In Ironman, unless you are a professional or elite age grouper who is going to blister the 140.6 miles course in under 11 hours, then you will be required to put glow stick tape on your shirt as you go through the bike-run transition. If you happen to be out on the course as the sun goes down around 7 PM, the course officials will hand you a glow stick on a rope to hang around your neck or carry in your hand as you finish the run in the dark. It means that as the evening wears on and the myriad of “regular Joe” triathletes lumber home, it begins to look a little like a slow-motion version of the old Disneyland Electric light parade.
This vision has been the inspiration for the informal team name for Charlie, Ted and me: Team Glow Stick. Our motto: Go slow, Go Glow! (Or to quote the motto we had put on our bodies in temporary henna tattoos: "Have a...LONG day.")
Which leads to the second lesson I have learned from Tri-ing: Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.
When we think of running, or biking or swimming, it’s natural to think of doing these things FAST. We honor those who win races and break world records, but in actuality that is a very, very small number of people. And quite often because it seems impossible to win, or to accomplish something quickly, we don’t try at all. And in many ways in life, we unconsciously fall into the trap of thinking, "If I can't do it quickly, why do it?"
Whether it is weight loss, trying to raise our children into good human beings, or making the world a better place, for so many of us, a most significant obstacle to accomplishing big or worthy things is impatience. Raised on television shows, we are convinced that most challenges can be met in 30 minutes to an hour. But if you want to become a triathlete, or run a marathon, learn a new language or make a difference in any significant way, the very first thing you are going to have to do is to slow down. Diligence, discipline and long-term commitment are far more important than speed.
When exercising, most of us go out too fast and too hard, get hurt and feel lousy and then end up quitting something we have barely started. The best advice I can give to new runners is simple: Start walking. Walk until you feel like running and then run until you feel like walking (repeat). Soon you’ll be running farther—and faster—then you can imagine.
Of course this applies to much more important things than swimming, biking and running. Want to learn what the Bible says? Start reading a chapter a day, slowly. Take it in. learn it. But just do it every day. Want to bring change to your church, or make a difference in the world like in places like Africa? It’s going to be a long race, so don’t start out too hard. Just keep at it. You have a lifetime to accomplish your goals. Think of your life as a big piece of granite and you have a tiny chisel. Just start chipping away.
When people ask me about Ironman they always start with “Now how long is that again?” I answer, “It’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run.” “How long will it take you to do that, they ask?” My answer: “3 years.”
If it’s really worth doing, it’s worth doing slowly, so that you’ll keep at it long into night,"glowing" as you go, long after the sprinters have given up the race.