2019 was my fifth full season racing triathlon and the year I was going to race my first full Ironman. Early on, I narrowed my choices down to 3 races; Chattanooga, Florida or Louisville. I have raced both the Chattanooga 70.3 and Gulf Coast 70.3 events, so I was familiar with the courses for the most part but I chose Louisville. Chattanooga had been extremely hot the last few years and as far as Florida, I thought the chance of the swim being cancelled was too high (isn’t that ironic). I couldn’t imagine putting in all that work and having that happen.

My season consisted of 3 sprints and a 70.3 through the end of August, and then head down for one last build into Louisville on October 13th. As the race grew closer and the work was done and my taper started, I began to see some posts on the Ironman Louisville Facebook group about the condition of the Ohio River and the toxic algae blooms. I didn’t pay it that much attention; the weather was going to cool down, they were going to get rain it would be okay just like it was in 2015 - except it wasn’t. As race weekend was upon us and I was traveling to Louisville the Thursday prior, it became apparent the situation regarding the water quality was not good. I still held out hope as surely everything would work out. There was another water quality test on Friday and they would find a way for us to swim.

Then came the email when we were driving the bike course late Friday morning; the water quality test was NOT good. They could not find a way for us to swim, so no one was getting in that river. I was devastated; my 140.6 was now a 138.2! All that work and Sunday evening I still wouldn’t be an Ironman. I spent the rest of the day in an absolute funk. Why was I even going to race? It was just a long brick now. By the time Friday night rolled around, my wife gave me the kick in the butt I needed get over the disappointment and get my mind right or Sunday was not going to be pretty. I said a prayer that night and asked God for some help in this department because I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

I woke up Saturday and was feeling a little better, but still had some moments of disappointment that I wasn’t going to be an Ironman. I busied myself getting everything together for bike check-in and then it hit me; I remembered my reason “WHY”. I didn’t get into this sport for a label, or a tattoo or some form of external validation. I got into this sport because back in late 2013 a pattern of self-destructive behavior I’ve had since high school reached an all-time high. It was no longer just affecting me, but more importantly, it was affecting my family. By the grace of God my eyes were opened and I knew I needed to make a change. Endurance sports, and more importantly triathlon, were a huge part of allowing me to break that pattern. As I progressed in the sport I embraced the lifestyle and reaped even more rewards. The biggest of these is the relationships with the people you meet along the way and seeing their “WHY”. That is my true inspiration and probably what I love most about the sport to see what others overcome to achieve their goals.

Sunday came and it was race day. I decided I wanted to at least honor my training and get the full 140.6 miles in on the day. I got up and swam 2.4 miles in the hotel pool before having the longest T1 ever and walking down to the race venue for the time trial bike start. The race was amazing, the spectators and volunteers were incredible it was everything I thought it would be! It was fun, it was painful and an absolute test of my mental fortitude but I loved every minute of it. I remembered my reason “WHY”!

As I look back on the weekend, my own day was a memorable one, but what will stick with me the most is going back to the finish line until 12:45 AM and cheering the finishers. It was an absolute inspiration and something I’ll never forget. I can’t wait to do another one!


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1 comment

  • Chris Ebert: January 22, 2020
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    Way to go! Circumstances beyond our control are very frustrating! You have a very smart and determined wife and surrendering to God isn’t easy to do.
    I am training for my first Tri event in January. Thanks for your article, it has inspired me and has reminded me to ask God for help!

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