The Ironman, at its core, is a selfish pursuit. You can train with friends (I don't), take your family to the race (I did), but out there, it's about you. If it's not, on race day, about you, you may struggle.
However, the next day is something different. The day after Lake Placid last July, I stood in line and kept another athlete signing up company, shattered the windshield of my wife's car (from the inside), packed the car. Still, Lake Placid is a 6 hour drive from where I live and you don't have to be up at the crack of dawn the next day.
I was up at six am the day after the race, packing my bike. The whole morning would be mostly running around getting the packing done, picking things up at the race venue, and trying very hard to put us in a position where we'd have time to go to Gordon Biersch for lunch (and beer). And unlike the previous day, I got everything done on time and we made it to the pub. I wasn't driving, so I was drinking beer.
I was also partially absorbed in self-loathing about the race when I realised that something major was going on. The TVs in the pub were set to Fox News, who like CNN, gets a single story, loops up two minutes of footage and is off and running for the next however many hours (is our news really packaged in three minute intervals because our attention spans are that short) ? Of course, the footnote during the Virginia Tech coverage, which lasted our entire meal, was how 150 people in Iraq had been killed and another 150 injured by car bombs. Perspective (or its lack) is sure an interesting thing.
Wow. What a way to get out of your own reflection- I work in higher education, after all, in fact, I'm a criminal justice major. Here you've had this bad, I mean a stinker of a race, and you have to turn around and admit to yourself how meaningless it is in some ways. Tragedy has a way of making you feel small, or at least restoring some perspective.
But there was more to come. That Saturday, a friend who'd I'd only really gotten to know at an Ironman (Florida) died during a marathon swim- Dave Parcells. Dave is someone you should google. The real deal. Double Channel crosser. Million dollar fund-raiser. Sucessful business man, first-class dad. A real guy, the sort of person who makes a difference and leaves a mark and is missed. The type of person who can't be summed up or dismissed with words at all.
I spent six months with a goal in mind, an Ironman race. Six days in the rearview, I had to admit that whatever happened out there was way less important that what was going on back east. Sometimes, a race is just a race, and life- wow, life is complicated, isn't it ?