17 December 2008

Lessons from the Ironman World Championship 2008

Last weekend, the Ironman World Championship in Kona was televised on NBC. For most people, watching this documentary may be their only exposure to triathlon. However, for me, it is definitely one of the highlights of my year. I have watched it twice already and will watch it a couple of more times for sure. There are so many lessons to be learned from watching this, not only about triathlons, but also about life. Here are a few things that stuck out to me.

1. Class - Over and over again, I noticed several athletes exhibiting some serious class. In my world, being described as classy is a very high compliment, and is something I aspire to. The major example of this was when Rebekah Keat gave Chrissie Wellington (the overall female winner) at CO2 cartridge. She tossed a cartridge to her with no thought and was one of the greatest examples of sportsmanship I've seen in a long time. Another example was the guy (I have no idea who he was) who allowed Chrissie Wellington to enjoy her finish. He slowed up and let her bask in the glory of her second world championship. I was definitely impressed by his willingness to let the clock run and allow her a moment. The final example that I'll share occurred when Normann Stadler finished the race, in spite of dealing with some pretty serious cramping issues. I probably shouldn't be impressed by this, but in the past 2 years, he has had a total meltdown on the bike and then was ill, so I was inspired by the class he showed in finishing the race in spite of some significant adversity.

2. Karma - I believe in the principle of karma and that your actions will definitely have an impact. Last year, Rutger Beke (a professional triathlete) walked the marathon. He said that he wasn't going to disrespect the age groupers by having a DNF. That was one of my favorite lessons from last years race. This year, I think karma paid off because he came in third place. I think that he showed Madame Pele respect last year and that definitely had an impact on this year's race. Of course, Rebekah Keat is another example of karma. I'm so interested to see the impact that her very small action has on the world of triathlon.

3. Inspiration - Each year, NBC features one of the challenged athletes during the broadcast. This year, they followed Ricky James, a 20 year old paraplegic, who was injured in a motorcross accident. He's only 20 years old. He finished the Ironman. The Ironman is a tough event...period. The Ironman for a challenged athlete is that much tougher. The smile on Ricky's face when he crossed the finish line was awesome and will definitely have an inspirational impact on everyone who watched the show.

4. Adversity - You may have heard of the Kona winds. I haven't been to Kona yet, but apparently these winds provide a great headwind all the time. I have two friends who raced in Kona this year and they talked about the winds. I definitely believed them, but there was some serious reinforcement when I was watching the pros riding up on their hoods instead of down in the aerobars. I'm not sure exactly why this stuck with me, but maybe it was a reminder that even when things don't go as planned, life still goes on. We have to maintain our composure and make the changes in our plan to get where we want to go.

So, those were some of my takeaways from this year's world championship. I've decided that I absolutely have to go to Kona to both watch this race and to race this race. I'm not sure when it will happen, perhaps when I'm 72, like Harriet Anderson the oldest finisher this year, but it will definitely happen. In the meantime, I'll keep working my plan and living my dreams!


Laura Vedeen said...

Awesome post AJ!!! You are right on with each "lesson" learned! =)