The video I like best from the many I took at the Ironman last Sunday is from the start at the beach. Everybody was so excited, the music being blasted across the beach was breathtakingly dramatic (and funny: “Sweet Caroline, good times’ve never been so good” when they were thrown back onto the beach), the first light of the new day was just coming out from above the horizon – a day that would see almost all of the competitors swimming, running and cycling for more than 12 hours without a break, without lunch and without a dinner. Some of them would take until after midnight to make it across the finishing line. Everybody there on the beach knew that this was going to be one of the toughest days in their life. A day they had been looking forward to for a long long time during endless hours of training. Do I need to go on?
And now watch this short video. This is how the race started.
The waves were crashing on to the beach. Many of the competitors who jumped into the waves landed flat on their belly on the sand when the water receded faster than they could manage to overcome the swell. And when they were just getting back up, the next wave took them and threw them onto their backs beyond the point where they had just tried to get into the water. Imagine this being the beginning of their big day of achieving the impossible. It was as if Poseidon was telling them not to bother even trying; he would gobble them up and spit them back out. Pure hybris.
But they kept trying. Again and again and again. Until they were finally out in the open water. 3.8km of really choppy waters ahead of them. And when the first swimmers got back and made their way through the waves back onto the beach, they started to run as soon as they managed to get back onto their feet, trying to get to their bicycles as fast as possible.
This was inspiring. They did not give up. Although they were facing the most difficult conditions right from the start.
Pádraig did not do an Ironman today, but he went back swimming. He go a present of a ‘dry robe’ that he can use to keep dry and warm when getting out of the water and into the car. With this robe, there is really no need for him to get changed on one of the wall-mounted stretchers in the changing room (if there is one of these stretchers) he can get from the car straight into the pool, and from the pool straight back into the car. It was a fantastic present.
It was also a fantastic day because today, for the very first time, when I helped Pádraig out of the bed after his nap, I gave him a hand to stand up. And as we were standing there, I helped him a little, but just a little, to move his legs. And very slowly, he took four steps forward. He had taken steps and walked in Pforzheim, of course, many times with the helped of two or three people. But never with just one person supporting him. It was like his own Ironman achievement! Challenging the gods. Pure hybris.