Celebrate the Victories

Celebrate the Victories

Last year we had the opportunity to travel to various races including several 140.6 Ironman triathlons to cheer on athletes.  My favorite place to cheer on racers is waiting for those last athletes who are out on the course.  Of course, I am so amazed and inspired by the professional and elite athletes and stand in awe of their abilities, but my heart really goes to the back of the field to encourage the racers who have been out there all day and need that extra push to make it to the finish line.  At one of those events, specifically the Ironman Texas event, as the evening progressed late into the night, many of the spectators had dissipated from the course.  Their family and friends had finished the race so they had moved on to celebrate with them.  As I stood there late into the night with my cowbell cheering on the remaining racers, you could see the sheer exhaustion and toll that the day had taken on the athletes.  The Ironman race is not one of just physical endurance, but there are so many factors that play into the day.  Apart from physical preparation, the athlete must stay on top of their hydration and nutrition for the day to be successful.

While the sparse number of spectators remained to encourage the athletes, I noticed that there were several different types of athletes remaining on the course.  There were those athletes who thrived on the encouragement.  With every ounce of energy they had left, they made sure to say THANK YOU to spectators for sticking around to cheer them on.  You could see it in their eyes.  The encouragement was fuel that would motivate them to muster up just enough energy to run a little more and fight through the pain and mental challenge just a little harder.  

Then there was the athlete who, when you cheered for them shook their head in a “no” fashion as if to say that I’m doing terrible and am so discouraged that I’m at the back of the race.  You could see their look of disappointment that the day had not gone as planned.  Whether their nutrition or hydration had played a factor, the elements of the weather and strong winds had brought exhaustion, or maybe not pacing things right, it just didn’t go as they expected.

Endurance races can take a toll on the body, but as the day progresses, the greatest challenge becomes one of the mind.  It’s not just a battle for the distance, but a constant battle of fighting off negative thoughts and even thoughts of quitting.  The list is endless of what goes through an athletes mind.  Nutrition can play a huge role in that.  For those athletes who were discouraged about their performance, I so badly wanted to encourage them and remind them to celebrate the victories.

  • The VICTORY of signing up for this enormous feat.
  • The VICTORY of spending countless hours and months of training and sacrifice to be there.
  • The VICTORY of standing at the start line with the courage to take on the challenge at hand.
  • The VICTORY of already completing a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and then tackling a FULL marathon.
  • The VICTORY of not quitting or giving up when they were tempted time and again.
  • The VICTORY of putting one foot in front of the other in pursuit of their goal.
  • The VICTORY of eventually getting across the Finish Line even if they had to walk or crawl.
  • The VICTORY that they are one of a small percentage of human beings who will ever take on this challenge and accomplish it.

Standing at the Finish Line from 11-12midnight was one of the most electrifying experiences as we watched the final athletes come in.  Cheering for them earlier in the day and then seeing their perseverance pay off as they approached the Finish Line.  The most emotional part of the day was seeing their families erupt with joy and fill up with tears as they watched their athlete round the corner for the final distance.  We all cried with them in celebration of their HUGE accomplishment.

So many times in life as humans we can be extremely critical and hard on ourselves.  What if in those moments of disappointment, instead of focusing on what we should have done, that we can turn our thoughts and celebrate what we actually have accomplished.  Life can be so much fuller and gratifying when we can give ourselves credit for what we did accomplish and to celebrate each victory along the journey…whether it be in a race, in your training, or even in your daily life.  So today, our challenge to you is not to focus on what you didn’t do, but to celebrate what you DID do. 

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