All day yesterday I thought about what the cancellation of Ironman Lake Tahoe so close to the start, might have felt like for the athletes there. I obviously can’t know any of this for certain, but my heart imagines being at the swim start, suited up, expecting to race, and not knowing for sure what would happen. I can almost feel the mix of emotions. There would be that energizing surge of pre-race nerves and excitement for the day so long-awaited (and finally here!), and then with each minute of uncertainty having that enthusiasm get alternately muddled, intensified, or squashed by the confusion about the go or no-go decision.
This situation serves as a very real reminder of how full the range of emotions can be that any one person experiences in the heat of these kinds of moments. It also is worth thinking about how we can manage and come to some sort of peace with this range of emotions in the days that follow.
When the final decision was made on Sunday, when what was uncertain became certain, a whole new set of emotions likely piled onto those nerves. Among them may have been disappointment, anger, sadness, or rage. There also may have been feelings of injustice and unfairness and just maybe even hatred for the situation or for the authorities that made the decision.
With those feelings, though, there could also have been a sense of solidarity with other athletes, a shared empathy for the potential of the day that was lost in the decision. There may have been some peace in just knowing the decision and being able to move forward based on that certainty. Some athletes may have even felt relieved at the prospect of not having to deal with potentially dangerous conditions throughout the day.
As I imagine the athletes experienced those emotions in that moment, I also expect that they will continue to experience these and other emotions, in the days and weeks ahead. At any given time an athlete working through this might experience more the anger and sadness type emotions than the understanding and acceptance type emotions. Or (and?) vice versa. By experiencing each type of emotion and gaining perspective and comfort, each athlete will move forward.
Today as I continue to think about what the athletes (and the spectators and families and volunteers) will face to make sense of and come to their own level of peace with this decision, I can’t help but wonder if this old Cherokee legend might help folks get to a point of peace.
One evening an elderly Cherokee is teaching his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “...my son, the battle is between two wolves. One is negativity - it is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. He continued, “…the other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
May all of you who were impacted recognize both of the Ironman Lake Tahoe wolves within you. Respect the negative one for the fullness that it brings to your human experience, and then consider the option of letting it forage alone. How might that free you up to care fully for the other wolf?
And for the record, in my book, each of you was an Ironman yesterday!