Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kona Project Update: "Do Your Best"

It was another early autumn Sunday morning.  My dad woke me to go for a bike ride.  My teacher, Mrs. Dolan (6th grade), had asked me a couple days earlier about the bike rides I went on that summer with my dad.  I don't know how she knew about them, but she seemed impressed that a 12 year old would do such a thing.  I just thought it was fun!

I don't remember exactly where we rode on this particular Sunday.  It may have been down Allegheny River Boulevard, through the Strip District, and into the city.  Or, maybe we rode out to Hampton High School, where my dad was Principal.  Or, maybe up to Tarentum, through New Kensington, and back to Oakmont via Coxcomb Hill.  It didn't much matter to me.  We'd hop on our Schwinn 12 speeds and spend the morning out on the road.  I just hoped we'd stop at the Oakmont Bakery for a donut and chocolate milk!  I still love plain cake donuts to this day. :)

As many of our rides did, we finished with a climb up California Avenue to our house.  At the top, where the hill was steepest, my dad was encouraging me saying, "GO FOR THE GOLD!"  There was no pressure, he just wanted me to do my best.  Reaching the top was always a good feeling!

Our old Schwinn's.  They're actually hanging in the garage, but
I flipped the pic so you could imagine how fast we were on them.

My mom used to make me and my sisters sit at the dining room table until our homework was perfect.  Not just complete, but also correct.  She would correct our math problems and make us redo the ones that were incorrect.  I remember doing a book report on "A Wrinkle In Time" in gradeschool.  I had a lot of trouble understanding the book so my mom read it in one evening so we could discuss it together, and I could write my report for the next day.  She wanted me to do my best.

Last fall, when I invested in the goal of qualifying for Kona, I knew on the day I qualified, I would need a performance significantly better than ever before.  Prior to Louisville, I had competed in two full-distance triathlons.  My first was the Full-Rev at Cedar Point in 2012, where I finished in 9:52:30.  Then, last year my first Ironman, at Lake Placid, where I finished in 10:36:32.  Respectable finishes for sure, but nothing that would get me to Kona. 

Going into Louisville, I believed that if I could swim 1:10:00, which I did at Lake Placid (1:09:40); bike around 5 hrs, which I did at Cedar Point (4:55:32); and run a 3:30:00 marathon, which I had never done in a triathlon (3:39:27 at Cedar Pt and 3:58:16 at LP), I could qualify for Kona.  Add those up and include 5 minutes for transitions, I'm at 9 hrs and 40 min.  Considering 4th and 5th places were slower than 9:55:00 in 2013 at Louisville, I thought a performance close to this would get me to Kona.

Two questions remained.  Did I have the courage to physically push myself to produce my best performance?  And, would my best performance be good enough?  When I woke-up on race day, more than anything, I wanted to do my best. I had put so much time and effort into achieving this goal, and I had so many people make sacrifices for me, most especially, Laura.  I owed them my best effort.  If my best performance wasn't good enough for a Kona slot, I would still be satisfied.

When I jumped in the Ohio River that morning, I overcame my fears and focused on getting the most out of each stroke.  I wanted to do my best.  When I hit mile 80 riding through the Kentucky horse country, I knew "going for it" on the bike was a risk.  I wanted to do my best.  When I turned the corner in downtown Louisville to see the finish line, only to know I had a second lap of 13.1 miles in the marathon, I kept a strong stride.  I wanted to do my best.  When I started walking through the aid stations because my legs hurt so bad, I found the will to run again.  I wanted to do my best.  When I ran the final 2 miles of the marathon as fast as the first 2 miles, I didn't know in what place I was.  I just wanted to do my best.  Finally, when I crossed the finish line, the tears filled my eyes.  I knew I had done my best. 

And you know what...I'm going to do my best in Kona too!!!

There were four Kona slots in my age group at Louisville.  I finished 4th with a time of 9:35:43 to earn my Kona slot.  Each of the top four finishers in my age group, including myself, took our Kona slot.  I unknowingly held off the 5th place finisher by just less than 3 minutes and beat my own estimated finish time, which would not have been good enough.  When the race got hard, I simply wanted to do my best.  And you know what, it paid off!!!

4th Place!

Accepting my slot to Kona!

So many people throughout my life have motivated and encouraged me to do my best.  My parents instilled that attitude in me at a young age.  Coaches and teachers at every level nurtured that attitude.  Friends and teammates shared that attitude.  Family supported that attitude.  I have so many people that are constant motivation for me on training days as well as race day.  It's almost like an army is cheering me on when I'm racing.  Thank you to everyone that has helped me achieve this goal!!!

I cannot end my post without singling out my wife, Laura.  She has been extremely supportive over the last year, and has sacrificed daily for my goal.  We live a busy life, as a lot of people do, but fitting in two workouts a day on top of everything else makes things that much more challenging.  I hope a trip to Hawaii is a small payback. Thank you and I love you!

Finally, a message to my boys, Lucas and Matthew (and any possible future sons or daughters).  DO YOUR BEST!  I love you!

Luke sees me coming.
He's cheering me on!
Daddy finished!  Matty doesn't care much.

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