Amazing Moments

To compete in the Hawaii Ironman

By Ian Charles  Competing in the Hawaii Ironman is two parts physical and mental endurance, one part pain management and one part sacrifice. There’s also an insanity aspect to toeing the starting line but that’s hard to quantify. I entered the water feeling anxious and nervous about what the day’s 140.6 miles of heat, wind and waves had in store for me. From the looks on the faces of the other athletes, I’m certain they felt the same way. The race began with the shot of a cannon that you felt deep inside your core.

In an instant, almost 2,000 of the best athletes in the world churned the crystal-clear waters into a boiling cauldron and it was every man and woman for themselves. Forget etiquette: the swim was either lead, follow or get out of the way. I settled in for the 2.4-mile swim and watched as the coral reefs and fish passed beneath me. A little over an hour later I exited the swim to the roar of the crowd and made my way to the bike.

The first half of the 112-mile bike leg goes to Hawi along the Queen-K Highway. We had a slight headwind into the turnaround point, which gave me the hope that I’d have a tailwind on the way back. That was wishful thinking, as the winds not only picked up to 20-plus knots but changed direction to give us a headwind on the way back. If the wind wasn’t a problem, the 95-degree heat was. It felt like a furnace blowing hot air with no relief.

After 112 miles on a less-than-cushy seat, I was ready to get off the bike and on to the marathon. Part of me felt encouraged to have two of three legs completed while the other part was contemplating running 26.2 miles in the searing heat and humidity. Now the only thing that stood between myself and the finish line was a marathon of hot pavement and lava fields. It hurt as I ticked off the miles but every mile down was one less to go to become an Ironman. I turned onto Ali’I drive to a reception from thousands of spectators. Then I heard those words that until that moment had only been in my dreams: “Ian Charles—you are an Ironman.”

To play tennis with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf

By Larry Goldfarb  It was surreal. When I play, I’m a pretty good club player. So to get out on Harbor Point’s center court with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in front of a few thousand people is mind-boggling. Sure, I was nervous. And I don’t care who you play in real life, when you see how hard those two hit it’s a whole different ball game. Steffi and I had a doubles court and Andre played a singles court. Steffi was up at the net and a number of my serves were as good as any I have ever hit. But Andre ripped it by her like it was child’s play. After that there were a bunch of good hard rallies, but Steffi dumped the ball into the net a few times. So I kidded her, "Come on, Stef, get down and get that ball up." Then she asked, "Do you realize who’s hitting at me?" It just shows the difference between the men’s and women’s game. Because as hard as she hits, and boy she hits it hard—what, 24 or 28 grand-slam titles?—she sometimes could not get it back. It was definitely an out-of-body experience. It taught me the difference between the professionals and the rest of us real mortals. And the difference is enormous!

To meditate for three months

By Phillip Moffitt Like most of my dharma teacher colleagues, I try to do an extended mindfulness meditation retreat each year for the benefit of my own spiritual practice. In the fall of 2000, I attended a three-month silent meditation retreat at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. My daily routine consisted of waking up at 5 a.m. and beginning to meditate at 5:30 a.m.. I spent the day alternating between sitting and walking meditation practice, breaking only for breakfast, lunch and evening tea. Following evening tea, I would do my assigned yogi task of washing pots, then return to meditating until 11 p.m. The entire time, I and the other 100 or so retreatants were in total silence. As the days passed and I dropped into the stillness, my mind became increasingly concentrated and clear, and less filled with “normal” thoughts, like planning or fantasizing. I frequently experienced moments of “insight” regarding either some aspect of my personal life or the nature of human life. I repeatedly observed how my mind creates its own suffering and how I always have the choice to let go of the causes of suffering. The overall effect was one of feeling “lighter” and more peaceful, and that I had the genuine possibility of living in harmony with life just the way it is.

This month we launch "What's It Like?" ­—first-person accounts from local people doing extraordinary things. Submit your own personal story for consideration in a future issue. E-mail jwood@marinmagazine.com for guidelines.