On September 11, 2005 many of you will enter
Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin to face the greatest
of human adversaries: Doubt.
When the cannon sounds at Ironman Wisconsin
2005 you will begin a journey to vanquish doubt. You will
stand squarely at odds with the greatest fear every human
faces: The fear of failure.
I know that you will face that fear with
the highest degree of valor and tenacity that you can
Failure is a looming specter that haunts
every person from hero to coward. How we come to terms
with fear of failure determines our place along the continuum
that separates hero from coward.
Perhaps the greatest failure in all of human
endeavor is the failure to try.
In donning your wetsuit on September 11 and paddling out
to your start position in Lake Monona you have already
won that victory, one of many victories to be contested
The Ironman Triathlon is, at once, a massive
undertaking and an utterly insignificant one. But as you
tread water in Lake Monona the gravity of the event you
face will no doubt settle heavily on your shoulders. Remember
though, you bring to the start line a mighty arsenal of
preparation to shoulder that weight.
If you enter the water in Wisconsin with
a degree of concern over your preparation be assured that
you are not alone. Of the 2604 athletes registered to
contest Ironman Wisconsin less than a handful do so after
a full season of meticulous preparation. Most take to
the shores of Lake Monona with the best preparation they
could muster while attending to the everyday chores of
a common person. The fact that you choose to enter the
water in addition to honoring those obligations is what
makes you irrevocably uncommon.
It is time to cast your concerns over preparation
aside. You go to the start line with what you have, and
you will do your very best. Do not let concern or doubt
be a companion on this day. Instead, choose to take credit
for all that you have accomplished- and mostly that you
had the courage to take to the start line, a challenge
few people ever have a bold enough spirit to answer.
Make no mistake: Ironman is a titanic endeavor.
In all of sport the Ironman Triathlon is held as the gold
standard of human endurance. It is an eclectic test of
willpower, physical and mental perseverance. There are
longer races, there are more difficult races, but there
are no more grand and sprawling spectacles than this beautiful
contest of fitness, bravery, tenacity and even transformation.
In the span of our lives there are precious
few days when, at the onset of the day, we know that at
the conclusion of that day our lives will be altered profoundly
and permanently. These are the days that change our lives.
These days change our ideas of ourselves, the way our
friends see us and we see them. We remember these days
for the rest of our lives. For those of you beginning
Ironman Wisconsin, September 11, 2005 will be one of those
September 11 is a significant date in human
history since 2001. It is fitting that you take to the
water on that date to struggle through an ordeal that
is a microcosm of the struggles all free people have faced
around the world since September 11, 2001 and before.
While your trial in Wisconsin is enormous in a personal
sense, in the grand scheme of things sacrificed and endured
since September 11, 2001 to insure freedom and liberty
around the world, it is minor. Every day around the world
brave people exhibit endurance and daring in volumes that
far exceed any Ironman in the pursuit of a safe, free
world on our behalf. During your race in Wisconsin allow
the spirit of these brave people working in the pursuit
of justice and freedom to carry you. If it were not for
their selfless endurance and dedicated hard work, none
of us would have a start line to toe. The sacrifice of
these guardians of freedom gives us the buoyancy of liberty
and security to pursue sport in the extreme at Ironman.
As with all worthwhile endeavors there will
be times throughout the day when your spirit is about
to flag, your legs about to collapse and your will stretched
to its limit. The realities of injury, illness or misfortune
may require you to summon the courage to return another
day. If so, you are better for having tried, and wiser
for having walked away to return again renewed, on another
day. But I wager you will not yield. The value of your
accomplishment is held is stark relief against the obstacles
overcome to achieve it. The more difficult it is; the
more precious it becomes. I know that most of you will
prevail, and this means it will be a great day of days,
resplendid in celebration and accomplishment.
At the end of this long and trying day,
when you come to the finish line, you will earn a prize
more valuable than any medal. You will have earned, through
sweat and struggle, the knowledge that you can set to
the difficult and achieve it with grace and humility.
Going forward this knowledge is a prize with currency
spent in every part of your life, an abundant source of
inspiration and fortitude to serve you well in trying
times to come.
It is with no small degree of pride and
envy that I bid you each the best of luck at Ironman.
It has been our privilege to play a very small role in
helping to prepare your equipment and to attend to a few
of the technical details that fit together to make your
day at Ironman a success. That is a role we take with
solemn sobriety, and with great reverence for the trust
you place in us.
This will be a great day of challenge, a
day when the brilliant light of accomplishment illuminates
the dark shadow of doubt. Take time to bask in that light
of accomplishment, as precious few days are lived with
so much vitality and depth.
Good luck from all your friends here at
Bikesport, and have a safe and fortunate race.