Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Winning The Kona Lottery and Work

Today is Ironman Lottery Day. In 2000, lightning struck and the first time I entered the lottery...I won. I'd like to take you to that day and hope that I relive that memory today as I entered the lottery again in 2008. You see, I'd like to dance with Pele at least once more in my life; maybe even more than a few dances.
April 15th, 2000 - I am named "Project Manager" on a highly visible, high value project for a Chicago based company. All hell has been breaking loose on that project in 40 cities across North America and the Caribbean. Expenses are out of control. Hardware hasn't been shipped and what is shipped doesn't work. The software we paid $22 M for isn't communicating to the database which holds another $60M of assets. At 11 AM my mind is not on the project. The project I can handle. I am thinking about getting to my desk to check Ironmanlive.com and see if I won the lottery.

For some strange reason, the lottery was really first in my mind this day. I kept gravitating back to Kona in my mind. I think I knew I was going to be there.

11:23 and nobody has called my mobile phone. (Damn! Either everyone is at lunch or I didn't win.) I return to my office and the entire 23rd floor of my downtown Chicago office is empty. Even the accountants (who never leave their desks) are gone! It was oddly silent. I typed the address...www.ironmanlive.com. I scrolled down the list and my name was there. I logged out. Shocked. No, it can't be. I better double check. I logged on again. Scrolling all the names again. My name was there still. I checked the URL (address). I work with a bunch of techno geeks and comedians. Leave it to them to build a website that looks like IronmanLive...I ping the URL for Ironman. Looks legit. I'm in!

I start shaking. Part from excitement and part from, "Oh, sh*t now what?" I called my coach at the time Troy Jacobson. "Troy, its Bob. I'm going to Kona. I won the lottery." 'Really? Congratulations! I want you to sign up for Lubbock in June. It will tell us how you handle Kona.' "OK, I'll do it after this call."

I call my fiance Lorrie. "Hi kiddo. Guess what? Along with our wedding and honeymoon...we're going to Kona."

I wanted to scream or high five someone but there was nobody there. (Should have been my first clue for the lava fields.) I could only smile like an idiot all day, not knowing what was ahead. Too ignorant of what Ironman is (or even what a marathon is) to fear or even comprehend it. All I understood was that there was much work to be done.
Work, in Chicago we are work. It is you. Work = who you are and what you are. If you don't work hard...you really aren't much no matter what you do. Even in the 2007 Chicago Marathon I was in serious leg pain at mile 8 but not enough to stop me and just when I was thinking..."Maybe I should drop out?" I turned a corner and heard Sweet Home Chicago and immediately decide...Chicagoans don't quit. We may be fat and slow, but we don't quit. We continue to work. So in my first attempt at finishing one of the world's greatest and toughest events the Ironman World Triathlon Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii - I also have to manage a North American implementation of a hardware and software solution in a highly political and irrational environment in 40 cities. Many weeks between May and September I didn't workout in the same city more than twice as I traveled a lot. Minneapolis on Monday. Detroit on Tuesday, Omaha on Wednesday, Jacksonville Thursday and Miami on Friday would be a typical week. A huge weekend of workouts and right back at it on Monday. You know you travel a lot when you know the flight attendant's and pilot's schedules and by first name.
The lottery could happen again today. If it does, there will be people to high five today. If I don't win, I will be in Kona as a race marshal.

Lottery or not...one day I will dance with Pele again. I will bring her gin and flowers. (her favorites) My ultimate goal is to qualify and earn my slot. If I never qualify or win the lottery again you may see me "racing" on a Friday before the race - solo - just like when I won the lottery in 2000. No music. No TV. No finish line announcers. Just Pele and I at work.


  1. Great Post Bob! I know - without a doubt - you'll be in Kona again. Official or as a racer. Or both! Love the idea of bringing Madame Pele a gift.... I wonder what I would bring.... makes me wonder.

    Hope that you're legs are better from the spider bit! Happy training!!! :)

  2. Hawaiian folklore is that Pele likes gin.

    So when racing in Kona, you go out to the lava fields and build a lava pyramid for strength and power. To ensure Pele will smile on you, you pour a shot of gin over the top of the lava after you say a prayer for strength. Flowers are optional. My pyramid is 11 steps into the lava field at mile 19 of the IMH marathon in the Energy Lab. I can't wait to see it in October! (Race marshal...not a racer this year.)