Reflections on completing the IRONMAN for suicide prevention journey.

Dear reader,

I shared this, somewhat vulnerable, post with family and friends on Facebook and received a significant amount of positive feedback and appreciation; so I’ve decided to share it here as well. I hope it brings value to your life. Thank you to everyone who helped us raise over $5000 for suicide prevention.  Here it is:

I am an ironman.

IMG_8395.PNG

 

It took me 16 hours of relentlessly pushing my body and mind, but I did it. I gave it everything I had for each one of those minutes, and I am very proud that I did.


I had never swam more than 5 minutes straight before I started training, but I ended up swimming 1hr & 33 mins non-stop and a distance of 2.4 miles. I never imagined I could do this in my life. I had never cycled for anything more than getting around a city or boardwalk, but I completed a 112 mile ride over 8 hours. And I had never completed a long-distance race, but I completed 26 miles. If I could do this all in one day, I wonder what else I could do and what else you could ?!


How was it? Swimming was Scary, biking was painful ( and more painful ) and running was agonizing but somewhat joyful.


10 minutes into the swim I had a minor panic attack. There were bodies all around me, kicking me, cutting me off, pulling down my legs. Swimming, as you may recall, was my greatest weakness and fear. I would consistently get minor panic attacks during my swim training and  “have” to stop to catch my breath. When I started to panic during the race I just had to let that panic wave come and go, to accept it, slow down, and pray that it would pass - and it did. When it came a second and third time as other competitors would crash and bang into me, I repeated the mantra ‘NO FEAR, NO FEAR’ and I would say to myself it was just false evidence appearing real. When I was under water I marveled at the color of the water and the air bubbles of peoples kicks around me, and when I came up for air I cultivated gratitude for the sun light, mountains and trees all around me. By the second lap I was confident I was going to complete the second lap and accomplish the first stage of the race, and the portion I was most fearful of. However, at this point I knew I know longer “had” to stop to catch my breath during a crazy-long swim, and when the anxiety was arising, so what else was possible?

IMG_8397.PNG


Then it was time to cycle. When I got out of the water I could barely walk because of a groin injury that has been causing me pain for a few weeks. It was sore, I was limping, but I was not going to stop. I jumped (painfully) onto the bike, hearing the cheers from loved ones, and got after it.


The bike was hell. Over 8 hours of me giving it everything I had. And I mean over 8 full hours of going as hard as I could. It was 36 degrees Celsius, the hills (long and steep ones) were non-stop. I was over-heating, and I was concerned my usual dehydration migraines would kick in at any moment. So I drank about 1 bottle of water and 1 Gatorade every 30 minutes and would put cold water and ice all over me at every refuel station. I also had electrolyte pills and Advil taped to my bike that I would take periodically. I ate gel packs and cliff bars often (never want to eat those again at this point, yuck). Did I mention the pain was ruthless? Not only was it hellish, I was also pressed to make the time cut-off. Thankfully on the downhills I did not use my breaks and flew like a bird (lots of fun), fortunately I did not crash or have a flat tire. By the third and final lap I was completely gased. It was incredibly helpful to have family, friends, and strangers on the sidelines cheering me on, as well as my fellow competitors. The camaraderie I experienced with them all was something very special I will always remember. It was incredible to be around so many people giving it there all and with such high spirits. Thank you to all the competitors and supporters from around the world who were there.

IMG_8398.PNG


Finally it was time for the run. I did not know if my groin would be causing me to limp still like after the swim, thankfully (and miraculously) I was mostly fine.  I actually felt pretty good at this point. Despite some savage chafing that I think comes with sitting on a hard bicycle seat for 8+ hours. But I was not limping ! I was amazed. I was prepared to limp the whole marathon but I’m sure glad I didn’t have to. On the run I was able to take more time than the other events, and it was not an event I was new to like swimming and running, so it was not too hard for me. It was just long, and somewhat painful as well. However again I focused on the beauty around me (not difficult in whistler, B.C), the inspiration from others, and started to get excited for finishing the ironman! But then I realized I was cutting it close to the time cut-off, so I began to run more and more while doing my best to stay hydrated  and nourished. I greatly feared not completing the run in time and not competing the ironman!! There were more than a few athletes throwing up, shivering from heat exhaustion or cramping throughout the race - I did everything I knew to do to prevent this from happening, but since it was my first race I really was scared it could happen at any moment. Thankfully it didn’t. 

IMG_8396.PNG


And then it was time to cross the finish line. I had started at 630am and I was crossing the finish line around 10pm. Long day Of exercising 100% the whole time! Amazingly I had some energy to run and even jump across the finish line (not good idea, leg temporarily cramped from jumping). And it was done. Friends and family congratulated me, I felt like passing out and being sick, but it was over. Mission accomplished. As they say when you complete an Ironman, I could now state that Anything is Possible.


As I mentioned before, the greatest part about this was both raising money for suicide prevention and accomplishing something I never new I could do. **Seriously, How AMAZING is it know that there is so much in the world we can accomplish that are not beyond our limits??!- as long as we commit, put in the work, and never give up**.  Truly a privilege, and I hope you give yourself an opportunity to ponder what else can you accomplish that is not beyond your limits.  However It is one thing to say I/we could do something, it is totally different to actually do it. As a sport psychologist this race was important for me to continue to be about this life- mental toughness, GRIT, preparation, strategy, mindfulness and flow. It was a validation for who I am and what I am about in life. and I learned so damn much from it personally and professionally that I can’t wait to continue to build on. Im a rookie at this sport, but I think I earned some stripes of respect completing the full  whistler ironman, one of the rowdiest.


Finally, I feel it is appropriate for me to also share something that I have always kept private which was part of the reason I did my race for suicide prevention - I too have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts in my life. There were many times when I was living in San Francisco completing my doctoral program when I would run a good distance to a cliff on the oceans edge, I think it was aptly called “dead mans point”, and think about jumping off. Those were tremendously sad and scary times for me, and my family, and I am so glad I did not give up on my life. Exercise, good friends and family, mindfulness and hope were what got me through those difficult moments.


Life is suffering, for each and every human being. It is hard. It is tragic. It is one catastrophe after the next. To live fully present in the chaos, what kabat-Zinn called full catastrophe living, is a hell of a  beneficial attitude and something that is trainable. I am not a Jedi at this, but I am learning  to get better and I truly hope that this experience at least brings me closer to realizing this mastery.


With all the humility possible, knowing how difficult it can be to do what I am about to ask of you,  I encourage you to consciously work on taking control of your focus and attitude, developing acceptance, and to attack moments that build you up despite a world that can sometimes feel like it is taking you down. When we push through the suffering of life I believe there opens up a state of consciousness that is beyond it, where we are united body/mind, as diverse but united Homo Sapiens, and world. And I believe only here, with this unity consciousness, is where the magic lies to really make massive positive change in ourselves and the world around us. These are the peak experiences that have been written about for eons and chased after by us all, consciously or unconsciously. Go get them! You deserve it!


Finally, and from the bottom of my heart, If anyone is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts I sincerely hope you don’t ever give up and that you continue to (despite the struggle) put yourself in a position to be happy again.  There are people who love you and there are professionals with additional skills to ensure your safety and ability to cope with the challenges your are facing. Healing is possible, never ever forget that. Suffering will pass And you will ultimately connect back to unity consciousness which is beyond the dualistic reality (self + others/objects) where depression lies. You will notice it in a brief laugh with a friend, a small smile out of know where, or the ability to accomplish (or even merely attempting) a meaningful goal that reaffirms to you your value.  And when those moments happen, when your journey goes inward toward that unity consciousness, I hope you really take note of them, embrace them with your heart and say hello to the joy that has been missing you just as much as you have missed it.

One love ✌️

IMG_8394.PNG