Guest blog from Amber Ferreira about her experience at the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii
Before you starting reading I want you to get a piece of paper and pen and write down a goal that you have been thinking about for awhile but maybe haven’t acted on yet. It can be a family related goal, work or sports related goal. Just make sure it is meaningful and something worth doing. Write it in BIG capital letters and set it beside your computer.
1. Sometimes the Struggle is the Reward. I arrived in Kona 16 days before the Ironman World Championships. I had plenty of time to acclimate, explore the area, train on the course, hug sea turtles and focus for a World Championship race. One afternoon I spent nearly 4.5 hours on my bike out on the Queen K. Reporting that it was hot and and windy would be the understatement of the year. There were plenty of moments where I thought I just might perish in the desolate lava fields. The terrain is not lacking in beauty but very much lacking in population. I had only the water and food I carried and could not rely on convenient stores to refuel. Toward the end of the ride I kept telling myself just 20 more minutes and you’re back home and can chug the sweet nectar of the Gods that is H20. Little did I know I had taken a wrong turn and found myself climbing into the mountains. Surprisingly, the higher I climbed the better I felt, the air got cooler, the lush Kona greens became plentiful and shaded me from the sun. I decided to go forward instead of back tracking and I found myself climbing the most beautiful switch back hill towards the Kona coffee farms. My quads were burning, I was dehydrated from sun and lack of water, nearly going cross eyed, lost on an island and loving every minute of it. This was most likely a bit of foreshadowing for the race. At times we must embrace the struggle especially when it leads us to this:
2. We should all give a few more hugs each day (even if it risks exportation). After 10 days training in Kona I was missing my family and friends and wanted a hug. I discovered an excellent snorkeling spot and each time I went I saw the lovable sea turtle. I decided this cute little guy was my best option for a hug. So I did. And promptly got bit by the turtle and yelled at by the life guard. Apparently it’s very illegal to hug turtles. Mahalo for not exporting me from the island.
3. Taking risks leads to opportunity. The Kona island is very alive. You can feel the power, energy, and strength seep into your soul. All that you are, your weaknesses, your confidence, your self-doubts comes bubbling to the surface in this place. Specifically, the race offers up a rough, open water ocean swim, 112 miles of fiery hot lava fields and a long, lonely run back through the lava fields. One of the most important things I’ve learned through racing pro is that if I want to be successful I need to take risks. And no matter the outcome, taking a risk and battling your fears is always worth it. I had nothing to lose on this magical island – I was an underdog at best – and I was ready to go for it.
To be on the start line with 38 of the fastest girls in the world was a gift. The moments before the gun went off I looked around at the hundreds of spectators on the pier, the helicopters overhead and tried to savor every beautiful moment of being a contender in the biggest race my sport has to offer. And then the gun went off and it was go time. The swim was decidedly choppy with a giant dose of swell. I fought my way through that ocean remembering what Danny had told me that morning: Sharks attack swimmers that are 10 feet from the pack. Gulp! After a peaceful panicky swim that included inhaling copious amounts of salt water and fighting with every last muscle fiber to stay in the pack I entered T2 with a solid group of girls.
I jumped on my Argon E-118 complete with Rotor Q-rings and Enve Wheel Set. Each one of these sponsors did something special for me in Kona and my little red rocket of a bike made me smile big on race day.
The 112 mile portion this year was absolutely brutal. I’m talking about wind that stops you in your tracks and then knocks you left and right for 5 hours. Nevertheless, when a few of the best bikers in the world caught and passed me I went with them. I ignored every rational thought to back off and let the magic of the island carry me along. I stole the opportunity to bike with girls I really look up to and I left with tremendous confidence that a top 10 finish in Kona is 100% possible barring a shark attack. It reinforced my strong belief that taking the risk is worth it.
4. Fear is whats stop us from chasing our dreams. Fear is what stops us from being 100% motivated and passionate and it stops us from making crazy worthwhile goals. I was reminded of this many times in Kona. Once while I stood on the edge of a 25 foot cliff trying to talk myself into jumping into the swell of the ocean. My ten toes had crept over the edge of the ledge but the rest of me was frozen in space. After about an hour of self talk – I did it. It was the first step that was hardest. I quickly climbed the cliff and repeated the jump over and over. Believe that you will not fail and there is nothing to fear.
5. Smile! You never know who is looking up to you. It’s no secret that I do smile a lot when I’m racing. Sometimes I smile because I want to say Thank You for cheering but I don’t have enough wind to get the words out. Sometimes I smile because I am thoroughly enjoying the sufferfest that I am inflicting on myself. Sometimes I smile because I’m having the race of my life. But most often I am not consciously smiling. I think the Amber-smile comes out because I genuinely love what I do. I love to hurt and suffer and chase and be chased. I love breaking barries and setting the bar high. I also love being a good role model and setting an example of what a little talent and a super-sized amount of hard work can lead to. I encourage you to smile through the pain next race if nothing else but to give the ones looking up to you the confidence that anything is possible.
Now if you are still reading….MAHALO! I want you to pick up your pen and re-write your original goal but make it crazier and harder to achieve. So if you wrote something like, I want to run a 5K – I want you to cross it out and say I want to run a marathon. Circle this goal and stick it to your refrigerator and GO FOR IT.
Don’t make goals that you are 100% certain you can accomplish – what’s the point? Dream big and go chase your dream goals. Make goals that scare you and challenge you and allow you to explore new oceans, and make new friends. Aim for way outside your comfort level and remember to smile and give thanks. What is the worst thing that will happen if you don’t achieve that giant goal? I can tell you at times it won’t be easy and you will probably second guess your decision. I can also tell you that you’ll most likely smile and cry and sweat and belly laugh. But if you continue to work hard new doors will open, you’ll learn new lessons, and learn to love and appreciate all that this world has to offer.
There is no secret I have the best team. I am already chomping at the bit to get another chance on the big island and I believe that the best is yet to come! Huge Mahalo to: Maverick Multisport and of course the big boss, Kurt Perham. And to Danny Ferreira: To many more crazy adventures that leave your hair looking like this: