Reflections of Iron – Looking Back and Moving Forward

In less than two weeks, I will be making the trek to Orlando Florida to take part in the 25th running of the Great Floridian Triathlon or “GFT” as it’s known in the triathlon world. This will be my third trip to Clermont to race GFT, and this year will be special on many levels. GFT was my first iron distance race, and while there have been many more since then, GFT will always be a very special and magical place for me. To date, I have 12 ironman finishes. To some, that may seem like a lot. To some, that may sound insanely stupid.  And in comparison to many of my friends who have raced 20 and 30 ironman events, I’m the rookie of the bunch. To me, it’s just a meaningless number.  And the reality is, in the grand scheme of things – “how many”, or even “if” mean nothing.

I began my racing “career” in the mid 1980s and on some level, I’ve had the concept of ironman on my brain since then. In the beginning it was a far off pipe dream bucket list item. But then when the marathons, century rides, and short course events started to add up, ironman turned from a dream to a plan. Since 1999 I have been actively racing, training, writing, talking, or thinking about ironman.  Racing 140.6 miles for that long, and that many times has taught me a lot about myself. I learned much more about what this all means in the couple of races where I DNF’d than in the 12 that I finished.

I’ve lived a lot of life during that time. I’ve also experienced some great losses during that time. Much of it while battling my own (2006) leukemia diagnosis.  And all of that has left a positive imprint on me. And all of that has made me a better man.

I had an incredibly fulfilling moment of self-realization about two weeks ago. And after discussing it with my family, and receiving their blessing, it drove home the sensibility and the “rightness” of that moment. The bottom line is that I am emotionally tired of thinking about ironman and have made the decision that this year’s GFT will be my last 140.6. I don’t have anything left to give it, nor does it have anything more to give me. Ironman has been an incredible experience, and I am incredibly blessed and thankful for all of it. But it’s time to move on.

Don’t misinterpret me and think that I will be retreating to the couch. That notion is far from reality. I will just redirect my energy back into the marathon and even ultra-marathon events, and limit my triathlon escapades to nothing longer than the 70.3 distance. XTERRA and Powerman are also races that have always been on my bucket list. There are a ton of other really cool races and destinations that will still fuel my fire without being enslaved to thinking about and processing “ironman”. And I want to walk away from it on my terms.

Since making that decision, and receiving that confirmation from my family, I felt as though a huge weight was lifted and a sense of calm was restored.

The people that I met at my first Great Floridian have always been an extended family to me.  I’ve kept in touch with many of them over the years. The fact that I am going back to Florida to race my last 140.6 at the same venue, and with some of the same people that I raced my first with, is purely poetic to me. I feel like this will wrap a big ribbon around 140.6 and allow me to rest it proudly on the shelf.

Of course….I do reserve the right to rescind everything that I just said at some point. But I honestly don’t think that’s going to happen. I feel too good about this. I’m looking forward to a great trip to Clermont, followed by the NYC marathon the following week, and the Philly half marathon three weeks after that. From there, I will start to put the pieces together of what the post ironman race calendar will look like. And trust me, it will be fun. And I will enjoy every step of the new journey.

Train safe. Race smart. Thank the volunteers.

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