Lake_PlacidI spend a few mornings in the hotel cafe’ with Gary a retired NYC Fireman that I later learned had worked “The Pile” (site of 9-11) as it is called.  Over coffee on an very early morning before the race I asked him how he felt the race would go for him on Sunday.  I suppose I asked a lot of athletes that to gauge their attitude and mental preparedness.

His response was slow and measured but calmly delivered… I found it that it helped me adjust my thinking in a way that enabled me to fully enjoy the coming event.  His comments were “not very good, I’ve got this Achilles tendon issue that I have been suffering with for months”…I could see he’d been wearing compression socks since arriving.  What I found out later is due to the toxic smoke from working 9-11, he also suffers from respiratory issues (but he never mentioned this to me during our morning coffee chats.)  He like me is an early riser…I guess when you are used to getting up at 4 and 5 AM to train then it hard to sleep in when you have the opportunity.  Gary’s  response made me curious because Ironman entry fees are not cheap so I questioned him “Gary why are you racing if you have an injury?” He just smiled and said, “I love this event, I love the people and most ThePileof all Lake Placid….. “So I’m here again to get as much out of the day as I can”.  I believe we meet the people we meet along our journey to help show us the way forward.  Gary was my guide during our morning chats by providing me with a clear pathway to enjoying my 1st Ironman.  I knew from that moment on that my day would be spent absorbing the spirit of Lake Placid and being inspired by athletes like Gary.

PS.. I learned later that due to his respiratory issues Gary made it through the swim and bike course before having to call it a day…. yet he stood in among the crowd and cheered for all the athletes and me until late into the evening.. I can tell you that Gary has the heart of a lion and the soul of a triathlete…Thank you for the inspiration, counsel and most of all for your service…

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