No matter what live musical concert you’ve attended from the 70’s until today there will be several in the crowd that scream “Free Bird!”. It used to be signified with lighters overhead and is now replaced with cell phones while screaming to the band on stage. It’s a nod to the popular 70’s band Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was and is and epic rock classic. The screaming of “Free Bird” today has the same meaning it did 40 years ago…..play your best song and let’s rock the house. After a year like last year, 8 races and 8 wins, I have to look inside myself when the cell phones are on and I hear “Free Bird” in my head. I just played it!!! 2013 was the season of all seasons. I overcame multiple challenges, saw doors close and God open even more. I stood on the precipice of calling it a career and the edge of staring obstacles in the face and saying, “so what, now what?”
As endurance athletes we are preprogrammed to suffer and ignore pain and challenges whether they be emotional or physical. However, as we get older we are forced to listen to the ongoing signs that we are aging. Sore muscles, longer recoveries and a slightly slower pace on our tempo runs remind us that father time’s clock is ticking. We need to find something extraordinary special every year to keep us coming back. This year my something special is balance. I’ve found the perfect balance in my life between God, family, friends, training and work. Great triathletes however were never made on balance. They come from a place of myopic focus.
I’ll train with my selfless partners Mandy and Stacy who will provide me much more than a pace on a run. They are there to support me, cheer for me and laugh with me while solving life’s problems along hundreds of miles. I’ll show up in Kona fit, confident and ready to dig as deep as ever. It’s been a great run, but I’m not done. I’m going to throw it down one more time (at least). You don’t get to the starting line of the Ironman World Championships without bringing your whole life with it. I’ll tap into my strength from my life’s tragedies, my incredible village of supporters and training partners. I’ll have the confidence in knowing that no matter what the race brings me it is nothing like life has brought me in the last year.
Last year I broke my own American Record for the Fastest American Amateur over 40 in the 35 year history of the Ironman finishing in 9:41. Will I break it again? I have no idea. I will guarantee however, at the end of the day I will have left it all on the lava fields.
“Free Bird!!!!!”. It’s our Kona, our best and our favorite. Turn down the house lights and raise your cell phones. We’re going to play it one more time.