Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stand up for the challenge - Be an Ironman



Two weeks ago Elise Fallson shared this picture on Facebook; Team Hoyt. I told her I had the chance to meet Dick Hoyt in Mexico and promised her I would write about that meeting. Father Dragon doesn't take his word lightly.

For those of you who don't know who Dick and Rick Hoyt are, allow me to introduce them to you.

  • The Background
The umbilical cord entangled around Rick's neck deprived his brain from oxygen. Tragedy marked his birth but determination and love would mark the rest of his life. A computer registers his brain impulses so he can communicate with the world. One day, Rick watched an ad about a charity race and told his father he wanted to enter. "Will you enter the race with me?" Dick was not an athlete but he agreed. He pushed Rick's wheel chair but he didn't expect that race to be a life altering experience for both of them.

"It feels like my disability disappears," Rick told his father. "I felt free for the first time. Can we do it again?"

Ever since, Dick and Rick Hoyt are a living example that limitations only exist when the human being decides to accept them. Team Hoyt has entered marathons and triathlons, including the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.

This is a 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles bike, 26.2 miles run competition. In the words of their organizers: "The Championship centers on the dedication and courage exhibited by participants who demonstrate the IRONMAN mantra that “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. ®”/ ....a 140.6-mile journey that presents the ultimate test of body, mind and spirit to earn the title of “IRONMAN.”"

But the trial of body, mind and spirit is not exclusive of the Ironman. Any high performance athlete knows when the body is utterly depleted from energy, the athlete must appeal to what's in his heart and mind to impel himself forward.  He must get strength from other source than the muscles in order to cross the Finish line.
  • Congress of Heroes - Mexico City
A Congress of Heroes qualifies as an occasion for a dragon to shift into human. It was a golden chance to learn humanity from a top quality group. Furthermore, it qualified for the impersonation of a reporter. Don't ask me how a Press ID fell in my claws. I'm a dragon. I am supposed to be cunning.

Dick Hoyt's conference was first. A video of Team Hoyt during an Ironman Championship shook the very foundations of every single soul in that room. "It is necessary to train both mind and spirit as hard as the body in order to complete such a competence." The narrator explained. "Those who only train the body find very soon that is not nearly enough."

During the session of questions and answers, I played my part. "Have you ever felt defeated by any obstacle you've met? Ever thought 'this is too much for me. I am not going to make it'?"

"Never." Determination and honesty vibrated in his tone. "We have always crossed the Finish Line in all the races we've entered."

"The video says you must train the body, mind and spirit. Can you tell us what is your mental and spiritual training?"

"I keep my mind focused on my goal. There is no place for defeat.  The words 'I can't' don't exist for me and my family. At first they told me my son was a vegetable. I have never seen a tomato with a college degree before. I don't waste time in doubts, or negativity or the fact some people refuse to accept us. In my mind there is only one phrase; 'Yes, I can.' In my heart there is only one feeling; love."

IRONMAN

  • The Obstacles
Yes, videos are touching. However they are but a taste of all the obstacles Dick Hoyt and his family had to overcome in order to get there.

- Dick had to endure people accusing him of "exhibiting, using and abusing" his son, out of some twisted need to get famous. They said he was doing all that, not because Rick asked him, but because Dick needed that attention.

- Many organizing committees of marathons and triathlons refused to allow them to compete. Those which allowed them to compete would only do so if Dick entered in Rick's category. Dick had to join a group much younger than him and meet the minimum speed required for that category. They didn't take into consideration Dick was dealing with the weight of both he and his son or Dick's own age. Every demanded requirement was according to Rick's age and weight, as if he alone were the athlete.

- In the Ironman (and all triathlons)  Dick pulls his son's boat. For this reason and because the boat would mean an obstacle for other competitors, he was required to be among the last to leave the starting line. I must highlight that there is a limit of time for an athlete to reach the subsequent phase, and that limit is set according to the registered age (remember he was competing in a younger -and faster- category?) Well, if the athlete doesn't get to the next phase within the time limit, he is out.

- They didn't just face the opposition of committees and the critic of public opinion. They also had to face the rejection of some of the athletes. Rudeness, mockery and ostracism; father and son tasted them all. They would hear things like "Step aside. Go home. Shame on you, dragging your son like that! What are you doing here? Why are you doing this to him? Give up, old man!"

Dick Hoyt has two mottos: "Yes, you can" and "Don't Run Alone."
  • Can
During the first Ironman, the chain ring of his bike broke. Dick managed for someone of his team to bring a replacement but he lost precious time. Besides that, his muscles were getting cold and relaxing. By the time he got the spare, it was very unlikely they would be allowed to continue once they reached the next post for the running part. Dick asked his son what he should do. "I will do whatever you want. If you want to continue, I'll make my best but time is already upon us."

Rick's wish was to continue and so, Dick got on the bike. At first, all his body complained for the renewed effort, but as he warmed up, he found new energy filled his limbs. He arrived last at the next post but was surprised to find he would be allowed to continue. They changed to the wheel chair and he started running. He was behind for many miles. Eventually, he met with the rear of the group and he started passing runners by. Many of those who had mocked them or ignored them were now standing aside to let them pass and they were actually cheering for them.

With renewed enthusiasm, Dick's previous exhaustion was gone and he kept a good pace. Night had fallen upon them and Dick just kept asking his son how he was. Rick would wave his hand in an okay signal. Even though they were last in the group after the incident, delayed for an hour and so and with little chance to make it, they crossed the Finish Line with a 20 minute spare margin. As you can see in the video, Rick is raising his arm in victorious gesture. Dick said he couldn't believe what they had just done.

  • Don't Run Alone. You can do it!
When I met Dick Hoyt, he was 67 years old, he still competed in the Ironman, pulling, pushing and carrying his son in his arms. Dick would have never accomplished everything he did in his life, his health and fortitude if his son hadn't been born. He knows it and says his son gave him more than he ever dreamed of.

To me, "Don't run alone" means to look for people to help you make your dream come true.  If you find your impulsing force, it will help you to discover what you're made of, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

"Can" is choosing to open your arms wide to life. Choose to fulfill your dreams, no matter how many voices tell you it's impossible. Don't keep all the good you have inside to yourself. Don't prevent yourself from knowing the heights you can reach. Don't accept the negative critiques. Don't accept doubts and limitations set by others. The only one who gets to say how far you can get is yourself!

I believe the most genuine Ironman Championship for anyone is life itself. Focus your mind in crossing the Finish Line along with your son (which can be that dream you carry in your chest just the same). It doesn't matter if other runners pass you by. It doesn't matter if they look at you with disdain and mockery. It doesn't matter if you're criticized or all odds are against you. You are not running alone.

There are people willing to believe in you, if you let them. Focus your mind and spirit on your goals, on victory. Believe in yourself, believe in others, love your goal, breath it, live it! You will be amazed how many "impossible" things you are capable of achieving.

Thanks for your time and may this bit of wisdom stay with you for a long time.



48 comments:

  1. What an amazing story. Shame on those who mocked them or made it more difficult.

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    1. Amazing indeed, Alex. I've learned to not lend ears to empty words. It's hard at first, but you know what they say, "What doesn't kill you..."

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  2. The Hoyts' story has long been an inspiration in our home. When my hub competed in Ironman competitions, he mentally carried the Hoyts with him. I honestly don't know why some people choose to mock others, but there seems to be a cruelty Out There that thrives on others in the nastiest way possible. I don't like it one bit and wish it would stop. But it won't. I wish I knew why but can't come up with an answer except to say Something's Very Wrong in our society when Right becomes Wrong and Wrong becomes Right.

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    1. I believe the change starts in oneself, Kittie. Trying to change the world is only possible if we all would be willing to start with the world inside us. :)

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  3. Such a marvelous inspiration with which to start the day.

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    1. A bit familiar already to you, hahaha. :)

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  4. Truly amazing, it's so cruel to mock other people. Thanks for writing this.

    Yvonne.

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  5. This was a very inspiring post. Thanks for sharing.

    I've seen videos about Team Hoyt before, but never read something this personal about them. It really did inspire me to push my boundaries from now on. :-)

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    1. It was quite an experience to learn more about the Hoyt like "live". I think I also needed the refreshment of memories. :)

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  6. This was a beautiful post and now I truly feel inspired. I now have no reason to feel sorry for myself when Rick and Dick Hoyt could accomplish so much when they had worse obstacles in their way. Thank you so much for sharing this story.

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    1. I am SO very glad for this, Murees. I was wishing you would be one of those who would read this. We're cheering for you. Don't surrender! :D

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  7. What an inspiring team father and son make. "The only one who gets to say how far you can get is yourself!" The mind is a powerful thing and can push the body far beyond what we perceive to be our limits. I'll think of Team Hoyt the next time I catch myself whining about my life. Then, I'll keep moving forward. It's really great you had the chance to meet him in person. Thanks for sharing this, really puts things into perspective. (:

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    1. Perspective. That's an excellent way to express the essence of the message. You've just taught me something too. Thanks!

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  8. amazing story! incredible courage & inspiring example. i am humbled. thank you for sharing this

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    1. May the courage and inspiration stay with you. :)

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  9. What an awesome story! Thanks for posting this, Al.

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  10. What an incredible story! I'm humbled by it. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. THanks for your comment, Laura. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  11. Wow, I couldn't stop reading this story. How inspirational!!

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  12. Wow! I've seen a Team Hoyt video before, but you captured the heart of their story in a way that I hadn't heard before. Thank you for sharing this Al!

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    1. This is the second time I tell it but I think my writing lessons are improving my abilities of communication. :D Thanks for your comment, Tyrean.

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  13. I've heard of them, but I never knew the whole story. Wow. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I heard of them before meeting Dick, but knowing all those details was like meeting them anew. :)

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  14. Wonderful Al, just wonderful. Beautifully told, such inspiration. Thank you, I needed this more than you will ever know! I posted my blog today in search of just this:

    "Focus your mind and spirit on your goals, on victory. Believe in yourself, believe in others, love your goal, breath it, live it! You will be amazed how many "impossible" things you are capable of achieving." THANK YOU!

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    1. :D You are so very welcome, Yolanda! I'm thrilled it helped you. :)

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  15. What an absolutely inspiring story!

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  16. Incredible story. From personal experience, I can well relate to others imposing limitations and only seeing the disability and not the ability. But you can do amazing things if you set your mind to them - those who doubt are, I think, very small-minded.

    Thank you for posting this, Al!

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    1. I couldn't help to think on you and Andrew while working on this post. I know you're also dealing with your own Ironman and I truly hope you reach your goal. Go Nick!

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    2. I hope it's not too presumptuous to ask this, but I was thinking and this story would be absolutely perfect for my anthology. It just crystallises so well with the journey Andrew's on and the various obstacles along the way. That's not to take anything away from your excellent entry, but there was no limit to the number of pieces each contributor could provide. With your blessing, I'd love to include it. Let me know what you think!

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    3. Of course you have all my blessings, Nick. Go ahead! :)

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  17. I am crying all over my keyboard. Thank you so much for posting and sharing this inspirational and amazing story!

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    1. *Dragon hugs* You are welcome, Jaybird.

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  18. This is an AMAZING story, a testament to the indomitable power of the human spirit!
    I can just imagine what you felt when you met Dick Hoyt!
    Thank you for sharing this!

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    1. It was an awesome experience, Michelle, I can tell you that. And to think he was not the only one hero that night. Great lesson for me. :D

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  19. Grrr. You shoulda breathed fire on the nay sayers!!! I can't believe people made it so hard on him. My brother-in-law is a special needs person and he loves it when my husband would run with him on his shoulders or take him on a four wheeler ride. When you're stuck in a body that can't walk, that bit of movement is pure freedom. People can be so dense. Luckily you only have to deal with them when you feel like morphing.

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    1. I know what you mean, Elizabeth. In my family there is also one with special needs. People can be very cruel sometimes. Luckily, the good and kind outnumber them. Human race has hope. :D

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  20. Once again, you've shared an extremely powerful post! Thank you, kind dragon:)

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    1. My pleasure, M.J. Always my pleasure.

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  21. Wow what an amazing story. I'm sharing this with my hubby. SO moving. So motivational. Extraordinary people are everywhere around us.

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    1. One just have to keep the eyes open and we'll spot one or many. That's a very encouraging thought that keeps me believing not everything is lost yet. :)

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  22. This story is seriously so amazing... and so motivational... some people are just above and beyond...

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    1. The most important thing is that you become one of them. Go Morgan!

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  23. Thanks for the inspirational story. Puts things into perspective.

    .....dhole

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    1. You're welcome, Donna. May that perspective help you reach your goals.

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