary oath.
I WILL FINISH.
191 days and counting.