In this special guest blog post triathlete Sarah True shares what gives her strength on days when the going gets rough.
Sometimes all it takes is the unexpected to put everything into perspective.
A couple of weeks ago, I secured my start slot for the Ironman World Championship at Ironman Mont-Tremblant by finishing second. While I was relieved to achieve my goal for the race, the most important moment for me didn’t come at the finish line, but with 200 meters to go.
From the start of the swim until the last step I took on the run, I struggled the entire distance of the race. Tired, heavy-limbed, and without power, it took a fierce determination to keep moving forward, one stroke and step towards the finish line. Needless to say, 140 miles of swimming, biking, and running while feeling off makes for a very long day.
While I’ve had challenging races before (we all have our bad days!), all of my previous Ironman races have been a more typical mix of hard moments interspersed with feeling strong and controlled. I started with optimism, believing that I would have those good moments at some point. Mid-way through the run, however, I started to give up hope that I would ever feel good on the day.
When it gets really hard, we draw on whatever strength we have. Although I have deep reserves of optimism and internal drive, it’s a resource that can run low and I turned to the people around me as motivation.
Many of the spectators and racers knew how important this race was for me, as it represented my last opportunity to qualify for Kona. I heard words of encouragement and personal cheers that kept me clinging on to hope. I thought of my coach, family, friends and fans who were tracking the race and invested in my process. I used the love and support that surrounds me to keep going, walking when needed and pushing towards the finish line.
With 200 meters to go, I suddenly spotted a face in the crowd that surprised and delighted me. As a youth swimmer, I attended a swim camp for years that took place at Hartwick College, about 30 minutes from my hometown of Cooperstown, New York. The head coach, Dale Rothenberger, was the first triathlete I had ever met. I remember sitting in his office, surrounded by posters from the now-defunct Bud Light triathlon series and felt inspired by this coach and his triathlon endeavors. Seeing Dale at Mont-Tremblant, decades after I first met him, made my heart sing.
It’s easy to get caught up in our personal endeavors and to forget what makes sport so special. Triathlon is both my career and my passion; I take it seriously and my ambition can serve as blinders. Triathlon, however, is also my community. Years before I did my first triathlon, I started to build this community long when I swam in the Hartwick College pool with Dale Rothenberger. It now extends to fellow athletes and fans of the sport all over the world.
It took a really hard day at Ironman Mont-Tremblant to help me remind me the power and beauty of the inspiring network we create around a shared interest. Going into my Kona preparation, I will carry that love with me every day. I have no doubt that it will provide extra strength when it is inevitably needed.