This past weekend we went to Oceanside, CA to cheer on our friends Dean, Kim, & Rick. They were all racing at the Oceanside Ironman 70.3 which is a half-Ironman triathlon distance. It was our first time experiencing a triathlon race of any distance, and we felt pretty noobish in the beginning trying to figure out where to stand, where to look for our racers, etc.

The Oceanside Ironman 70.3 consists of a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike ride, then a 13.1 mile (half-marathon) run. It’s exactly half of the full Ironman distance, but has all of the challenges that the full does. We were sitting at the harbor dock by 5:45am, waiting on the swim waves to begin. California sea lions frolicked in the harbor, and we saw pelicans, cormorants, and a host of other marine life. Then the gun went off, and the professional triathletes dove into the water to swim out to the start buoy.

It was a bit hard to watch the swim, as it started at a buoy across the harbor and curved out of sight. We waited with anticipation as 22 minutes later, the first professional triathlete swam in and was a blur of wetsuit and water as he sped to the transition (changing area) to get started on the bike leg. We continued to watch the swimmers come in, the majority coming in around 45 minutes or so in huge groups. I saw so many different body shapes, sizes, and challenged athletes.

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At one point, I saw a swimmer come into the dock and a volunteer picked up the swimmer and helped them to their transition point. Tears sprung to my eyes when I realized that the swimmer had no legs, and was an above-knee amputee. The challenged athletes were amazing and inspiring, and I watched them with awe and respect. After all, they all swam MUCH faster than I can. I have no excuse for not training hard enough when I run, swim, cross train — or anything.

We cheered on Dean & Kim as they transitioned from swim to bike, bike to run, etc. Then we parked ourselves on a sunny, grassy lawn and cheered for all the runners as they went by during their half-marathon run. We saw all kinds of shapes and body sizes, and everyone had a look of grit and determination on their faces. Later, we headed to the finish line to cheer on the finishing athletes. One finisher was 78 years old — and many others in their 60’s. If I could sum up the entire weekend in one word, it would be inspiring.

Sometimes all it takes is watching someone more challenged than you, with more potential excuses than you, do something truly amazing. Those athletes have motivated me to train harder, run faster, and not use excuses.