I didn't even get his name, but I met a man yesterday who gave me a much needed dose of inspiration. Adam and I decided, on a whim, to sauna and swim before running our morning errands. Adam jumped into the pool for a few laps and I went into the hot tub. A man, looking to be around 75, asked if he could join me and said he needed to loosen up his muscles. I asked why his muscles were sore, to spark up a conversation with the friendly looking man, and he began explaining his routine to me. He said he had been an elite level triathlete, but had retired to just cross-training. He had just finished swimming 500m and a three mile jog this morning. The old man then asked me if I had time for a story. Of course I did. He told me all about the triathlons he had done and how in 1991, him and his daughter did one together. She surprised him at the starting line to tell him she had secretly been training and would be joining him- he said it was one of the most special times in his life. In 1995, during the biking portion of a triathlon, he experienced a bad asthma attack and had to pull his bike over for about 10 minutes to rest before finishing the race. It was then that he decided triathlons would become a thing of the past and he would simply train to stay in shape. When his granddaughter (one of his nine grandchildren) graduated from University of Wisconsin- Stout in 2009, she asked if her grandpa would compete with her in a triathlon as her graduation present. Even though he had been in 'triathlon retirement' for quite some time, he didn't hesitate to say yes. He went to his doctor prior the real training to make sure it was a safe decision. His doctor ran several tests and told him that he actually had a heart attack years prior, not an asthma attack. The doctor said that because he was so aware of his body and gave himself a break during the biking portion of that race, he saved his own life. He had to undergo minor surgery to unblock an artery, but still made it to the triathlon with his granddaughter. Surprising him again, his daughter joined them during the triathlon and they became the first (recorded) three generations to simultaneously compete in a triathlon in the United States.
The light in this mans eyes when telling his story was undeniable and listening to him tell it was an honor. He went on to tell me about how new goal is to compete in one last triathlon when he turns 80. He wants to be able to say he competed in his 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's. He shared that his secret was carrying and eating 20 Fig Newtons during the bike portion of every race, so he would have enough energy to finish off the run. One of the last things he shared with me was that he had never finished a race without tears in his eyes. He said finishing a race has yet to loose it's meaning, even after competing in over 35 of them. He always feels so accomplished and proud that he was able to do it, once again.
I thanked this man for sharing his story and told him how meaningful it was to hear it, as I have competed in a triathlon with my father as well. Adam was just finishing his laps in the pool and the man and I finished up with small chit chat. I left the hot tub and joined Adam in the sauna, where I told him what I had just heard. We reflected on the concept that a body in motion stays in motion and how important it is to stay active. This man prioritized his health and in return, the healthy activities gave him a lifetime of memories. The man surprised us by coming in to the sauna. We thought he would be joining us, but he just wanted to show me a picture of him, his daughter and granddaughter during the race. To say he was proud would be an understatement. It was so special to see this man light up as he showed us the pictures. He walked away and I was left with such a feeling of happiness. This old man, unbeknownst to him, filled me with such faith and motivation. I pray that Adam and I are filled with that same spark in our older age. He was a man with a story and that story was pretty incredible. I'm not sure of his entire situation, and again, I didn't even know his name. He wore a ring, but made no mention of his wife in any stories. I could speculate all day as to what the other chapters in his life looked like, but I won't. I have faith that he is okay.
Everyone has a story, you just have to have enough time to listen.