It’s hard to believe that it was just over a week ago that I showed up for my Ironman with no place to stay, no wet suit, no experience and almost no money. Save some slight soreness in my Achilles tendons and the remnants of my bike accident, there seems to be little physical evidence that the Ironman ever took place. Even the memory of it seems faint. Still, I remember very vividly the Friday before the race. After I’d stuffed my face at the Spaghetti dinner, it should have been time for bed. Unfortunately, my only shelter for that rainy and windy night was my tent (actually the tent wasn’t mine …. I really should never use the word “mine”). So instead of heading to bed like a reasonable competitor, I headed off to the bar.
I chose the 3 Mariners, a bar that, in truth, I had never given a penny to, but that had already given me food, drink, internet and a place to keep my bike. It was karaoke night and two singers dominated the stage. One was an elderly man missing most of his teeth and wearing thick glasses that made his eyes too large for his head. He was like a Simpson’s character come to life and enthusiastically provided one of the most entertaining karaoke performances I’d ever seen. The other singer was the type that makes no one else want to sing: beautiful and with and excess of musical talent. As it turned out she was part of a group that made up most of the audience, an extended family that was celebrating an upcoming marriage.
As few of the other 1,300 competitors in town thought drinking before one of the world’s most challenging races was a good idea, I had little competition for the attention of local people interested in the crazy athletes who had invaded their small town. I soon found myself enjoying talking to the aunt of the talented Karaoke singer and it wasn’t long after that the matter of my accommodations came up.
“A tent?” I’d heard shock in people’s voices so often by this point that it seemed normal.
“It’s not bad. I’m used to worse actually.”
“Yeah, but you have an Ironman on Sunday. You have to sleep well,” she argued.
“Well, I have rather limited options at this point, but really, it won’t be a problem.”
She would have none of it, and neither would the rest of her family. Soon, three sisters were engaged in a debate as to who would have the dubious honor of being my host for the weekend. The sister that won turned out to be the mother of the singer and happened to live right in town. In the end, it was better than perfect. Not only did I have a great place to sleep, I was fed, babied and fussed over. It was like I had been adopted. The result was a well-rested, well-fed and very happy me that still only just barely finished the race.
This past week, I’ve received an amazing amount of support and positive feedback. More importantly, I’ve received numerous messages from people who said I had inspired them to try and finish their own race, but it wasn’t only me. I did a little math and if I had been even .8% slower on my bike I wouldn’t have finished. Meaning that if I hadn’t been fed so well or slept so well, anything really, I wouldn’t have finished. If that one wonderful family hadn’t helped a complete stranger, I wouldn’t have finished. There’s no need to stop there either. I didn’t realize at the time, but when I got back to New York I didn’t even have enough money for subway fare. .8% and 0$, it doesn’t get much clearer. If any of the countless people who gave me their time, money or encouragement hadn’t been there, it would have been game over.
They say that stepping on a butterfly in New York and change the weather in Hong Kong just days later. Be that as it may, we rarely have the opportunity to trace the impact of our actions beyond a day or two. The slim margin by which I succeeded in my race gives us a rare opportunity to see just how big a difference our actions can make. I’m sure finishing an Ironman will continue to change my life and hopefully the experience will continue to inspire others as well. Even so, thank you all again for the amazing support you have given me. Small or large, your actions have changed the world.