Just An Average Joe Doing Extraordinary Things…
This is a story of a regular everyday guy, a little overweight, father of three, loving husband, working two jobs, trying to keep a regular fitness schedule going (sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing) and his glorious day of victory. The story is pretty simple and I will make it a quick read.
One year ago Ben was SUPER out of shape and he set a goal of completing a century bike ride (100 miles). He started strong at the beginning of the year with training, then fell off, then fell off more, then started back up, then fell off, then started back up again. Eventually he felt the heat of the race approaching and he kicked up his game about 10 notches and pulled it all together. Before the race the longest ride he finished was 60 miles BUT he had been running half marathons and keeping his overall fitness up.
Towards the middle of the year Ben decided to try a sprint triathlon and things just didn’t work out for him and it resulted in a DNF. The swim got him… (Swims are tough.. So understandable) This did not help his confidence and also throughout the year he had a couple of personal setbacks that kept piling up. There was nothing FUN about this part of the year, in fact, it was down right depressing and he was mentally bummed out. But he kept getting out of the door, lacing up the shoes, running, and then riding.
Leading up to the race Ben should have been a little more prepared and he should have at least ridden a 75-80 miler before attempting the 100 mile ride but he just ran out of time and he was hell bent on reaching that long awaited goal of the “100”. So we rode out and began the ride… Everything was good until mile 50 and that’s when he started to really feel discomfort. By mile 70 he was off the bike, on the ground, shoes off, close to blacking out, and he was really in trouble.
A group of ladies came over and asked if he wanted to get a ride back. I immediately said, “Nope, he is a U.S. Marine and the only way he is getting back is if he rides his bike.” They looked at Ben as if I had kidnapped him and they said, “Are you sure everything is ok?”, and I replied, “He is fine… Ben put your shoes back on and get a drink because we are leaving in 5 minutes.” Ben did not hesitate or say a word… He got up, dusted himself off, put his shoes on, took a big drink and ate a pickle (the most delicious pickle he has ever eaten in his life) and he said, “Ok, I hate you… But let’s do this.” LOL
He saddled back up and rode out. The course did NOT feel sorry for him at all and decided to save most of the hard work for the last 20 miles. He had to stop a couple more times to work out some cramps and his feet were killing him but each time he saddled back up and kept on riding. I made some jokes to keep his spirits high and tried to keep the mood positive but he was suffering in the worst way. I knew where he was, because like all endurance athletes, we all take turns in the “dark place”.
At mile 95 I looked at Ben and he pretty much already knew what I was going to say, “Hey bro… I gotta leave you now and you have to ride to mile 103 on your own. (yes it was a 103 mile course)” he just said, “I knew you were going to say that… OK… I’ll see you soon.” and I blasted off to make sure there was nothing in front of him and he was ALL ALONE. Why did I do this? Well, there is a certain gift an endurance athlete receives when he/she is all alone, suffering, helpless, humbled to the core, but yet so close to the finish. They have to deal with certain “special” things in their mind and I wanted him to experience that gift.
As I rode the last few miles I felt really bad for him because it was not an easy finish… Plenty of up hill sections and nothing easy about it… I was at the car right next to the finish line and there he was, rolling in, a new man, a regular joe that for this one moment was a complete HERO… A hero for who? Himself, his kids, his wife, and me… He rolled into a patch of grass and collapsed with nothing left, NOTHING!!!
This experience filled my heart with so much inspiration because it reminded me that we all need to be humbled every once in a while to truly see what we are made of. Ben is a perfect example of how we can Be Our Own Hero. Ben went to the darkest of the dark places and he found a way out. He should have quit, but he did not. He didn’t really have any business doing it, but he did. He never gave up… He never quit… He is Ben, King of the 100 miler (sorry, 103 miler!!!!)
Congrats bro.. You earned it in the worst way, the best way!