October 10, 2015 Recovery  2 comments

You hear it all the time.

“Thank you. Come again.”

“Thanks much!”

“Thanks again.”

“Thank you for…”

“Thank you for not…”

Whether it’s acknowledging someone for waiting and holding the door open so you can easily enter or exit or it’s because your grandmother slipped a $20 bill in your birthday card, we tend to respond with these simple words of gratitude: Thank you.

Most of the time we realize the reply is genuine but occasionally we’d have to admit it’s nothing more than a rote response; said without thought. Why do we do that? I have a theory. Here it is…

We really don’t understand the weight of gratitude. Don’t believe me?

How many of us really appreciate the time, sacrifice and love given to us by our parents until we become parents? How many of us understand the pride, the craftsmanship, the quality of a contractor who shows up on time, the repair of a broken antique clock and farmer who uses no pesticides? How many of us think about the server who takes our order for a $30 entrée and blames them for getting it wrong while it was really the kitchen’s fault? I’ve done that… and what was my response? I tip them less… or I withhold my GRATUITY.

You see we really don’t understand the weight of gratitude because we assume nothing less than the best should be ours everyday, 100% of the time, no exceptions. We earned it. We bought it. We made it. We’ve done it. We had it. We deserve it!

This week I began seeing several posts from friends who are in Hawaii racing today in the Ironman World Championships. One post was from a person who got a random lottery Kona slot last year as a result of the fires that cancelled Ironman Lake Tahoe just minutes before the start. I was there too, I was in the best shape I’d been in many years for an Ironman and I was already having a great year… I didn’t get one of the slots. In fact many people who would have never been near the time or place to qualify for one of those slots, actually did. His post… “I’m so thankful to be here! Words cannot express.” Why couldn’t I find it in me to be happy for him? Oh, yeah… I earned it. I’ve done it. I had it. I deserved it. But wait! Let’s remember, I wouldn’t have been able to be there because I’m recovering from a broken hip. Isn’t it better that somebody gets to be there if I cannot?

A couple years ago, before I entered the chilly waters of Lake Tahoe while the temperatures hovered around the freezing mark, I was chatting with teammate, Kyle about my anxieties concerning the day ahead. Freezing temps, altitude, difficulty of the bike course, my injuries affecting my training, etc. His words, “I know it’s a lot. But remember, it’s a privilege to do what we get to do.” Although Kyle didn’t realize at the time how profound his words and the effect they would have on me; all of a sudden my attitude about what lay ahead changed. Instead of fear about what would not be was elation of what could be. I was grateful of the chance to be walking into one of the most pristine lakes in the world, surrounded by a rim of snow-covered peaks and lavender skies.

Gratitude is perspective.

Two weeks ago, I walked into a waiting room waiting for my surgeon, Dr. Le, to inform me regarding the long awaited results of my 3+ months of anguishing recovery on crutches. I was expecting to hear the news that all had finally healed and I could, in fact, return to my normal life as though nothing had happened. As soon as he walked in the words, “I’ve got good news” followed. “Everything looks great. You can return to the things you used to do.” It was matter-of-fact and a tad anti-climatic. “Really?” I said, “Do everything? Running too?” Pulling up the X-Ray taken just minutes before, “Sure. Just be cautious.” And with that it all came full circle. “We’ve been really conservative. But I wanted the best possible outcome for you.” And with a little tongue-n-cheek, added, “It’s a good thing I did such a good job.” Reassuring me that my health, patience and focus on proper rehab for the past 3 months is what made the difference. Sitting there I couldn’t help think, the same man I imagined six weeks prior to be “evil” was to me now a hero. I was thankful for the pride, craftsmanship and quality of the work done on me. As I left the office, I shook Dr. Le’s hand and told him the first thing I was going to do… go for a bike ride. Literally, in the next 20 minutes. As soon as I returned to my office my bike and a cycling kit were there. I suited up, got on the bike (you never forget) and rode to the corner on McClellan at Deep Cliff and glided around the turn that found me prostrate on a warm, wet June 10th and wondering why I couldn’t put weight on my right leg as I pulled myself off the asphalt.

Since that afternoon, many more things have shown their value as worthy of gratitude. Like my first ride with Faan and Andy; I could smell the familiar but forgotten scent of dew on wild thistle, I could experience the moments and views I had been imagining for weeks on end and I was able to ride 60 miles and hold a good pace and even grab the wheel of two Every Man Jack, elite team members, as they passed me going 26mph!

I am back!

I’ve been riding… I’ve been swimming… and starting this week, I’ve ran three times. First run; 3 miles, two days later; 4. Today, just under 5 miles… and while it’s slow, I’m still able to run as fast as many of the runs I do in the early season when I’m starting my training for the coming year. To say I am grateful for this… words cannot express.

But if I may get a little personal, while there are truly many people I am grateful for, there are some people I want to say, “Thank you” for making the past 4 months some of the most inspiring moments of my life…

  • To Jamie, if you could overcome, what the hell am I talking about?
  • To Ryan, thanks for the comfy crutches… in some ways, you do but you have no idea what a gift those were.
  • To Kyle, a passing comment before getting in the water became a “true north” for me.
  • To April, what you gave was not wine but hope; a carrot to chase that has become more attainable each day.
  • To my WestGate family, you saw me more than anyone, immobile and vulnerable yet you respected and encouraged and even pushed me when I let you… that was when I was in a wheel chair. I mean, really!
  • To all those who said, “I’ll be back stronger than ever! And you’ll see me back on the road” (mostly Facebook folks), you have no idea what you’re talking about. However, I am so grateful for your intentions and ignorance it must be mentioned.
  • To the guys who I’m sworn to secrecy, I had doubts at first but now really grateful we stick together.
  • To Keri and Lynn for opening the door and getting me coffee every morning!
  • To my anesthesiologist who “Is a cyclist.” Thanks for “Making it personal.”
  • To whomever made sure I had the best nurses, room and hospital food for my first hospital stay.
  • To Netflix… there were many days on the couch.
  • To those I’ve rode, swum, run, trained, raced and recovered with over these years… you felt most deeply the disappointment of these past months.
  • To Cherie and Lee. Lee… your gift of humor cannot be understated. Cherie, your concern and counsel cannot be undervalued. For two weeks following my accident you checked in almost every day… and you had the best advice because it came from experience.
  • To Dr. Le, I may have been just one more surgery, just another “hip pinning” just another patient who fell down and went “boom!” But you wouldn’t wait, you cleared an operating room and assembled a team as quickly as you could, you promised the best possible outcome if it were possible, you frustrated me with six more weeks on crutches and yes, you were conservative but… I’m running.
  • To Joy, you packed ice chests in the morning to keep me fed through the day, you dragged stools in and out the bathroom so I could shower, you picked up the chores I couldn’t do while continuing to do the ones you’ve always done, you never complained, you watched House of Cards, you were on top of things, you were chauffeur to an unwitting passenger, you never complained… you were there when I was angry, depressed, hopeful and surprised. You are what I am most grateful for.
  • To my sport… While triathlon is my past, it is not my past. While swimming/biking/running is in my future, it is not my future. Yet, I am grateful for all the challenges, memories, friendships, health, platforms, accomplishments and life-lessons. Triathlon is the greatest sport any single person can do to discover who they truly are.

So, having said that…

Am I thinking right now, as I write this, about those who are on the Big Island of Hawaii, heading north on the Queen K, spanning the white lines and dark grey before them, with the deep azure on the left and black lava on the right? You know I am. And do I still think I should be there… You know I do! But one thing is for certain; I wouldn’t trade where I am for where they are because I’ve grown from this, I am starting over with this, I can’t wait to get back to this and I am forever grateful for this.

Thank you… I really mean it.

Thank you.



2 comments to Gratitude

  • John Hittler says:

    Dan, we all knew you would be back in full force…just were not completely sure it would be in the same fashion. In the end, you will continue to influence, lead by example, create teachable moments, and model courage and tenacity for all of us. Whether that is on a bike, in the water, running, speaking, or 1:1, it adds up to the same thing–making a big difference!

    • Dan says:

      Thanks John. I appreciate(d) the support and encouragement. Let’s see where this journey goes!

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