My race was over but there was one more thing to do.
Thirty Team in Training triathletes traveled from the Dallas area to test their mettle on this difficult course. Some of them finished fast and some of them (like me) finished slower but none of them finished alone. We have a long tradition that nobody leaves the race until the last team member crosses the line.
After finishing I lounged and chatted with team members and chewed on a Cliff bar. I walked into the First Aid tent and found the nurse that tended to me last year. He recognized me and said, “Hey buddy, you look a whole lot better today than you did last year.”
“Thanks,” I said, “I feel a lot better than I did last year.”
“Why did you come back?”
“To reclaim something I left behind,” I quipped with a wink.
I turned and walked out to the course to watch the others finish. The drizzle became a downpour. Some people took cover and some stood in the open and patiently waited. The non-TNT elite age groupers had left and the professionals were long gone. But not Team in Training. We had teammates on the course getting soaked and so were we. It was a quietly powerful scene of sport and comaraderie.
Calvin Coolidge wrote, “Press on: nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Sometimes strength is shown through force and sometimes it’s shown through determination. We were the latter.
There are probably as many reasons why we triathletes compete in our sport as there are triathletes themselves. For as many and varied the reasons why we suit up on race day there are two commonalities: the course and courage. It takes guts to push our bodies to their absolute limits and it takes guts to endure the pain and finish whether it be first or it be last. We all know this kind of courage and we choose to express it through our sport.
We all bring different things to the starting line. Different levels of fitness, different training, different brand equipment and different preparation. We tell ourselves we are ready but until the race is run it’s really no more than a guess. When the gun fires we leave the weight of this preparation baggage behind and exchange it for a burden lifting liberation. It’s not until we race the course and cover every inch that we find the truth. When the time came I slowly, tentatively, and defiantly began my search. It had been a year since I was here and I was determined to finish on my own terms. One entire year of pushing, straining, and hitting walls. A year of packing my bags with hope, faith, and trust was left on the beach starting line.
I returned to St. Croix to fulfill a dream, or so I thought. I returned to St. Croix to settle the score with the island, or so I thought. I returned to St. Croix because I had something to prove to myself, again, so I thought.
But, it wasn’t until the race was finished that I found the real reason why I returned to St. Croix: the truth. It was there I found an honesty and truthfulness I hope never to forget. It was there I found myself. The truth of my will overcame the weariness of my body. It’s in that moment of exhaustion I was never more full of strength.
Goodbye St. Croix I have what I came for.