I love sports, including football, so meeting Hines Ward while in Kona was pretty exciting to me and you can tell he has the determination, drive and talent that made him an amazing football player. He never imagined himself doing an Ironman though. He even said, the most he ran in his life was probably around a mile. In football, everything you do is explosive. Contrary, you hope that your long run isn’t explosive. He was, and still is a big guy, but with his training he is now lean and fit. “I’ve never, ever been in this shape in my entire life,” which was shocking to me that he was a professional athlete and was in shape, but a for a different purpose.
I also was excited to meet Chrisann, Eric and Josh from the Chocolate Milk Refuel Team and they all were inspiring. It was so interesting to hear their stories and then follow them to the finish line on race day. Eric told us about his struggles while training, including how he had a serious infection in his prosthetic leg that really hindered him. It was emotional listening to him talk about it, I can’t even imagine how painful and hard it must have been to struggle through that. I also was so inspired by Eric, as he only recently lost his leg and was so gracious and had such an incredible spirit about the whole situation.
I asked Hines what the hardest part of the entire training round was, and said it all was hard because it was all so new and different to him. The three others agreed. It would most likely be like me suiting up for football practice and just jumping right in. Being mostly a runner myself, the bike portion of the race is what scares me the most and swimming is just so foreign to me. It’s learning to completely new sports, trying your hardest to excel at all three sports, and then stringing them all together trying to beat the 17 hour cut off, hoping that you can cross the finish line. It’s pretty much the most mind boggling thing to me. On one hand it looks so hard on your body even with relentless training, coaching and preparation and it can all blow up in your face. On the other, it looks like the most exciting, hard and rewarding experience you could have in life.
After meeting with the team, I followed them throughout the day and cheered for them when we saw them on the run. When we saw Hines, his head was down and you could tell he was focused, just like how I am during a marathon. Trying to get it done, one foot in front of the other. I saw Eric run through the finish first, and he was ecstatic, I made me tear up. After hearing how much he struggled through training, seeing his hard work pay off was really motivating. Next I saw Hines cross the finish line, it was another really special moment. You could tell how pumped up he was, and the entire atmosphere at the finish line was electric, no matter what time you finished. Finally, I caught Chrisann and her entire family was waiting for her and I really choked up. Knowing the sacrifices they made for her during training, and how much support she had from them, it was just a special moment to see. I wish I had a picture of her too, but I missed it, perhaps because I was shedding some tears!
It was so fun to follow the entire team throughout the race and I really appreciated them taking the time to talk to us and to be so real and honest about their training and their feelings approaching the event. They are all so inspiring in different ways!