In reflecting on my experience, I think I gained so many things a lot of others always gain during the Ironman journey. Spending so much time outdoors, I gained more appreciation for Nature, both the beauty and awesomeness. Water lillies, sun, wind, fields, bayous, wildlife, heat, snakes, waves, sunrises, cold, lightening, rain, beaches, sharks, sunsets, fog, flowers, currents, dogs, trees, hurricanes, birds, leaves, hills, driftwood - I have stories from my training about everything on this list.
I was also reminded over and over how good people can be. The triathlon community in general is so incredible, from volunteers to race supporters to fellow triathletes. It's also great to feel the support from your family, your friends, and your community. I could not have completed my Ironman without the support of my family and friends, and it became so much more meaningful, knowing I had the support of so many in my community.
I was amazed at what the human body can do. With training, nutrition, rest, and a little determination, there's no limit to what it can accomplish. I have seen over and again that people can do way more than they think they can, including me. Anyone can do triathlon.
But I think the most important thing that I gained from my Ironman experience was some peace of mind. Peace about turning 40 this year. Peace about having rheumatic arthritis. I'm realizing that aging and disease is part of life - we're all subject to it sooner or later. It's not external to you - it is you and your body. It is not some evil force to be overcome, but a natural force to be accepted and accommodated. My satisfaction in life will come from my ability to accept what comes my way, adjust my goals/plans accordingly, and happily move forward on the new course. Doing a full Ironman this year with this 40 year old arthritic body helped show me that my new course is not as far off the old one as I thought.