As we were standing out on Alii drive just before heading into medical, Lisa said to me "you look great, as though you didn't even swim and bike!" This added to the frustration because I felt solid, ready to run a good marathon. We had to wait around to get my bike from the transition area so we headed over to Huggo's On The Rocks to grab some fish tacos and a beer. As imaginable, my emotions were bouncing back and forth between sadness and anger. I said to the kids "Listen, we are going to still have a great vacation. This is a minor hiccup, but we Hodska's keep our heads up and chins high." Corny, but relevant. At one point while eating I just started to laugh and said to Lisa "Can you believe I'm out of the IM because someone stepped on my toe?!!" I view one of my main strengths my toughness. I told Molson before the race that my key word was resilience. And I was taken out by my toes getting stepped on. It is kind of humorous.
The hardest part was when we walked back to the transition area, down Alii drive towards the finish line, listening to Mike Reilly announcing to the joyously overwhelmed athletes finishing "You are an Ironman!". Lisa and Kate were walking a few feet in front of us, and Kate turned around with tears in her eyes and ran up and gave me a huge hug. My heart just sank.
We've had an amazing family vacation in Hawaii. The best one yet. The day after the IM, we took the kids to swim with the dolphins and to Hapuna beach and they were having so much fun, forgetting quickly the drama of the previous day. That's the beauty of being a kid; their ability to move forward and jump head first into the next day.
I've had ample time now to reflect on my challenging day. First off, had this been my very first Hawaii Ironman, I would have walked the marathon. I thought that I didn't take the fact of how hard Hawaii is to get into for granted, but now I know to some degree I do. I've crossed that amazing finish line many times before. I know what it takes to prepare to qualify and do well in this race and I will do so again in the future if and when I'm ready. In 1996, when I qualified for Hawaii for my very first time, I thought that that was going to be my one time to race the Hawaii Ironman. I have returned to race there eight times since then. Since 1996, every year that I've wanted to qualify and race Hawaii, I have. I feel extremely fortunate that I have been blessed with a bit of genetics that, combined with hard work, will earn me a coveted slot for Hawaii. I kept thinking about the fact that what if this was my one opportunity, like so many triathletes out there, to race here and this happened? So how could I be that angry or sad for that matter? If anything, it made me realize even more my fortune. And the fact that I didn't go out there and hobble through the marathon shows that i do to some degree take these things I've mentioned above for granted. But that's also not what I came to Hawaii to do. (One quick side note on the race itself; It's been changing since 96'. I notice it more and more each year, but they are letting more and more people in each year, and the depth of talent is becoming greater meaning the field doesn't thin out much throughout the race. The swim used to be aggressive for the first third, then you'd find your space. Then it was the first two thirds were extremely physical, and now it's the whole swim. The bike portion is the same; The first third used to be very congested but the climb to Hawi would thin things out. Now it's even more congested and it doesn't thin out much at all. I used to think that drafting was avoidable no matter what but I am no longer this naive. The race really wasn't enjoyable. They need to begin thinking about wave starts and not letting the size of the field grow any larger.)
Someone mentioned to me; "That's a shame, all that training and this happens!". I don't look at it that way at all and that's why I also wrote up my report card for my build up prior to my race. I like seeing what type of new level or condition I can put myself in. I see many training for an Ironman and they begin to question why they are doing so. the work they are putting in becomes so controlling and overwhelming and as physically exhausted as they are, they become even more mentally exhausted. This, to me, signifies that this athlete is taking the wrong personal approach towards their race. As I mention to all my athletes, I want them to enjoy the process. I certainly did this time around.
I view these set-backs as a learning opportunity as well. This set back was mainly out of my control, but I learned not to line up inside on the buoy line in Hawaii unless I plan on swimming in the low 50's. I also learned even more to appreciate all my Ironman finishes. But the main thing I learned, and this lesson became clear in the days proceeding the race, was that triathlon in itself is just a part of who I am but it doesn't define me, so don't take it to seriously. After all, there are far greater situations taking place daily that easily put things into perspective. I can't worry about one dnf from just a race.
I've had set backs before in my racing career and I've always followed them up with bigger and better experiences. Always. So I'm excited and driven to see where 2013 takes me. My IM pr comes off of a set back from the previous IM. Thinking about this, maybe this is part of the plan? Think what you want - that we create our own luck and destiny, which to some degree is true, but I also believe that, if you are a hard worker, a doer, and stay positive and progressive, that things can happen for a reason.
One of my friends mentioned to me that it's important for kids to see their parents struggle at times or fail certain tasks, and to see that a) they're human, and b) how they handle themselves in the face of adversities. Another friend sent me a great Teddy Roosevelt speech titled "The Man In The Arena" which was extremely poignant. It made me realize how important it is for my kids to see the value in putting yourself out there, going for some goals or things that most can't imagine, and that yes, you may fail at times, but the importance is in that you took the chance and put yourself out there to begin with. I was very moved by the outpouring of support from friends. Thank you!!
The days following the race, we explored the Hawaii coastline in a sea raft, seeing manta rays and pods of dolphins and learning about the history of the amazing big island. We explored coast line trails, swam at beautiful beaches where the sand was so soft and the water so clear. We ate at some amazing restaurants, we went down water slides, we did stand up paddle boarding, and we laughed a bunch. Life is not bad at all, and I will continue to put myself out there.
I can't wait to come back in March for my Kona Camp. And my kids cannot wait to return since they claimed they get a redo.