Am I Ready?

Just before Florida 70.3. Wondering "am I ready?" Photo courtesy of Evan Tardy photography

MODIFIED, EDITED AND REPUBLISHED FROM A POST WRITTEN DECEMBER 8, 2011. THOUGHT IT WAS WORTH REVISITING TODAY:

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

I recently read a blog post written by Gordo Byrn titled “Am I Ready?”. It reminded me that I hadn’t addressed the subject in my own life. I can look back on moments in my life that served as mental, physical, and emotional resets. They’ve all left me asking “Am I Ready” in one way or another.

After the trauma that we experienced in getting you here, Max and Kate, I gave up on triathlon and physical goals. That’s not your fault. I just didn’t have the energy. There was no motivation and no physical strength. That was new for me. I just didn’t care about such things anymore.

Fast forward a few years, you two were healthy and life had eased up for our family a bit. A couple of buddies talked me into my first 70.3 event, after nearly 10 years of racing in triathlons. Along the way I asked myself “am I ready” on several occasions. In some ways I was ready. In other ways I wasn’t. I finished Longhorn Ironman 70.3 in a decent time (5:30), so physically I was ready for my first race at that distance. But I didn’t prepare the way I could have – that part was mental, I wasn’t emotionally invested. I knew I had a better effort in me.

I set my sights on crushing that time at Ironman Florida 70.3 6 months later in Orlando. I trained harder, lost the weight, and showed up “ready” in all regards. But sometimes you can be at your best and the details of Ironman can still defeat you. Physically ill during the run from a nutritional mistake, I ultimately finished slower in 5:33, after being WAY ahead of goal on the bike.

That hot day in Orlando caused me to reevaluate things. I learned a couple of things: 1. I had prepared adequately to go fast. 2. I hadn’t paid attention to the nutritional details involved during the race and paid for it. I was disappointed, but not devasted. Izzy,we went to Disney that night and stayed until closing time.

I had another chance ahead of me. I was already registered for Boulder 70.3 in 3 months. I wanted to make up for Orlando’s disappointment, but as it turned out life had other plans for me. We vacationed in July and had a blast. I scaled my training way back, gained some weight, and fell into a bit of an emotional funk after the vacation. I didn’t feel “elite” in any way anymore – athletically or professionally. I started questioning everything in my life. Where I was, where I was going, what would my kids think of me when they’re older, how would the world  and you guys would remember me one day, etc. I wondered if I was wasting gifts I’d been given and letting fear rule my life. Honestly, I didn’t like any of the answers I was coming up with. Too much “Am I Ready”? was leading to alot of “No”. It scared me, but I was comfortable in my life’s normal routine.

Late in July 2011, only a week before Boulder 70.3, I joined you guys and Mommy in Florida for another short vacation. The waves were huge one day and the red “do not swim” flags were out. Being a tough guy though, I ignored the flags and charged into the water with a boogie board. I rode a number of waves all the way up onto the beach skidding to a stop at your feet. You three laughed and jumped with excitement each time. I rose again on a large wave, but it felt different almost immediately. There was a check in my gut, like the feeling you get when descending on a roller coaster. The wave picked up pace as it crested and I slid down it before I turned sideways and went under. I’d had “wipeouts” surfing before, so I knew what to expect when getting crushed and tumbled by a wave. This felt different immediately. The wave slammed me into the ocean floor. My shoulder hit first, skidded across the coarse sand, and then the crown of my head hit. I recognized the familiar “wahwahwahwahwah” feeling and the bright yellow spots. Growing up wrestling I’d had concussions before. As a result, sometimes I have trouble remembering simple things. I fought to the surface and stumbled onto the beach, collapsing in front you kids and mommy. Talk about humbling. Eventually Mommy helped me to the house where I sat for a couple of hours with an ice pack on my shoulder. I had lots of time to think and listen for what had just happened. Ultimately I had a concussion and a sprained shoulder – one week before Boulder 70.3. What dumb choice I’d made.

I knew that afternoon that I’d been given a proverbial smack in the head. It was a wake up call from above. I’d been asking myself for weeks “Am I ready as a father, as a husband, as a son, as a friend, as an athlete?” For what, I wondered. My answer came in the form of being dumped on my head and given rebirth emerging from the water “new”, changed emotionally…and for good measure, physically. I couldn’t use my arm for a week. I believe in the the symbolism of rebirth through immersion in water. A heck of a wake up call for a tough guy and a dad.

The episode left me digging for answers even more than before. One thing I knew for sure was that I wasn’t ready for Boulder 70.3 physically, but emotionally I felt more at peace than before Austin or Orlando and I knew I could do the event and be happy regardless of my time. I think that was kind of the point. It’s not always about being ready for sport. As athletes we’re walking a narrow path. Sometimes we lose focus on being ready for the things that really matter. What I  wanted to know was if I died tomorrow would I have done enough for others, loved my family enough, was I ready to say “that’s it, I’m ready to toe the line, take me home Father. I’ve prepared all that I can here on earth.”

I went slower in Boulder and was okay with that. That was August 2011. I still don’t know, but I’m working on the answers. What I learned is that we have to prepare and live in such a way, everyday, that when push comes to shove we can say “I’m ready! Let’s get it on!”

I’m all for intentional living – making plans, budgeting, etc. I also think there’s a time for just going for it. You can’t always wait for tomorrow. Apollo Creed told Rocky “There IS no TOMORROW!” Life’s short. Chase your dreams. Read that book to your kids instead of going to bed. Learn a foreign language for the heck of it. Get a sitter and take your wife to dinner instead of bringing home fast food. Ask your friend how his race or day went and actually care. Tell each other “I love you”. Do the stupid Ironman.

I waited for 10 years before moving up to the 70.3 distance. Guess what I learned when I finally did it? I love it. I was “ready” years ago. I want to be ready for what’s next. I want mommy and you kids to say “Daddy went for it in sport and in life. He loved me with all he had and I never had to wonder about that”, not “He hid in a cubicle, pressed his khakis, paid the bills, and took no chances, but we lived comfortably”. Either way, that legacy will live with you kids and one day with your kids. Get ready kiddos. Daddy is.

Half Ironman #4 is only two months away! I’m getting “ready” for Rev3 Knoxville and accepting the setbacks along the way as part of God’s plan. Just a recovery swim today.

Kate, you’ve been showing us your temper alot of late. Here’s a picture of your temper just this morning.

Love you,

– Daddy

Ps. Here’s an email your mommy just sent me:

I have been telling the babies it was going storm and we may have to get in the bathroom.  Max just told me “momma, I gonna get my chainsaw and stop these storms and get them away for you”.  Sweet boy!!!!

Training;

Swam 1100 yards at 5:30am as: 3 x 100 s,p,k / 5 x 100 swim at 70.3 pace / 3 x 100 k,s,p