For most competitors Ironman Wales will begin at 7am on Sunday the 11th. For me it began Sunday the 4th when I left Glasgow. I had a bike, $30 and my gear. I was up against 400 plus miles, nearly continuous rain and a persistent headwind. I had no places to stay and no tent. I didn’t even have a map actually, but when you’ve come this close to catching a dream, obstacles like that are no obstacles at all.
The biking was the simplest and the hardest. You move your feet in circles and you move forward. All you have to do is not stop. Fortunately at this point my legs are pretty strong, unfortunately sitting on a bike seat that long leaves me feeling like a eunuch. It’s mind numbing as well, especially as I did the ride solo. The roads I took were heavily trafficked, which would make listening to music akin to Russian roulette. The result, a lot of time alone with your thoughts in the rain, is as hard on the mind as those persistent circles are on the legs.
I was lucky in regards to shelter. Between the two endpoints, where I had friends waiting to help, I relied on the kindness of strangers. Miraculously, I found someone to give me a place to stay every night, even if sometimes it wasn’t until midnight or even 2am. Still, the amazing hospitality of these kind strangers inspired me, and more often than not even provided me with bodily sustenance. I was fed pumpkin curry, fresh baked banana bread, crumpets and pancakes. I even had my lunch packed for me!
I often had to stop for directions, but some people went so far as to print me maps. When I needed water, bars always refilled me. Even the infamous Starbucks and McDonalds did their part, providing me with free internet. Like making a cake from a box mix, just add concentrated power of will.
My body hurts everywhere, everywhere I can still feel that is, but here I am. The Ironman is just three days away and the forecast for that day is storms with high winds. I like a challenge. It’s possible they’ll cancel it if there’s thunder and lightening. Even that doesn’t really matter. There will always be another race to run, another mountain to climb. In the end, it really is the journey, not the destination.
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”