My father was an avid marathon runner and triathlete. As a nine-year old boy, I idolized him. I have fond memories of my dad allowing me to cycle alongside him on his training runs. I’d wait frustratingly on my BMX bike as he hid small water bottles out along his route, to be emptied on his way back. I realize now how remarkable his patience was for letting me ride next to him, and how much I must’ve slowed him down. That didn’t seem to matter though, because triathlon was at his core, and he relished being able to share any of that experience with his family.

ryanduffield

The disease ate away at my father extremely quickly. I witnessed a healthy, active man wither to nothing more than a skeletal eighty-pound figure in mere months. I recall that, during my last visit to his hospital room, there was a table bursting with flower arrangements. One of the bouquets had a card which read, “See you in Kona!” My dad’s dream was to participate in the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. This dream ended five days later when he finally succumbed to the cancer.

That epithet had been written by a tight-knit group of friends that all trained together with my dad. When I took up running twenty-five years later, it was through joining a similar group in Toronto called Tribe Fitness. I was absolutely terrified when I went for my first run with that group. “What if I’m too slow? Will they wait for me?” During two years of camaraderie, travel, love, and three marathons with that group, somewhere along the way I realized that it was possible for me to finish an IRONMAN triathlon. I understood that it would take unbounded training and dedication. I now had the confidence to pursue it; not only in memory of my father, but as a means of creating a deeper connection to him by sharing some of his struggles and joys in training and racing. Running was the first, and for me necessary, stepping stone to triathlon. Those initial fears that I had joining a running group proved to be wholly unjustified and misguided.

Upon entering the sport of triathlon at the Toronto Triathlon Festival in 2016, I found myself faced with similar fears. “There’s no way I can swim over a kilometer! I’m going to look ridiculous on my bike!” I’ve learned now that these are signals of challenges that, through hard work and sacrifice, I will conquer. It will be years before I’m able to complete a full IRONMAN. The TTF, for me, represents another pivotal point on the long road to Kona and fulfillment of a now multi-generational dream.

Twitter: @4mple4th

Related Posts