As I write to you today I am in Lake Tahoe sitting before a warm fire. Yesterday, my son ran his first Ironman and I was in Tahoe to support him and cheer him on as he crossed the finish line. Those of you, who follow this blog, know that this time last year, Matthew was hit by car while training for this very race. He had life threatening injuries that could have resulted in paralysis or death. But he was blessed and our family was blessed with a miracle. Good Samaritans and competent professional all came together at the right time, with the right skills to save his life. I am grateful for the community that saved him.
Participating in the Ironman was a two-year journey for Matthew. He committed both mentally and physically to participating in the race. A moving and exciting tradition of the Ironman race is as the athlete crosses the finish line the announcer bestows the title of #Ironman on the finisher. Tears came to my eyes as Matthew ran across the finish line and the announcer said, "Matthew Parks, You. Are. An. Ironman." The irony of the moment is that the athlete doesn't feel like an Ironman as he or she crosses the finish line. The athlete has endured 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running and drained all reserves to cross the finish line. It takes about a 45-minute rest, a few hundred calories and hugs from family and well-wishers for the athlete to appreciate the enormity of their accomplishment.
As I sat in the dining hall with the finishers, I listened as the racers discussed their performance on the course. The athlete's attitude about his performance was based on his expectations going into the race. If an athlete expected to finish the course in 13 hours but finishes in 12 hours the event was a success. Conversely if that same athlete's expectations are 11 hours but the final time is 12 hours disappointment rises to the surface and a harsh critical analysis begins. At Ironman as in life our expectations drives our journey and ultimately whether we are happy or not. When our expectations are met we are happy, when our expectations aren't met we are dissatisfied. Happiness is the result of our expectations and outcome being balanced.
I am a big proponent of making life plans and working those plans but I have learned and now embrace life where my expectations run contrary to the outcome. The unexpected gives me an opportunity to learn and grow as a human being. What if we viewed our life as an Ironman event where it's going to take us everything we've got to make it to the finish line and that the unexpected is part of the course and doesn't drive our happiness. Yesterday I watched as hundreds of athletes faced the unknown and worked for the title of Ironman. My wish for them is that they find happiness in their willingness to take chances and run the race. I was inspired and encourage by my son and those around him as they took up a personal challenge to achieve a difficult goal. I will take this lesson with me as I head back home to New York.