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Thank You Kona

October 21st, 2014

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Alex Zanardi
Alex Zanardi

A few years back, I completed most of the1987 IRONMAN World Championships.  Unfortunately, I left out the most important part – the finish line.  During the process of almost finishing, I learned a couple of things.  First, not finishing something that you start is a horrible feeling, and second, I don’t enjoy IRONMAN distance triathlons.

Immediately after almost completing the event, as I watched others finish what I did not, I learned a few more things.  Primarily, IRONMAN is a race, an event, and also a journey.  I sat and watched just about every single person cross that finish line – a subconscious penance, perhaps, yet an amazing and enlightening experience.  Each person’s face and body told a story.  Some of the stories were obvious, and some were not.  Trying to figure out the stories that were not obvious, and perhaps apply them to my life, was cathartic, and reminded me of why I got involved in sport in the first place.

I started my life as a triathlete out of admiration for a college professor, and because of intrigue into the process of testing oneself – the journey, if you will.  I did “short” triathlons – one to two hours.  What started out as journeys, gradually morphed into competitions.  Accordingly, my notion of success gradually shifted from the completion of the journey, to finishing before anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved that my results were directly tied to success – financial and otherwise.  But at some point, that drive obscures the real motivation.  My yearly pilgrimage to watch IRONMAN Kona reminded me that the challenge was the real reason I started.  Because of this reminder, I never tired of my life in sport.

This year in Kona, I listened to Alex Zanardi, one of the greatest sportsman of all time, who lost both of his legs in a horrific IndyCar crash, talk about his successes.  After finishing IRONMAN Kona, with no legs, in 9:47:14 (1:08, 6:07, 2:24), he was asked by a small group of inquisitive fans how he was able to go so fast.  He answered that he did not become an IndyCar Champion because he wanted to drive fast.  He drove fast because he loved the process of learning to drive a race car.  Of his experience in Kona, Mr. Zanardi said, “When I passed down that narrow lane I have never experienced anything like that. It was amazing. I was always close to crying. I am not an emotional guy for these types of things, but this was very special.”

Once again, I’m reminded – if you love the journey, you will enjoy success.

Thank you Kona.

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