Dick Hoyt pushing his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy, along the run course of the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii… that is what triathlon is all about to me. Hoyt is often the person people cite as the catalyst for their own Ironman journey. I reflected on this last month when I finished the Raleigh half Ironman for a second time. It took me a bit longer than before and friend asked me how I stayed focused for so long. It was easy, I told him, because for the last 3 hours or so, everyone, spectators and volunteers alike, kept telling me I was awesome. Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t want that type of love? I am telling you now that there are few better catalysts than love. When you show love like that to someone a real transfer of energy from one person to another occurs. I have seen it in this sport over and over again and have experienced it myself on many occasions.
In putting together this issue, our 8th Annual Cancer Awareness Issue, I am reminded of the power of love and how it can make things we think impossible, possible. In fact, some recent studies have shown that love can positively influence your performance. When you experience love in any of its many forms — holding a baby, cuddling with a loved one, petting your cat or dog, receiving praise — your brain responds by producing chemicals called neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and endorphins. Those chemicals travel through your body and enable you to function at your highest level. It is hard enough to finish an Ironman, let alone finish it by pulling another person in a boat, then pushing him on a bike, and then
again in a wheelchair but, Dick Hoyt did and did it well year after year. He was able to do it, I believe, not just because of training but, because of love. He LOVED his son and would do anything for him.
In 2013, when I finished Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, my fastest half iron ever, I was empowered by my father’s love. Even though he succumbed to cancer the year before, the energy of his love still existed and energized me that day when I struggled in the heat. This month’s cover story, “Her Spirit Still Motivates Me”, is another great example of that kind of love. I hope you read it and get inspired like I did. As I walked around the transition area at Ironman 70.3 Raleigh I saw a person pinning a picture on his shirt of someone he must have been racing for. I saw another look at a name on their hand, close their eyes and pray. I am certain many more like me were racing with the thoughts of loved ones who had passed away.
For me, participating in a triathlon, surrounded by nature’s beauty brings peaceful memories of those people I lost. It’s one of the reasons I love the sport and one of the reasons I hope that you participate in a race this year. You can sign up for a charity slot, or simply race to honor or inspire someone else. No matter how difficult the race, it will be one of the best days of your life when you finish your first triathlon, or like me, finish your first in a few years.
My best advice to anyone new to the sport, anyone not gunning for a qualifying spot in Kona or a podium finish, is to make a day of your race. Hug and kiss your wife (or husband) and kids in transition and along the course when you see them. High five people you know. Genuinely thank volunteers, “Thank you for helping me today!” is what I told people at Ironman Florida when I had nothing in the tank except for the energy I got from those people cheering for me. Seek out that energy from the crowd however large or small and give it back to the people you pass and the people that pass you. Pass on your loved one’s energy that now only exists in your heart to other people on the course who might need it at that
moment. Know that a giant wave of energy from the people lining the finish chute will lift you up and carry you across that last timing mat because in triathlon, that finish line is yours. More likely than not, you will be the only one crossing it when you finish. Own it. Celebrate, or not. Share it in spirit with the person you race for. Run, walk, or crawl if you have to. It’s worth it.
Inspire. Perform. Endure.
— Joe Nuss