“Strong finish, 79.”
Then he raised his hands in the air as he crossed the finish line.
I am not sure who commented “strong finish.”
But the guy that threw his hands in the air was me.
For the past 3 months, I have trained for my first ever triathlon.
Yesterday, I crossed the finish line of the NYC Triathlon.
Today, I write the things that I most loved and learned about the experience from start to finish.
START WITH WHERE YOU ARE:
I had a pair of Nike’s that are 3 years old. I wore the same pair of $7 shorts for every training. I rented a bike from a local bike shop. The helmet came with it. That’s what I raced with. And every time I was passed by a fancy bike with all the bells and whistles, I smiled. Not because having a fancy bike with all the bells and whistles is a bad thing. But because it is usually the reason that people with old Nike’s and shorts and rented bikes don’t enter the race in the first place. I entered. Old gear, some of it mine, some it not. And guess what, I passed a lot of people along the way, as well. Start with where you are, and with what you have.
HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE:
I did not miss one workout on the 11 week plan. Not one. The first half of the training was shorter 30–60 minute workouts five days a week. The second half was 2–3 hours of training a day, 6 days a week. Someone once told me, every workout has its purpose, so honor them all. Respect them all, and give them your all. Good advice.
I FORGOT HOW MEANINGFUL IT IS TO BUILD LOCAL COMMUNITY:
During my last mile of my run on race day, I was pretty tired. And I needed to do something to give myself a boost. So, I started thinking about all the people that I met during this training, and their smiling faces flashed through my head. John, the mechanic at the bike shop who did 75 triathlons in his life and always had a new tip for me. Hussein, who greeted my after ever ride with the classic line, “go home, cold shower, water, and rest — you are king for the day.” Melinda, the owner of the bike shop with her sweet smile and endless positivity. JR and Darius, my favorite servers at Candle Cafe who always made sure the water glass was full of hydration and made me feel special for putting myself out there. From the amazing Parks Department employees at the John Jay Pool where I trained, to Ryan at my gym who always follows-up when he says he will. I could go on and on. But today, when the last mile felt tough, I thought of them. Of their well wishes and their desire to know how the race went. Of this small group of people that all crossed paths around one September day — and it pushed me through. With ease.
BIG GOALS DON’T ALLOW SMALL DISTRACTIONS TO DERAIL THEM:
In the later parts of the training, I was doing long bike rides and long runs. They were exhausting. During these workouts, I’d see so many people staying in the bike lane for a few seconds longer than they should have, or walking where the lane was meant to be for runners. And I saw many people get angry and even aggressive with these people. But I was focused on a bigger goal, and just moved around them. In less than one second. I needed the energy to finish the train, not fight with strangers.
IT’S MY FAULT, NOT YOURS:
I was riding in Central Park one day, and I hit a teenage girl on her bike. We both went flying off our bikes. Thankfully, we were both OK. I was looking behind me to see if my companion rider was coming along. And when I turned around, boom, I hit her. My first instinct was to blame my companion — she should have been riding faster. And then to blame the girl for coming out of nowhere and passing in front of me. But the truth is, it was my fault. For turning around, for not seeing her. For blaming others. This was one of my first rides. From then on, I took full accountability for my actions — my food, sleep, training schedule, balance, everything. Blaming other people is lazy. Lazy rarely crosses the finish line, if it ever enters the race in the first place.
THERE IS A FINE LINE BETWEEN SELF-HELP AND SELF-OBSESSION:
I am so tired of thinking about myself. What I eat, how I feel, how many miles I trained. Me, Me, Me. I love growing, and this has been a tremendous moment for self-actualization for so many reasons. But I also learned there is a fine line, a balance between pushing yourself to be better (good) and becoming obsessed with yourself (bad). There were many days when every single decision throughout the day was about Brian. I love Brian, but I don’t want to think about him all day.
I DON’T WANT TO “DOMINATE” ANYTHING:
Not the race, not the other participants, not the ocean for the swim, not the training. I don’t want to dominate. A desire for domination has lead to a lot of painful and selfish decisions in our world. I want to do my best and give it an honest try while respecting and optimistically hoping that other humans and the natural world around you are also trying to do the same. I didn’t dominate the race today. I contributed to it with my joy and energy and optimism.
PATTERN RECOGNITION CALMS A MANIC MIND:
So many stories came up in my head during the last 3 months of traning. My legs hurt and I don’t want to train. I felt a little sick and should not train. I have work. I am bored and want to stop. I should be doing something else with my time. I should be making more money instead of training 3 hours a day. I should, I should, I should. Training required a lot of solo time, and the number of manic thoughts that popped into my head were interesting. But I could basically break them all down in two categories — 1) highly inspiring (often) or 2) excuses to justify not believing in myself or my training (also often). No Brian, your legs don’t hurt so much you can’t run — you are just scared that you’ve never run the distance you are being asked to run today (see next point). The more we can recognize thoughts and patterns, the easier it becomes to know what is really going on.
THE “BUT I’VE NEVER” MYTH:
I’ve never ridden a bike for a workout. I’ve never swam in the ocean at a distance longer than a few strokes. I’ve never done endurance training on a plant based diet. I’ve never, I’ve never, I’ve never. The best thing about “I’ve never” is that it’s universally true about everything you’ve ever done. Until you do it. And then you have. On the other side of resistance is magic. Almost always.
THE POWER OF ONE:
I want to reach millions of people. I want to use my talents to influence. And that’s fine. But this training has shown me the true power of one.
Every day, I made it a point to give one person a high five during my run or bike ride. They always smiled, and moved a little faster.
I had a triathlon coach, Melissa Trusty. She was phenomenal in every way imaginable. I asked her about her proudest moment in the last 3 months of working together. “When you crossed that finish line today,” she said. One person, one moment.
I am working with graduate students at Fordham University’s School of Business this semester for a leadership training program. I have befriended a fellow facilitator named Stephen. When he learned I was doing the triathlon, he signed up too. We crossed paths on the run today and shared encouragement. It gave me energy. We hugged at the finish line. “Thanks for inspiring me to do this. I am really glad I did,” he told me. One.
My first friend in NYC and his amazing wife showed up to root me on. Rich is a marathon runner and I’ve been to almost all his runs. Seeing him cheer me on brought back so many memories. He helped me get through. My sister Facetimed in from Florida as I crossed the finish.
The last quarter mile of that the run today, I dedicated my thoughts and gratitude to myself. For trying something out of my comfort zone and making an all in dedication to seeing it through. I thought of my parents and siblings. I thought of all the people i mentioned above, and even a few I didn’t mention that are super special to my heart.
I am an emotional human being and feel deeply. I am still shocked and delighted at how much we crave and desire connection.
And it starts with one.
One coach who takes your call because she believes in you, and then travels 4 hours to share a finish line moment after hundreds of hours of training.
One mechanic who stays late at the job on a Friday night to make sure your bike will fit in the car the next morning.
One volunteer who organizes hundreds of people to get a little stronger on the Rockaway Beach Boulevard.
One text or call or letter that says, “thinking about you today.”
One ride in nature makes you see something in a way you’ve never considered before.
But perhaps most importantly for me, it was the one day that I made a decision to do this.
For the one person that wants to get started without all of the “best equipment” or previous experience.
For the one person that wants to give a plant based diet a chance, but is worried about protein or endurance or performance.
For the one person that is desperate to try something the’ve never done, but have others telling them they shouldn’t because they’ve never done it.
For the one person that feels stuck in their body or mind that is looking for something or someone to believe in. Or who believes in them.
For the one person that needs permission to go try something that scares you.
Because I’ve been there too, so I did it for you.
But also, I did it for me.
Because at the end of the day, I am the one person I promise to grow with and love for the rest of my life.
And no matter how different we are, we all have that in common.
We get an eternity with us.
One day at a time.
Today was a great day.