Sunday, November 25, 2018

Now What?

It is six weeks post Ironman.  I watched the NBC special today.  I am still emotional (read -still crying a lot).  And yes I still wear my medal and share my race day experience every chance I can. I am starting to see the magnitude of what I accomplished. 

I am back to my normal life in Denver, CO- hanging with the family, working my normal hours, exercising my "normal" amount, running trails, etc. .  Although I feel my athletic fitness is fading by the day, I am somewhat ok with it.

Just me wearing my finisher jersey at the grocery store

So many people are asking me about the Ironman.  What was it like?  How did you do it?  What were you feeling when you finished?  So many people continue to congratulate me for an amazing athletic feat.  I love to share my experience.  It keeps it fresh and present in my "post Ironman" life.  In fact, I was reminded today that I have entered into a new level of bad-assery.  No one can ever take that away from me.  I still haven't gotten an "M-dot" tattoo, but I will at some point.  I view it as another opportunity to share my war stories when someone asks me about it.

In a previous blog, I challenged myself not only with accomplishing the goal of finishing the Ironman and raising a bunch of money to help cure blood cancers;  I asked myself more importantly, "What will I become in pursuit of this goal?"

This is what I have come up with so far:

I became super disciplined with my workouts.  This was driven out of fear - Fear of not finishing with thousands of people watching.  I had my moments when I didn't want to get up to do the scheduled workouts.  They were few and far between. Being disciplined to my training plan got me to the starting line strong and injury free and then allowed me to finish strong and injury free.  I worked out 15-24 hours/week.  I lost 10 pounds.  I regained the body shape that I had in my 20's.  And I can say at 50, I am in the best shape of my life. 

I learned that bad days happen.  But they will not define me and they will pass.  I made some big mistakes in my training and in races leading up to the big event.  When things didn't go well, I had to accept the fact that things weren't going as planned, adjust my plan, and adapt to the circumstances.  I finished every race that I started.  I did this by keep moving forward.  The race times may not have been what I had hoped for, but I persevered though the adversity.  I learned first hand that perseverance fueled by resiliency are necessary tools in dealing with life as it comes at me. 

"To err is human."  I made a ton of mistakes along the way.  I didn't let them define me.  I looked at them as learning opportunities.  I rarely made the same mistake twice. No one is perfect. I was very human on race day, and continue to be today (and everyday).

I was teachable.  I started doing triathlons in 1993.  However I hadn't done one in 10 years.  My coach Charley Perez was a huge source of knowledge and inspiration to me. He offered advice and I took it.  My brother Jeff was also there for me. Both graciously fielded my questions about training, equipment, nutrition and happy to share their experience with me.  I watched 100's of hours of youtube videos about triathlon techniques, courage, overcoming adversity, etc.  I became a student of the sport. I still have a lot to learn. 

I learned to ask for help. I am uncomfortable asking for help by nature.  I like to do everything myself.  Just as I was uncomfortable with my athletic goals,  I had to step out of my comfort zone and ask for help.  I set a goal to raise a lot of money.  I asked just about everyone I knew to help out.  Many gave financial donations, many gave words of encouragement.  All were appreciated.  I learned that people want to help me as I was doing a really cool thing.  Every dollar raised and every encouragement gave them the opportunity to play a part in a successful outcome. Looking back in my life, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of humility and strength.

Angels appeared just at the right time- every single time. This constantly happens in my life.  It has never become more evident to me than throughout this endeavor.  So many people offered their unique encouragement that made all the difference to me.  Whenever I struggled, inspiration came from the most unexpected sources. Race week and on the actual race day, there were so many angels, I thought I was in heaven.  (I was - heaven on earth)  It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite authors.  “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.”-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist . The Universe definitely conspired in my favor.  It still does.  

The power of visualization really works.  Every run workout, I visualized the red carpet leading up to the finish line.  I visualized that I will have accomplished the impossible and all the emotions that go along with it.  I visualized my wife and kids greeting me at the finish putting the medal over my head.  I hoped that they saw that anything can be accomplished with grit, determination and a solid plan of action.  I visualized the swim start, the most chaotic part of the race.  I practiced being calm in the face of chaos.  I spent time each day in meditative contemplation.  The race is 10% physical, 90% mental.  I needed to train my brain to be ready for anything that came my way.  

This accomplishment has inspired so many people to step out of their comfort zone.  I am not an extraordinary athlete.  I am as average as it gets.  I think that is why so many people followed along for the ride.  Many think that "If Brett can do it, so can I".  We only have one life to live.  I try to live each day to the fullest.  Every day is a new day with a new adventure.  Whether it is to do an Ironman, climb a mountain, or be the best dentist I can be to my patients, I show up for life.   

So few people get to hear the impact they had on the world while they are alive.  I received so many letters and well-wishes that it was emotionally overwhelming. These sentiments are usually only shared at one's funeral. It wasn't always this way.  20 years ago while active in my addiction, no one was telling me that I had a positive impact on them and no one wanted me around.  Recovery offered me a new lease on life and I didn't wast to waste one minute of this bonus time.  This gift allowed me to see that my life continues to have meaning and purpose. I told my wife after reading all these, that no matter what happens in the race, I already won. This realization was the biggest gift I have ever received. I never set out to change the world in a big way.  But everyday I try to affect people/places/things in a positive way, this adds up to big changes over time.  

The true accomplishment isn't that I finished, but that I had the courage to start. I view opportunities as closing windows.  They may not always be there when I am ready, or when life is a little less hectic.  In my experience, there has never been the perfect time for a new challenge. I never regretted taking the chance.  Not all of my goals have been accomplished, but by setting them and creating a plan of action, I have been satisfied with my efforts. 

I need to have more goals. I find I am most alive when I am challenging the status quo; pushing the bar a little higher; making the world a little bit better.  Right after the Ironman, I went to Oahu to attend the American Dental Association's Annual Session.  I was elected to be a Trustee to the ADA representing the 14th District (Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming).  This is a four year term that starts next fall.  I am already diving into my leadership books, podcasts, working on my public speaking, clearing out my schedule, etc. 

My goal is to show up for this commitment fully prepared so I can be most effective in my role as Trustee.  It is a different goal than finishing the Ironman, but it really isn't. The lessons I learned should serve me well in the future. 

...The adventure continues...

I am sober, a husband, father, dentist, advocate, endurance athlete, speaker, writer, leader and follower. The blog -  If you like it, please follow me on my adventures. If you love it, please share! If you hate it, thanks for reading. It's not for everyone...

"Race With Your Heart!"

My race recap from the Ironman World Championships, Kona Hawaii.  October 12, 2019.  I received an entry to the race on a total fluke....