29 May 2023

The Power of Storytelling: An Ironman Experience

The Power of Storytelling:  An Ironman Experience

In a world where there is a glut of information and technology constantly demanding our attention, powerful communication techniques are more critical than ever. We have to reach people, move them, help influence how they feel about something, or simply connect with them on an emotional level that will make our communication more memorable. Welcome to the world of Storytelling! It is a proven way to connect.

Stories have the power of impact. No pun intended, but a massive head over heels impact in my story is what put me in the emergency room with two broken wrists. But that’s the end of the story. 

It began with the thrill of finally competing in an IRONMAN, a long-time goal of mine. An IRONMAN is the elite of Triathlon events that starts with a 2.4 mile open water swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and then a 26.2 mile marathon. Sound exhausting? It is! And it all has to be completed by midnight after a 7am start time. I trained for 8 months in what was a grueling weekly training regime that gradually increased to 18 hours a week.

My swim went really well and despite being pummeled in the water by other swimmers and losing my goggles twice, I logged my fastest open water swim. Climbing out of the water, I quickly raced to the transition tent, stripped off my wetsuit, put my bike gear on, took a few bites of my Nutella croissant sandwich, and jostled around other athletes as I jumped on my bike for the 112 mile course. 

Of the 3 events, the swim, bike and run, I consider the swim my weakest link and the bike portion my strongest. I felt good when I saddled the seat and raced off. I was moving at a really good speed and passing riders on my left and right. But it didn’t last long. Around mile 6 or 7 I glanced left at the riders for a split second to gain position. That’s all it took—a spilt second. Looking forward I slammed head-on into a large plastic barrel drum acting as a road barrier. There was no time to react, no time to turn, to slow down, or to brace myself. I only remember flying through the air thinking, “this can’t be happening….NO..!!”

I flipped through the air and crashed head and wrists first into the asphalt, tumbling down the street as elbows, knees, legs and arms dragged along the road causing serious road rash. My bike cartwheeled through the air as bikers raced by, one of them bouncing over my leg leaving an 8 inch tire mark down my calf. When everything came to a stop I sat for only a few seconds, both my wrists throbbing and bloody, my body covered with scrapes and bruises, my ray ban glasses cracked and one lens missing, water bottles and nourishment bars scattered everywhere, and the front of my helmet damaged. “It cannot end this way!” I told myself. I then felt myself asking. “How is my bike?”

I got myself together, checked out my bike, put the chain back on, picked the bike up with my elbow (my wrists were too weak), and spun the front and back wheels. Wow…miraculously, they were not damaged! They hummed like a finely tuned tri-bike just out of the shop. I was amazed! Not a single spoke out of alignment. “God is watching out over me”, I thought. He wants me to finish. 

With a working bike, 8 months of training and a lot of grit and determination to not quit, I got back on my bike, rested my wrists on the handle bars and moved forward. It started slow and painful but I gradually picked up speed screaming out in pain at every bump in the road. It was a grueling test of endurance and I have no doubt there was Heavenly help. I finished the remaining 106 miles with a respectable time.

I rode into the transition area, bloody and limping as I got off my bike. Thousands of spectators, including friends and family looked at my injuries and could only imagine what happened. I wasn’t alone in my scrapes and bruises. There were other riders who had their own stories of unexpected challenges, overcoming incredible obstacles whether physical or mental, but each dusted themselves off and remarkably pushed forward without missing a beat—straight on to the 26.2 mile run. 

There were several more hours of throbbing arms but the thought of quitting never crossed my mind. 26 miles later I could see at a distance the final stretch…the last 50 yards: The red carpet, the banners, the cheering fans and family, and the announcer with his iconic call of victory.

15 hours and 16 minutes after I jumped in the water, I wobbled my way across the finish line. “Art Rascon…You…Are…An IRONMAN!,” the announcer cried out. It was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life.

Art with his Mom at the finish line

I couldn’t believe I made it! The emotion of it all was overwhelming. My eyes filled with tears and then to my surprise I saw my82 year old mother in front of me working as a volunteer at the finish line. She placed the medal around my neck and we embraced. It was an unforgettable moment. The entire day really was an unforgettable experience.

Life is filled with unexpected challenges and unforgettable experiences. It’s what we do at these moments that truly shape our lives and help influence for good the lives of others.

If I have discovered anything as a life-long journalist, it’s that each of us has an incredible story to tell. We have dozens, even hundreds of real-life stories—experiences that we need to share. We at Spoken Word Communications want to help you tell yours. We want to help you integrate these stories into your presentations, your seminars, your trainings and your life. You’ll be amazed at how a simple story with a profound analogy can help make you a powerful communicator.

Contact us to learn more about our storytelling training.

 Art Rascon