June of 2021 I found myself in the Okanagan for a work conference, but more importantly... Ironman Canada-Penticton training. I happened to be there during a smokin’ hot week... we’re talking 40C/100F. Seeing that I’d finished my ski season only a couple weeks prior to this, there was no way I was heat trained. It made for a challenging week of training, but I was loving it.
On my first bike ride the plan was to ride up to Penticton and back, around 150Km or so. I had a tail wind and I could feel the heat building. When I finally made my destination, Skaha beach in Ptenticton, I knew a short break to carb up, rest and cool off was mandatory if I was going to survive the ride home.
At the concession stand I bought for the ridiculously low price of 7$, a Red Bull, Coke, and mega Freezie. I told the owner that in my depleted state he could probably take advantage of me and charge any price and get away with it...I kinda think he was doing that anyway.
As I refreshed myself taking in the scenery a friendly local struck up a conversation with me. An obvious retiree, he had a very tanned (shirtless) body, and was quite large. He was sitting on a park bench next to his giant trike. You could see he was sort of disabled as he had crutches in the basket of the trike. As we talked he interestingly seemed very knowledgeable about cycling and training. He remarked about my Colnago bike and mentioned he’d once owned an Italian Colnago as well. Intrigued, I began to probe a bit.
It would have been easy for me to be curt and dismiss this obviously old and out of shape retiree, but eventually our conversation changed drastically when he dropped a bombshell that totally changed my view. He said he had done Ironman Penticton with his first one coming when he was the age of 60. What!!! this guy and me were Ironman brothers!! It didn’t matter that he was now 90 years old and could only manage to ride a trike. We began to share Ironman stories and there was a bond between us that only those experiencing this challenging, unique race could fully understand. For both of us one of the highlights of our lives were when announcer Steve King declared to each of us in our successive races, “You are an Ironman!!”
As our conversation eventually wound down my new Ironman brother shared some words with me I will never forget. He said that "in 30 years, I will be like him so enjoy it while I can still do it."
After this simple but profound statement I got on my bike rested, cooled and carbed up. Soon the headwind picked up and the heat and fatigue began to rise. If you’ve ever done a long ride you know the feeling... the euphoria of riding turns into simple survival and you just gotta make it home. However, the tougher it got, the more I reminded myself of those poignant words, “enjoy it while you can still do it.”
I hope I never forget those words and savor every precious moment of the gift of training, racing and living an active moving life.