In September of 2003 I completed my first sprint triathlon in Long Beach. I believe I finished in 2.5 hours. Not the fastest sprint time, but considering that I had started training in July and I could not walk let alone run 3 miles, I felt empowered and ready for me. Since then, triathlon has become an important part of my life and a variable of how I define myself.
I often describe my training as my only time to be alone with my thoughts. It is where I clear my mind and remove myself from my present reality. It was the place where I could solve problems and learn more about myself. Oddly enough, it was about 4 years ago when a good friend of mine pointed out that I really hadn’t solved any problems. I was just using triathlon as an escape. I discovered things about myself. My mind grew stronger, but focus greater, and my determination solid. But it was all internal, aimed directly at myself.
I would take breaks from the sport and attempt to interact with others, but as soon as I felt threatened or insecure, I would hop on the bike and let the miles carry me away. It was my sanctuary.
And somewhere along the line, I decided that the only way to truly discover who I was involved me completing an Ironman. It was only in crossing the finish line after 140.6 miles would the new and improved Andrew Maz emerged. My first attempt was in 2005, where I caught a cold 1 week before the race and as a result pulled out after mile 35 on the bike because my asthma and sinuses would not let me comfortably finish.
I went back in 2006 and made the bike cutoff time by 45 seconds and withdrew because I wasn’t sure I could finish the marathon in the allotted time. This time I caught a cold 10 days before the event. On race morning, my bronchial tubes were still draining.
It seemed like discovering the new version of me was never going to happen.
I did three races in 2007, two sprint mountain bike triathlons and an Olympic distance triathlon. I was not trying to set any records, I just wanted to race and have fun for once. The XTerra triathlon in Temecula was my best race ever. I finished nearly an hour faster than I planned and smiled the entire race. Still without the Ironman under my belt, I would never realize my true potential.
I have grown to realize that the Ironman has become this obstacle in my life. Instead of empowering me, it prevents me from moving forward. Instead of seeing it as a challenge and an opportunity to learn, it has become a barrier. My entire life has been stalled because of this Ironman.
I came across a quote last night that sparked new thought in me: “Magic is stronger than Steel.”
Ironman has become my shield, my protection, my excuse. I don’t have time for anyone because of Ironman. I can’t grow inside until I finish an Ironman. I won’t really know who I am until I complete Ironman. No one can really understand what I am going through because they are not trying to complete an Ironman. I have turned an event that should impact my life into one that prevents me from living a life.
This shield has pushed me away from the one I love.
I have grown weak from fighting a battle I was never supposed to fight.
Ironman is supposed to be a journey. A journey of discovery and adventure. A journey that brings you closer to yourself and the ones you love. Without her there is no magic.
The Ironman will not change me. It will not redefine me. It will take me to a place I have never been before. It will force me to look deep into my soul and find strength and courage to move forward. But I will not be a lesser man if I don’t finish. I will not count the miles I have left to complete. I will reflect on those I have covered and seek more memories.
I will allow Ironman to become part of the magic that I already have in my life.