Pre-Race Thank Yous

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As I wake upon the precipice of tomorrow, I find myself in a reflective mood. I’ve written so much about my training and plans to get me to this point, but haven’t spent nearly enough time on thanking the people who have been a part of the team to get me here.

Marlin_smallThe value of family is an interesting topic for me. My parents did what they could, but divorced when I was young. My older brother went off to college while I was still early in high school, and my little brother lived with our father during those years. While we couldn’t be more different in personality, belief systems, and fondness for pain and suffering in triathlon, it has been great to have my little brother in Seattle and back in my life these last few years. He and I didn’t get along as teenagers, and I was gone from home from age 17 onward. We never really got to know each other. He’s been a welcome addition to weekends at the house, and his nieces and nephew love him. More than anything, I find his random encouragement both surprising and endearing.

Brandon_SmallAs incredibly self-serving as this might be, I want to thank this guy. This is me at 14. If someone had told my 4 foot 10 inch, 85 pound high school freshman self that someday I would be competing in Ironman races, I would have laughed. I always loved sports, and was allowed to participate on some teams I likely should not have been. Soccer and track were fine, because I was fast and tenacious. Football is another story. Yet, it is to football that I credit who I am today. It’s a story for another time, but when your varsity coaches assign the task of getting the kicker’s tee off the field post kick off, you know you are a scrub. That didn’t matter to me though. I just love football. The memory of being assigned that shit task hurts a lot less now than it did then, but I stuck with the game, and eventually had a confidence building breakthrough one Friday in October 1991. That’s a story for another time. But this guy, all braces and bones, learned about persistence and perseverance. No matter what  happens, keep moving forward.

KidBots_smallThe Kid Bots. Having kids isn’t easy. Anyone with kids knows that. My lofty goal involves not screwing them up. They are incredibly caring, full of love, and I hope that they take away from all of the commitment and effort that daddy has put into this journey that if you set your goals, and do the work, success will follow. My oldest now comes out into the garage when I am on the trainer and greets me with a common phrase I use, “training is the essence of success.” Who knows what they will become in their lives, but I do hope that they see their father working hard to chase all of his dreams, and know that they too have it in them to do the same.

coachBen-USATCoach Ben. I came to you 18 months ago with a ridiculous dream. You were kind enough not to tell me to bugger off. You have seen me at my worst (364 days ago, but no one is counting), and you brought out amazing change in my life. I don’t believe I have ever been this healthy in my entire life, and I am staring at 40. I am running faster over distance than I have ever ran in my life, swimming faster, and riding very strong. This is only year two of a multi-year journey, and I still vow to punch my ticket to the 70.3 World Championships, but you have been the chief navigator on this journey. There are good coaches, and there are bad coaches. And there are great coaches. Good coaches get you to the good places, but great coaches get you out of the dark places. I’ve seen a few, and my neuroses continue to threaten to derail me at every turn, but you steer me clear of the rocks. For the first time in my racing career, I feel like I am here to race, not merely participate in an endurance event. I’m ready, and your plan got me here. I may not be one of your genetic freak athletes who have already qualified for Worlds. I am just an average guy, who only has so many hours to train, and I come to believe that anyone can achieve greatness, they just have to want it bad enough, be willing to work hard to get there, and find the right mentors to chart that journey.

Christy_smallWhat words can a man as lucky as I am put to paper about his wife? It’s been a long running joke, but anyone who meets us knows that my standards are obviously much higher than hers. When I almost died in 2011, you could have put your foot down and said “no more bikes.” You didn’t. You did the exact opposite, and in fact perfect, thing for me. You told me that I had to get back to the things I love and stop moping around the house. When the healing process was done, you were the one who suggested I get a coach so that I could get back to racing. You were the one who directed me to get back to my happy place. You are the one who has been there through all of this. You are the one who has had to manage this grumpy-as-can-be person when things were going wrong. You were the one who has provided the necessary support to allow me to pursue this most selfish of endeavors. You are the one who inspires me. You are the one who shares in my success, but supports me in my failures. You are the one. The one. One. I love you.

When all is said and done, I toe the line in about 25 hours. I feel ready, but I am also scared. Hard to say that out loud, but I am scared. Scared of what happened here last year. Scared of not meeting expectations. Scared that all of the hard work over the last year will go up in smoke with one bad race. Really hard to admit that. It would be even harder to handle if I didn’t have the the support team. All of you provide something different, and it matters…a lot. Thank you. See you at the finish line.