Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tougher than Tough

During my long flight to LA yesterday for business, I relaxed with the June 2009 issue of Triathlete magazine. About three-quarters of the way into the magazine, Steve White gave tribute to two professional athletes that had "toughed it out" in 2007 Ironmans when their races didn't go as planned.

The first pro, Rutger Beke, a Belgian, walked the majority of the run portion of the 2007 Hawaii Ironman champtionship and finished in 11 hours, 13 minutes and 58 seconds. In previous years, Beke finished 4 times in the top 5. Reading the article, I remembered his post race interview on the Hawaii Ironman TV coverage. While Beke could have easily quit the race and called it a day, he stuck with it. "A lot of people in Belgium and America, they might never qualify for Hawaii. Out of respect to them, they'd love to do Ironman Hawaii in 11 hours," Beke explained at the finish. "To win at Kona takes huge amounts of physical and mental strength, but to tough it out and watch 890 athletes pass you by requires an enormous amount of courage and humility."

Similarly, Lisa Bentley toughed it out at the 2007 Australia Ironman where she initially competed to preserve her 5 year winning streak. 2007 was not her race and with 12k left to race and an injured heel, Lisa walked to the finish. Not just satisfied with finishing, Lisa stayed on to cheer her fellow Ironman competitors to the end including a fellow Ironman participant who finished just outside the cutoff time in approximately 17 hrs 9 minutes.

While the Triathlete magazine article ended there, my tribute does not. Last Saturday, I watched one triathlete, TG DJ, who tops the list in terms of toughness and if I had the option of adding another story, hers certainly would be it. From the start, her swim did not go as planned. Rather than rolling on her back and calling it quits, or even stopping in T1, she hopped on her bike and set out to do the best with the hot and windy conditions we were dealt at WL. Despite a solid bike, by the time she entered the run course, temperatures were well into the 80s and we had all been racing some time. But you wouldn't necessarily know it. . . when we passed on the run course, she still had a smile and encouraging words to pass along. Although she was forced to DNF, she never once quit. Her toughness and courage persevered and as she neared the finish, virtually every one of her teammates had stayed to cheer her on. Her own cheer was still the loudest, "Next year."

We all have a lesson to learn from these athletes. They all possess the grace, strength, tenacity and courage all of us should aspire to. Each are role models in showing us how to raise our game to the next level, respect this tough and demanding sport we compete in and to tough it out, even when doing so requires us to dig deeper than competing at the highest level. I'm glad and proud that I've at least got to know, train with and compete with one of these three athletes.


SusieQ said...

Great post!


TriGirl 40 (okay - 41) said...

I love this post, too.

When the pros tough it out, I have so much more respect for them than the ones that throw temper tantrums when their races do not go as planned.

And I can't find the words to express my admiration for the amazing TRIgirl who faced her obstacles at WL with so much grace!