I was now two and a half miles from the end of loop two and I knew that this was two and a half miles of “free return.”
(So, you made it?)
I reached the end of loop two, but I still had a third loop to complete. I wasn’t out of the woods just yet.
The motto of Iroman is “Anything is possible.”
While many take this as inspiration to reach for the unimaginable, it does not always mean a positive outcome is always waiting for you down the road.
I rolled into the third and final bike loop.
What does that mean?
(This retelling of your race has gone on almost as long as your race.)
I can’t argue there. I was 78 miles into the bike portion of the race with 34 miles left to go. The bi-lateral quad cramps…
Both my left and right thighs cramped up and felt like they had been inflated like a balloon.
My strategy was, use the easiest gear and hope that this slower pace wouldn’t cause another cramping episode.
What do you mean “why”?
(Why were the cramps something to be feared? You’ve gotten a stitch in your side before.)
One muscle cramp in the legs is NOT like a stitch in your side.
Two are paralyzing. It would cause a total shutdown of my ride … and the clock was ticking.
At mile 87 I had 90 minutes to ride 25 miles.
(How fast would you need to pedal to make it in time?)
Quick computation in my head. I would need to ride 17 mph. On a flat course, if I was healthy, yes, that would work. Here, on a hill, injured—this was not happening.
My heart sank again. Just when I had thought I had solved my problems, here is a new one.
I looked down at my handlebars and saw the bracelet Mark Zomick had given me. He hands them out to anyone who wants one and I figured, “I have enough bracelets on my wrist, let’s put this on my bike. Maybe it will inspire me.”
And it did.
“God, I am pledging here and now that I will be better at saying my afternoon prayers. I’m not saying that if you make me successful, I will pray. I will pray every day even if I fail … that being said, I beseech you for assistance.”
I felt that asking God for help if I succeeded was not the same as saying, “I’m having a spiritual moment and I am committing no matter what to my spiritual improvement.”
(But you asked God for a miracle!)
No, I was asking God for what I ask God for every morning. Right after the brachot, there is a personal prayer of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi. I have always interpreted this prayer as, “God, I do not need you to move mountains for me, but you could open my eyes, so I do not trip over my own feet (literally and metaphorically).
I said my prayers from memory…
(Not only can’t you spell, YOU CAN’T ADD EITHER!)
It was 2:30 pm. I had two hours, not one and a half to the cut off!
Two hours to go 25 miles? That’s 12.5 mph … and I was averaging 13.1.
It was going to be close and nothing was assured, but I was glad I had not given up.
(Where does that strength come from?)
We all have that strength within us. It comes from looking back at prior moments of doubt and seeing that the challenges were put there for a reason.
Anyone who has ever lost their job and wondered, “How am I going to pay the rest?”
Anyone who has ever been childless and wondered, “Will I be remembered?”
Sometimes, the first step in finding inner strength is blindly going forward.
Faith is doing the scary thing while trusting that your feet will land on firm ground.
(What is that expression in Yiddish?)
Gam zu l’ tovah?
(Yeah, that one.)
“This too is for good.”
On the last hill I was three quarters of the way up the hill when I got off the bike and walked. I hated having to do so but I could feel my legs about to cramp up again.
(How could you tell?)
The muscles were twitching…
Cramping on an incline might have caused me to fall over and possibly cause a crash. It took maybe two minutes to walk to the crest of the hill, but I knew from there it was straight downhill. Zero pedaling. At some points I was going 35 mph. At those speeds there is no taking your eyes off the road.
I rolled across the line that ends the bike course at 4:26 p.m.
I had made it with less than four minutes to spare.
I started to cry as I walked my bike across the grass to where I was to park my bike.
I was overcome with emotion and instead of thinking about what was next, I reflected on the moment.
I had faced a challenge that nearly ended my race and I persevered through sheer will.
(You still had a marathon to run … and your legs were still on the verge of cramping up on you…)
David Roher is a USAT certified triathlon and marathon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and veteran special education teacher. He is on Instagram @David Roher140.6.
By David Roher
He can be reached at [email protected]