I’m often asked how I can make myself get up at 4am, even if we ran calls all night at the fire station, to get on the treadmill, on the bike, or in the pool. I’m asked how I can run in the pouring rain or freezing cold. I’m asked how I can mentally deal with racing alone (which seems to happen an awful lot). My answer every time is that I know why I’m out there. Rest assured, I don’t like 4am any more than anyone else, and if you don’t already know, I hate the cold. Bring on 100* temps any day. That said; I know what my goals are, and they are what motivates me.
Sometimes, you don’t have to search for your goals; they’re obvious. This past weekend, our rescue diver crew at the fire station was dispatched on a call for a drowning victim at the lake. The water was 50-ish degrees, murkey, with dangerous bottom conditions (including a car’s fuel system). Plain and simple, it sucked, but we knew why we were out there. We were this guy’s only hope, and even when it became evident we weren’t going to find him alive, we became his family’s only hope for closure. So, turn after turn, after barely warming up to the point that we could finally feel our hands again, we each got back into the lake to search. We each took our turn, even our Chief, because if one of us skipped a turn, someone else had to go back in sooner. We had each other’s backs. We knew why we were out there.
Just like in my career as a firefighter, I didn’t start this sport to be patted on the back or for accolades. I started racing during a time when Ironman was pretty much an unknown, and when I saw it for the first time, it gave me goosebumps. I said to myself, “I’ve got to do that. It’s the challenge I’ve been looking for all my life.” Don’t get me wrong; I love to race and am competitive. The awards are nice, but they are simply a product of hard work and pouring your heart and soul into something that truly touches the deep part inside you where most people are afraid to open and look. But, doing so is the only way the magic you see at the finish happens and why people who have not raced won’t ever fully understand. You have to get through the training process, the pushing yourself to limits you didn’t know you could, and the racing itself – with whatever challenges race-day brings – for yourself to truly understand.
So, how do I do it? Because after almost 17 years of racing, it still gives me goosebumps and makes the hair on my neck stand up when I hear the National Anthem play, or when I watch Julie Moss crawl to the finish line, or when I think about Amy and Monkey waiting for me in the finish chute (back when they let families run in with you at Ironman). I can’t give you your motivation; no one can. It’s up to you to find it. When you do, you’ll get up at 4am…because you’ll know why you’re out there.