When I first met Jerome
five years ago, I was in awe of him.
He was the first Ironman I’d ever met.
When he explained what the race entailed, I couldn’t fathom it.
“You’re telling me you swam for 2 and a half miles, biked 112 freaking miles, and then ran a marathon?! You’re out of your mind.”
He laughed and said that I could do it, too.
I shrugged it off, certain that I’d never be capable.
But as the years went on, the thought of doing a full Ironman never went away.
It was the shadow that followed me everywhere.
And gradually, I worked my way up to it.
From doing a Half Marathon to a Full Marathon to a Half Ironman.
Each of these races felt impossible at first.
But I finished each one.
Fatigued, worn, and beat down, but successful nonetheless.
But after each completed race, the shadow would reappear and a subtle voice would whisper…
“Maybe there’s a chance.”
“Maybe you could to it, Matt.”
I ignored that voice for years.
I was afraid.
Because here’s the thing.
You can’t fake your way through an Ironman.
For every race I’d done in the past, I’d been happy with just getting by.
I didn’t train nearly hard enough.
I was relying on hope more than preparation.
But with the full Ironman, you can’t get away with that.
If you’re not prepared, your body will shut down mid-race.
You will either be forced to stop racing or risk serious physical consequences.
It’s no joke.
So when I finally decided to sign up, I knew I had to commit.
Not just to doing the race, but to crushing it in under 12 hours.
So I dedicated myself to it more than anything I’ve ever done before.
With the help of my friend and mentor Aaron, I followed a rigorous training schedule.
And you know what? It broke me down. Completely.
I became stronger than I’d ever been, but was also more exhausted than ever before.
I would train for four hours on a Monday, and wake up on Tuesday feeling completely depleted only to go out and run 18 miles.
I missed work.
I missed getting together with close friends.
I felt anxious a lot.
Every doubt I’ve ever had crept its way to the surface.
I’d ask myself, “What if this isn’t worth it?”
“What if I do all this training, and I get hurt a week before the race?”
But luckily Aaron was there--pushing me and reminding me why we were doing this.
Not for the race itself.
And definitely not for the medals.
But because of who we’d become in the process.
This was about breaking the boundaries of who I thought I was in order to become who I always was.
And sometimes you need something extreme, like an Ironman, to accomplish that.
You need to travel to the absolute edges of your own capacity to realize who you are and what you’re made of.
So… after 8 months of exhaustion and physical distress…and years of wondering if I could…
I did it.
I finished the fucking Ironman.
In 11 hours 58 minutes and 26 seconds.
And I feel different now.
I feel powerful.
I feel like I can do anything.
And I finally understand why this race was calling to me all along.
To strip me down completely.
To wear me out and exhaust me to my core.
To remove all the bullshit.
Just so I could see what was left...
A reservoir of infinite strength that I never knew existed.
One that we all have.
And now all that’s left to decide is...what’s next?