I still remember those words; “Jeff Colburn, from Frederick, Maryland. You are an Ironman!” The way I started that day, some would have thought it highly unlikely I would be crossing the finish line fourteen hours later.
I was at Ironman Arizona; a triathlon that involves a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. To say I had a slow start would be an understatement. You have 2:15 to complete the swim; I finished in 2:10. I had just made the cutoff by 5 minutes. The average swim time is 1:30, so I was one of the last triathletes out of the water. The racks in the transition area were empty except for a handful of bikes. The race volunteer had no problem finding my bike.
Some might ask why bother going forward. You are so far behind, what hope do you have. However I am either too stubborn or too stupid to quit, so I mounted my bike and heading out onto the course. In reality, I knew going in that my swim would be weak, and my race wouldn't really start until I reached my bike.
Over the 6:30 hours in took me to complete the 112-mile bike course; I was able to pass 265 fellow triathletes. And when I completed the run course and heard those delightful words, I had caught another 372. So having come out of the water 2,341 overall, I managed to move up 637 positions to finish 1,704 overall.
How did I do this? It wasn’t so much what I did as it was what the others around me did. Since I never completed an Ironman before, I knew if I made it out of the water in time, I didn’t want to do anything that would cause me not to finish. So I held a consistent pace. The ones I caught on the bike, had a quick start out of the water and just weren’t strong on the bike. While others spent all their energy on the swim and the bike that they had nothing left for the run. Many walked the entire 26.2 miles, taking over 7 hours to complete the run course.
My point is, and what many have said before me; it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. So many people quit before they even try. They look at their position at the start of life and believe there is no way they can get ahead. They are the last ones out of the water and don’t even attempt the bike.
So the strong swimmers had the advantage; stable home, encouraging parents, good education, and better opportunities. Their comfortable start may have caused them not to prepare properly for that long bike course called life; they struggle to push forward and some never reach the transition area.
You kicked, splashed, and finally pulled yourself free of the water. What if you are stronger on the bike? Despite your weak swim, you find the bike comes natural to you; you maintain a consistent cadence and soon find that you are catching those strong swimmers who started before you. We won’t know unless we mount our bike and start pedaling.
You maintained that steady cadence the entire bike; never slowing down, but more importantly, never going too fast. Encouraged by your bike results and with the majority of the race behind you, you maintain that same consistency during the run.
Ahead of you are those you spent everything on the bike, they are done. Many walk, others have collapsed to the ground. It will be a long time before they reach the finish, and some will quit before they get there. They will wonder what had happened. They had such a good swim and a strong bike, how is it that they have nothing left.
You reel them in and put them behind you. You had the courage to start the bike and the intelligence not to burn all your energy.
The road ahead can appear daunting at times and we question how we are going to cover such a great distance. We must remain encouraged, we must move forward each day, and tackle each obstacle that lies before us. In time, we can look back and see how much distance we have covered, and the destination ahead is drawing closer.
It's Team Caveo's mission to assist the weak swimmers to climb on their bikes and begin their race.