Discovering What I’d Lost in Croatia

No Barriers Pledge, NoBarriersLife“David, you are a Gladiator,” shouted the announcer as I ran into the 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheater, sprinting to the finish line of my Ironman 70.3 race. Drenched in sweat, tears and Adriatic Sea salt, one word summed up my emotions: fulfilled.

Nine months prior, after bobsledding down an Olympic run at more than 70 mph to celebrate my buddy Brad’s 40th birthday, three friends took a No Barriers Pledge to get in the best shape of our lives.

The trick was how to live up to that commitment. We needed something bold that would stretch our bodies to the limits of what we thought possible. But we also sought something that would bring us together for a shared experience that we’d never forget — that would compel us to transcend the daily pressures of work and family to do the impossible. We found that spark in an unexpected place: Pula, Croatia. And in one of the biggest physical challenges of our lives: the Ironman 70.3.

From the moment we took the pledge, we knew we had a lot of ground to cover. Busy with kids and jobs, we’d neglected to take care of our own personal health for years. We needed a jolt to our daily routines. Amazingly, we managed to navigate through it all and redefine ourselves in the process.

Our pledge, it turns out, really wasn’t about getting in the best shape of our lives. That was just a healthy by-product of much more important goals.

Tom, who lost more than 20 pounds training for the race, said, as a result of the pledge, “I was able to model a method for my kids of committing to a big goal and doing the necessary work to achieve it.” Brad, who at times struggles with self-confidence, said “this challenge, done in the presence of my close friends, forced me to punch the voices of doubt in the face. Those doubts will be back, but they’ve been warned.”

For me, I had been struggling for months to achieve balance. And the race helped me hit reset. It reminded me to commit to fostering friendships, to being with family, to staying healthy and to embracing adventures.

Caked in sea salt as the sun set in the coliseum at the conclusion of the Ironman, I discovered what many Croatians believe to be true: the Adriatic Sea cures just about everything.