It only took a moment.
A simple look down at his watch.
The Ironman is king of all things endurance.
[NOTE: There are other races beyond Ironman: Hyperman & Decatriathlon. Those are double and triple the Ironman but are two-three day events.]
2.4 mile swim. 112 miles on the bike. Followed by the marathon. 26.2 miles.
Each must be completed within a required time. Fail to do so, and the Ironman name fades from grasp.
I attended my first Ironman this year in beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Nobody asked me to go, even though I do some freelance work for a local radio station. I just went. Not knowing what to expect, I went with my eyes wide open.
They were opened.
Never have I seen such a mass of humanity like I did with this:
It was an amazing sight to see. Only now do I think about the legs kicking faces or hands/arms smacking another swimmer’s head. All I could think at the time was how cold it was. And how simply awesome a sight it was to see. What was going through the minds of the first-time competitors?
The family, friend and community support that early in the morning was tremendous. Lining all along Lake Coeur d’Alene, watching from the Coeur d’Alene resort hotel rooms, along the boardwalk, in trees, people were everywhere on and around the beach. People were wide awake and in full voice, brimming with anticipation.
With no direction on how to cover an event of this magnitude, I went about it the only way I could think of. Through Twitter
Tweeting out pics and raw video as quickly as I could, I tried to provide fans insight into what goes on at an Ironman. Hopefully, I did with this:
I call it Organized Chaos. Upon completing their swim, competitors run from the beach to this transition area where Ironman volunteers assist them in getting their swim gear off. Then it’s off to the next phase: bike. Speed is of the utmost in the transition area. Get the gear off fast in order to get to the bikes for the 112 mile trek as quickly and smoothly as possible.
It only took one glance.
He had only just begun.
Only just begun.
For a novice Ironman spectator or media person, the bike portion can feel like an eternity. An eternity of watching, waiting, cheering the athletes on and giving them that extra support. Support that can enable them to pedal just a little bit harder.
And pedal they did. Pedaling beyond any hurt or mental exhaustion. The elements that day were tough with the wind and cold, heating up, however, as the day wore on. Some, particularly in the elite level, made moves that would prove costly. Costly? Maybe in the sports-spectrum of things, but certainly not in life.
They had only just met.
As the Coeur d’Alene Press describes it, “they started in the back of the pack” together “waiting for the swarm to get going”.
Two men. Two athletes. Separated by nearly three decades.
One man would finish the race. The other would struggle, battling for his life in the water, having to be rescued by Ironman responders. 73 years old and he…is…an Ironman. 44 years old and the other man, Sean Murphy, would eventually lose his life.
Sports is about competition, challenge and desire. It includes joy and pleasure. Reaching for a goal whether individually or in a group, there is a striving for excellence at any level.
In Ironman, it is a race of endurance.
Physical, emotional and mental.
Perform, overcome and outlast.
Failure is part of sport. It’s what drives athletes to reach higher. One cannot be the best or reach their goal without a little adversity or yes, failure, along the way. Failure isn’t a bad word, necessarily in sports. In the right context, it refocuses the mind on what can be done better.
What I witnessed at Ironman Coeur d’Alene is the emotional/physical/mental fortitude to go beyond the word failure. Even completing the swim was an achievement for some, given the weather of the morning. Every stroke, ever push on the pedal, every step in the run…all of it was an achievement.
In the name of sport.
As quickly as he crashed,
he got up.
Hopped on his bike and pedaled forward.
He didn’t look down again as I watched him ride off.
I don’t even know if he finished the race. The crash happened that quick.
But he was able to continue.
It only takes a moment.
RIP, Sean Murphy.
A few pictures from my day: