I’m not a stranger to volunteering or cheering at events. I’ve spectated all distances of running (5k to marathon) and a couple of sprint triathlons along being a sherpa (taking care of) of Mr. FauxTriathlete . This past weekend however, was the mother of them all – The Ironman Chattanooga. The famed 144.6 mile event (instead of the usually 140.6 miles) of 2.4mile swim, 116 mile bike (4 extra miles) and 26.2 run in Chattanooga drew a lot of athletes from Atlanta and I went up to watch the athletes.

This was my first Ironman spectating event.

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Ironman Chattanooga!

I was lucky to see the winners and other professional athletes, some of the wickedly fast people I know, and also my other friends who finished in more of a “normal” time. And some who sadly did not get to finish the race. ALL of these people were inspiring and induced awe – I cannot imagine going that long, both distance and time. ALL of them taught me something to learn from.

Anything is possible, if you show up day after day and put in the work.

I’ve seen these athletes train diligently day in and day out. On days that they enjoyed the training, on days that they hated seeing the pool or bike. On fun mornings with friends. On dreary evenings by themselves.
The commitment these athletes have show is what propelled them to their goal. 
It is not enough to want it badly, I must also work for it.

Fortune Favors the Brave

Or as Mike with AVC Endurance likes to call it ‘Victory Loves Preparation’. 
The race in itself is not everything, it is the journey to get there that forges an athlete into an Ironman. Whether an athlete is naturally talented or whether they are defying odds by taking on something like an Ironman, being prepared is everything.

The 10hour finisher and the 16:55 finishers all had one thing in common – they all trained for it.

Trained hard for it.

You can only control your reaction to any situation

One of our athletes ended up with a shredded tire from tacks on the bike course. She lost over an hour on the bike in what should’ve been a clean sweep PR. Instead of being bitter about it, she hit the run with a vengeance and crushed it.

Sometimes, in spite of all the hard work, you are handed lemons. It is up to the individual if they decide to make lemonade or decide to focus on the sour rind.

Don’t be Afraid to Dream Big

I saw one of the last people out of the water make the swim turn. They were doing the side crawl and it was already past 1hr 40min (In a usual Ironman, it wouldn’t have mattered. But had a strong current and fast swim times, and so that time was considered “slow”). And as I stood cheering on the run course, I saw people just starting out when the faster athletes were finishing up. Solo runners/walkers determinedly taking on the hill at mile 1. 

I thought of them often afterwards and wondered if they would make it. Some of them may not have made it to the finish, but that didn’t stop them from starting. It didn’t stop them from dreaming.

So often, we (read: I) are afraid of failure. But what would I attempt to do without fear holding me back? 

One of the last swimmers coming in.
One of the last swimmers coming in.

The Tenacity of the Human Spirit

Watching the finish line of any sporting event is an emotional experience in itself. But the finish line at an Ironman is something else. I saw people of all ages, shapes and sizes come through. All with varying emotions. All to hear those precious words “You are an Ironman”. No matter what time (or condition!) they finished in, it was an honor to watch them cross the finish line. 

One of the best experiences of all is reserved for the midnight hour of the Ironman finish. The midnight hour, the last hour before the “cutoff”.  The finish line is magical and is party central transformed. I cried when every one of these “midnight finishers” crossed the finish line. I cried for the ones who I knew were still out there and did not make it.

So proud of complete strangers!
So inspired by these complete strangers!

Cheering and being Inspired!
Cheering and being Inspired!

Displaying strength, courage, heart and so many more of these emotions that these Ironmen went through is what make us humans what we are.

To rise above and beyond the mediocracy of everyday life.

To succeed and excel in what whatever we set out to do.

To dream big. 

 


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Ironman Chattanooga – What I learnt from Spectating