Swim – 25 Miles
Bike – 1058 Miles
Run – 209 Miles
All of that has been accomplished in about 118 hours of training, which equates to about five total 24-hour days. As I wrote back before this all started, the training really comes down to priorities. I have been on the road for work 4 of the 13 weeks so far and I have swam, bike and ran in more than a few states. In addition, I have coached Caleb and Carson’s Little League teams this spring and they are both well on their way to reaching the League City Championship (I hope I did not just jinx us).
When you train for so many hours you tend to reflect on many things, but it seems that most of all I have reflected on Caleb and Carson during this block of training. I wonder what Dad doing an Ironman means to them, and I often wonder if it means anything. Certainly, Caleb is old enough to understand the hard work, and Carson is young enough to think all of my triathlon gear is cool. However, the reality is that they will not be there to watch me cross the finish line or share in the joy. I have thought about trying to send them a message during the race or at the finish with a poster or something, but honestly, the logistics of that are probably unrealistic. Therefore, what I decided to do was right them a letter that they can read later, when they do understand, an open letter to Caleb and Carson about Ironman.
Caleb and Carson,
I think that about 8 years ago Granddad Stevens shared with me a quote that really stuck with me. In fact, I have a wooden plaque of this hanging in my office. He said it reminded him of me, at the time I was completing my dissertation for my doctorate degree.
“Some succeed because they are destined to, but most succeed because they are Determined to.”
It sounds simple enough, but in reality, it is your determination to reach for your goals and dreams that will ultimately shape your life. In school, I was not labeled Gifted and Talented, but I set out to earn that degree that less than 1% of the world population has attained and I did it. Certainly, there were smarter people that were perhaps destined to become doctors, but I was just an average student that was determined. I know that in 3rd grade and Kindergarten it is hard to relate to what all that education stuff means, but one day you will read this and understand.
In athletics, I had similar experiences. I think it is sad today that so much pressure is put on you in sports. Like I say, I never have got upset with you for striking out or dropping a ball, but I will get upset if you do not give your best effort. I know it is hard to believe now, but you are not defined by how good of a baseball, football, basketball, soccer (name any other sport) you are when you are 6 or 9 years old. Trust me; I was no star on the Lake Jackson Little League Astros in 1982! Honestly, I was never a star athlete at much of anything. However, Grandma and Granddad instilled in me a work ethic that taught me if I wanted something bad enough and I worked hard at it I would be rewarded. Granddad always says,
“If you keep chopping wood and stacking it neatly someone will notice sooner or later.”
I have found this to be a true statement in almost everything I do. I really wanted to play baseball in college, but did you know that after I was cut from the team at Texas A&M getting another chance was not easy. On top of overcoming some horrible grades (we can talk about that when it is time to go to college), I really did not have a place to play. Instead of giving up, I had the bright idea to write a letter to every single college and university in Texas! Guess what, that was a lot of work but I got one letter back. It was from Tarleton State where I eventually walked on and became a starter before my rotator cuff decided to give out. You guys are lucky you can just e-mail the colleges now! In the end, the motivation of that poor semester in Aggieland drove me to ultimately graduate from Texas A&M 15 years after the fact with a Ph.D.
So, what is the big deal about Ironman? Like most things in life, it is about being determined to reach a goal. I hope you never have to face the fact that you are out of shape. Right now, you are both healthy little guys, and I hope you stay that way. Although, Caleb you might want to diversify your diet a bit! About 6 years ago, I weighed close to 300 pounds and I was not a happy person. Sure, on the outside, things looked okay but on the inside, they were not. I would look at you and think about how if I kept it up I would not even be able to play with you. Most of all I thought about how bad of a role model I would be or was. In late 2009, I signed up for 4 triathlons and paid for them in advance. I was determined to change my lifestyle. I chose triathlon because there was no way I could run every day, because honestly I was too fat and it would hurt my knees. I also chose it because Uncle Tobey had started racing the year before that. I was a poor swimmer and spent hours in the pool trying to get better. Uncle Tobey told me during that 2010 triathlon season that I would want to go further one day. He was right, eventually I privately thought I might could one day be fit enough to try one of the ultimate one day endurance challenges in the world. Ironically, some people say less than 1/10th of 1% of people in the world has ever completed an Ironman. I guess I like challenges.
I knew that it would take several years to achieve that goal of becoming an Ironman. It is okay to have very long-range goals and short-term goals or long and short-term dreams! I spent two triathlon seasons, 2011 and 2012, building up my capacity to endure the long training sessions it would take to live my dream of crossing the finish line. Honestly, I still have several short-term goals to hit over the next six weeks, the main one is to not get injured or sick! I hope and pray that what you see in my training today is a determination to reach for a goal no matter how difficult or impossible it may seem. I also hope that you see that when you want something bad enough you have to prioritize what is important. What I mean is it is important for me to spend time with you at baseball practice and after school and I do that. It is important that I am at your events to share in your moments and I do that at all costs, even if it means I miss some training.
I know that you both have big dreams and goals. Carson, you are too little now to understand exactly what they are. Caleb I know they are forming in your bright mind. Both of you love the Houston Texans and J.J. Watt. He always says “Dream Big, Work Hard.” I think people forget, or choose to ignore, the part of that statement that says work hard. There are very few if anything in life that is worth having without putting in the effort and work to achieve it. There is absolutely nothing that is out of your reach, and I hope both of you know that. I also hope that when you see pictures of your Dad crossing the Ironman finish line on June 23, 2013 75 pounds lighter and transformed you will truly believe it!