Categorized | Multi-sport, Sports

Why do Ironman? Janet Pike can answer that!

(2008 Ironman World Championship finisher Janet Pike reflects on her finish)

The question has been asked and answered so very many times, one would think there could be no new perspective. I thought I knew my own answers to the familiar “Why would someone attempt to complete an Ironman, especially on the Big Island?” 

Little did I know when I crossed that hallowed line on Alii Drive a year ago that my own lesson was yet to be learned.

Janet Pike finishes the 2008 Ironman. (Photo courtesy of Ironman)

Janet Pike finishes the 2008 Ironman. (Photo courtesy of Ironman)

Sure, there were the obvious, predictable and admirable reasons. . . the physical and mental challenge, the example a parent tries to set for a child, the satisfaction of achieving an enormous goal, recovery from illness or injury, or maybe traveling that 140.6 miles in honor of a loved one, alive or dead. 

If you’ve been around this event for any amount of time, you’ve heard and been genuinely inspired by those many stories.

During my training and on race day, I had my taste of them all, and I was truly fulfilled after that hot, windy day, the serene moonlit night and the rockin’, unforgettable finish line. 

Throughout the day I celebrated each time I caught sight of a family member or friend encouraging me along the way. Not that there weren’t some tough times . . .it’s the Ironman World Championship, after all. Battered by the winds along the Queen K, I knew my bike split would suffer a nasty hit, but there was no choice but to hang in there and simply do my best. 

During a stretch in the marathon, weakness took over and I resorted to the walk-run-walk-run survival mode. I wasn’t happy about it, but it kept me moving forward and got me through the low spots.

Little did I know those low spots held the seeds of my own Ironman epiphany.

It was not until the following summer that it hit me why I had made my Ironman journey. 

The previous months had thrown challenges my way I had never imagined. The struggles didn’t make me special, but they did grind me down. I was hanging on by my last frayed nerve, running on empty, not an ounce of strength or confidence left to take on the life list in front of me. 

In tears, I could barely keep the car on the road as I hurried from a frustrating meeting at work to the umpteenth 6-hour medical appointment for my ailing mother, while taking a disturbing phone call about my struggling brother. I apologized to the carpool kids I had left standing on the curb, and yet again called my husband to pull together a decent dinner for our boys (unless they were to live on Cheerios if left to me.) 

How could things that are a part of any person’s life have become too much for me?

And then it all became clear. I swear I could hear my brain buzzing, see the clouds parting, and feel the strength rising from some deep place within me. None of those things were bigger than me! 

None of those things would make me stop, and I knew without a shred of doubt that I had inside me everything I needed to eventually get through it all. I am, once and forever, an Ironman.

So if I could be so bold as to offer some advice to a budding triathlete, especially a newbie like myself, it would be this: enjoy your day, celebrate your finish, and know that everything you learn on that October day might be just the beginning.

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