A KICK IN THE FACE AND THE DETERMINATION TO GO FORWARD

POST ORIGINALY FEATURED on WATERFI.COM 

2014-08-07 19:25:57

BY SARA K. MADDEN

A Burst of Sunshine

From where I stand on the shores of Mirror Lake, the water appears serene and soft. The kayaks and canoes competing nearby in the Lake Placid International Regatta seem to glide along the surface. Off shore a few hundred feet, the colorful swim caps of athletes training for Ironman bob along from buoy to buoy.

“SARA!” I hear someone call to me. It can only be one person…Danny Arnold. His tall frame bounds down the hill, past startled rowers, and gives me an energetic hug! Danny and I are 1 day and 20 years apart in physical age, but in spirit one might venture to call Danny and I twins. We share a reputation for cheering and chatting with our fellow triathletes from start to finish line.

Danny, along with our friend Chuck, are the ones who first took me out to ride the 56 mile Ironman Lake Placid bike course. A few months after that, as I cheered Danny on to the finish line of his first Ironman, I knew I had to sign up for this preposterous challenge myself. Watching Danny hug his way through 140.6 miles was a compelling force behind my decision to race my first Ironman in 2011. And when I had 24 miles left between me and the Lake Placid Finish line, who leap-frogged and high-fived his way out to River Rd. and back with me…for at least three hours? Danny Arnold!

With Ironman 2014 just around the corner, I can’t wait to help Danny infuse the roads of Lake Placid with a burst of sunshine before crossing that Finish line once again!

An air horns sounds the start of the regatta, and Danny and I jump into Mirror Lake to swim with my husband and our teammates, joking that it’s our race start too.

I have often suspected that nothing is strong enough to quiet the enthusiasm that Danny possesses and a few weeks ago at the the Mt. Tremblant Half Ironman my were suspicions confirmed!

It was a warm Sunday morning; I had stopped in the middle of a long bike ride to check my phone and see how my teammates were doing on the 70.3 mile course that is Ironman Mt. Tremblant. Our team was using the race as a tune-up to upcoming Ironman Lake Placid (a race with a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run).

‘Ok, Joe’s out of the water and on the bike! Kelly is too! Awesome! But where’s Danny?’

Well my friends, Danny was still in the transition area – a fancy name for that lovely area where your bike is waiting for you as you transition from swimming to cycling. Now I know Danny is social, but even he wouldn’t spend almost an hour shooting the breeze when there was a bike ride to get done! So what on earth was he still doing in transition!?

Blame it on the Sun

Danny was recovering from a traumatic run-in with another swimmer…not socializing!

Something was wrong. Toward the end of the 1.2 mile swim, Danny had just made the last turn. A typically congested point in the swim, and the sun made it even more complicated. Shining brightly into the swimmers eyes, visibility was limited and as Danny swam through that last turn and he never saw what was on the other side of the next wave.

“Out of nowhere this foot came up and hit me square in the face with enough force it almost flipped me backwards. Immediately I heard this loud crack and knew I was in trouble!”

The cracking sound was the swimmers’ foot hitting Danny in the skull! Danny soon realized that he was bleeding, but he quickly collected himself, readjusted his goggles, and swam as fast as he possibly could to the shoreline.

Be Determined to Get to Shore

There were plenty of life guards, and volunteers on kayaks out there on the waters of Tremblant Lake. Danny could have easily flagged someone down and they would have transported him safely to shore. That would mean dropping out of the race, of course. And to be honest, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have climbed on board a kayak and hitched a ride back to dry land if it were me.

But not once did this option occur to Danny Arnold. So what made him keep swimming?

“I had such determination to get to the shoreline that I never considered flagging down a kayaker. When I came out of the water I immediately checked to see if I was still bleeding and thought at the time that it had stopped, but it was just clean because I was in the water.”

When life kicks you hard, you have to be determined to keep going – determination got Danny to shore!

You Are NOT Done

The peelers (the volunteers who have the glamorous job of pulling the swimmers out of their wetsuits) were struggling to get Danny out of his wetsuit. Still bleeding, Danny now began to shiver from the physical shock of being kicked. He made it to the transition area, where he would spend the next 49 minutes.

“By now my face is bleeding from the bridge of my nose, my nose itself and a small cut on my upper lip. The medical personnel took one look at me and grabbed me immediately, and started performing their assessment and cleaning up my face.”

On top of the blood and the shivering, Danny’s legs (especially his quads) were in severe pain from shaking so hard. In races, Danny always draws a crowd. Racers are attracted to his ability to cure athletes afflicted by the pity-party disease with his exuberance. But this time, Doctor Fun was the bleeding patient.

Three medical volunteers wrapped him in blankets. One kind volunteer even took off her sweatshirt and let him wear it, while the others cleaned up Danny’s face and massaged his body in hopes that the trembling would cease.

The volunteers fired questions at him and filled out paperwork. “Where do you live? Where are you staying? Who is with you!?”

Then a race official joined the party. He read their assessment, took one look at Danny, reached down, and ripped the timing chip off his shaking ankle.

“You’re done.”

Two words that could rip your heart in half when you have poured so much focus and energy into training for a race.

“I never thought once about quitting, so as soon as he took my chip I went into this very fast explanation of why I thought I could recover, how many races I have done, and that this was my tune-up race for Ironman Lake Placid.”

Maybe someone else would have been relieved and grateful for the chance to call it a day, head back to the charming village in Mt. Tremblant and enjoy a drink or a nap!

That someone would NOT be Danny Arnold. Who am I kidding? Danny could never be still long enough to take a nap anyway. And he definitely could not just concede to standing on the sidelines when there were miles to suffer and smile through. So he pleaded with the medical volunteers until they agreed with him.

“We’ll give you 15 more minutes to recover” the race official responded.

Daniel-San probably learned how to come back from being kicked from Danny-San Arnold!

In competition, and in life, you can’t just give up because someone tells you it’s the end of the road. When everyone else assures you it’s OK to quit, deep down, your heart says “You are NOT done!”

And sometimes we are only given 15 minutes to prove that we can finish what we started.

Just Dance

Danny wasn’t about to squander his 15 minutes. He had to convince the volunteers to let him keep racing…and it would have to be bold, compelling. It would have to shout “You ain’t seen the best of me yet!”

Like most superheroes, a phonebooth is Danny’s first choice for transforming from Age Group athlete to Super Danny, but a medical tent will work too.

“Ok folks, let’s make this happen!” Now in survival mode, he rallied the medical volunteers, who proceeded to check his blood pressure and body temperature repeatedly. They continued to rub his body so Danny could recover fast.

After the longest 15 minutes ever, he mustered up as much “Danny energy” as he could find, and exclaimed “Let me go! I’m ready to get on the bike!”

Just to be certain that he was indeed ready to get back in the game, the race official instructed a volunteer to accompany Danny. And with that, Danny popped up from the medical tent stretcher and began dancing for his life, bouncing around the transition area in typical Danny fashion, dissolving all doubt that he had what it takes to finish.

Everyone agreed and began dancing in the streets of Mt. Tremblant! Not really. But they were no longer in any position to contain the bolt of lightning that is Danny Arnold. Swim, Dance, Bike, Run? Is this a new, insane multisport? Not quite. But if anyone thought he was out of his mind, it didn’t faze Danny!

You know you want to put this on your training playlist now.

He got on his bike and off he went, sore quads and all. It IS possible to tremble so hard that your quads are beat up before you even get on your bike. And it made his first 15 miles of the bike ride even more of a challenge, but that’s part of the journey to the finish line.

“It’s all about the journey! And no matter how prepared you are, or how much training you did, anything can happen on race day… and you just have to go with it!”

With a second chance at the journey, that is exactly what Danny intended to do. By the time he finished the 56 mile ride, and ran his bike into transition, Danny was shining brighter than the sun that blinded him during his swim. When the medical personnel saw his big, radiant, smile they commented on how he didn’t even resemble that same injured person they worked on earlier.

Did they really expect anything less from someone who dances around transition to prove that he’s still in the game!? When everything is on the line, you can’t be afraid to do something big, bold, and crazy. Even if there’s no music, dance if you have to. It may just keep you in the race!

Face Adversity with an Iron Will

With his running shoes on his feet, and a smile that could light up a small village, Danny dashed out of transition to cover the final 13.1 miles that stood between him and the finish line. Between doing this…

…making friends, encouraging strangers, and entertaining the general public, Danny had time to reflect on all that had transpired between the beginning of the Ironman Mt. Tremblant Half and where he was at that moment.

“I was so fortunate to be where I was, running to the finish line!”

He had his timing chip back, his heart was full of appreciation for being able to stay in the race, and his smile was unfading, even after 13.1 miles! Sure, things didn’t go as planned, but who plans to get kicked violently in the middle of a swim?!

Regardless of what challenges are on the other side of that wave, we have a choice. We can just stop, flag down a kayaker, and take the easy way to shore or we can go on with the race confident that we have the resolve to finish, no matter what!

Danny did. And although he’s crossed countless Ironman finish lines, crossing this one took an extra dose of resilience.

“You have to be able to face adversity, and still have the will and determination to go forward!”

Danny Arnold, Ironman Mt. Tremblant 70.3 Finisher!

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