Dear Baby Brother,
You have trained for this moment for seven years. We all have loved you and believed in you for the nearly 25 years since you took your first little breath.
As you prepare this morning for the biggest challenge of your life and to reach a level only the most elite of athletes attain, know these things and meditate on them.
The nervous moments ahead of competition are normal, even for Olympians. It’s OK to have them, just don’t allow them to win over precious space your head. Nervous moments mean you understand the adversities. They mean you not only want to slay the beast, but also that you respect it.
As our man Rocky said: “That’s how winning is done.”
Because you are ready. You are prepared. Say that to yourself as you walk to check in.
“I am ready. My body is ready. My mind is ready. I am prepared. My body is prepared. My mind is prepared.”
These moments are possible because you took the steps and you had the perseverance to break down your vessel and build it up like a machine. You overcame the physical and mental barriers and you placed yourself in a position to overcome fears. You put yourself in position to navigate a mission to prove you can do anything in this world you choose to do. You can take any path you want.
And you have chosen to be a fighter.
Do you know how proud that makes the people who love you? We see a person who we know will do anything to beat the odds, not just in competition but also in LIFE.
You have shown the tremendous depth of your character through this journey. We already know you are kind and loving and smart and funny. We know you are honest and you are a person who strives to be a good man.
Those glimpses we saw of you in high school, as you fought every free minute to get the starting third-base spot and to be a strong hitter? Those were glimpses into the eyes of a person with the makeup of greatness.
Promise me that right now, you will take a few seconds to breathe in and out, in and out. Do it five times. Slowly.
Now close your eyes and pray. Pray that God will calm your spirit. Pray he will be with you as you compete, and that he will reach down a hand as you struggle. Pray he will remind you of your capability when you feel weak or when you hurt. Pray he will comfort you in pain. Pray he will be taking every single step of those 140.6 miles right alongside you. I promise he will if you ask. He may not step in to prevent an injury or to help you finish a task, but he has told you through his Word: You can do all things through Christ who is the ultimate source of strength.
You have the free will to do anything in this world you choose to do.
And you have chosen to become an Ironman.
God blesses every person on Earth with a gift, but it is up to us to discover those gifts and to use them, not to waste them.
You were blessed with incredible willpower and athletic prowess. You are holding up the end of your bargain by putting your gifts into action and working to add to them and to make them even stronger. Because of that, the Lord will see you through whatever is supposed to happen — he will see you through whatever your destiny is here in Louisville.
And no matter what happens, no matter what that destiny shows itself to be, know that you have done everything humanly possible to train your mind and body for this experience.
Never question that the people who love you unconditionally are brimming with pride. Why? Because you are brave in the attempt; and that’s the highest plateau in life — to try your best.
But we believe in you. We know, without question, your training, coupled with your gifts, means you are up to the challenge and capable of a finish. We know that you have prepared yourself for this moment and the only things that could stand in your way are things you may not be able to control. We know you can do it
We believe in you and your ability to swim, bike and run 140.2 miles.
You have chosen to be a fighter. You have chosen to be an Ironman.
Your willpower is heavier than any roadblock. Your heart is stronger than any of the muscles you have sculpted.
And that’s what we see and what God sees: Your heart. It’s the most important part of your body. In fact, it’s so important that those who love you will help you guard it and protect it as long as it beats. Your heart is so important that God wants to win it over every single moment.
And you’re all heart, Mikey.
We all love you and we’ve loved watching you work to make your dream come true.
Champions aren’t just born, but they are made. They are made on 71st Street trails and in Skiatook Lake waters and in Pawnee County backyards and on high school baseball fields. Champions are made with cement block workouts and with tires strapped to their backs and with hours and hours and hours of pain and euphoria and dedication and commitment.
You are our champion before the competition even begins. You are our champion today, tomorrow and every day forward.
Now go be great.
[Update: Mikeal not only finished his first Ironman, but he was in the top 37 percent of nearly 2,400 athletes, some of whom were professionals. Proud doesn’t even start to cover it.]