Have you ever wondered what you would be doing when you were 74? How about at 80? I sat down with Phyllis Mann to hear her story, and I must say, I drove home that afternoon inspired and amazed. I can’t imagine doing a triathlon at any point in my life, and I am sure most of you feel the same. Phyllis listened to her daughter Tracy talking about her experience doing the Danskin triathlon and decided right then that it was something she would like to do. Her tone brightened as she talked about these experiences and her blue eyes sparkled as she told me the story. I heard about the old green bicycle, complete with front basket, that she loaded on her car, intending to ride it on the hills in Austin. Hills and single speed bicycles don’t mix well, so a new bike with 24 gears was purchased and she had to learn how to shift.
This triathlon consists of swimming a half-mile, biking for 12 miles, and running for 3.1 miles. One of these events alone is enough to intimidate most of us, but Phyllis did it five times, in a race environment, and completed the last one at the age of 80. She was the oldest woman to ever compete in
this annual event and the last time she raced, she beat her old time by eight minutes, taking only 2 ½ hours to finish.
I read a book her daughter put together about these experiences and learned what an inspiration Phyllis was to everyone who witnessed her race. There were press interviews, kids giving her hi-fives, and women who were inspired to keep racing despite the number of birthdays they had experienced. I asked Phyllis to look back and think about some life lessons, things she wished a younger version of herself had known, and to share them. She told me she always did her best, there were failures and things that could have been done better, but you still need to keep doing your very best. “If you give your best, the best will come back to you, and it has for me despite my failures. Don’t miss opportunities because sometimes they only come around once, and if you don’t grab it, it could be gone forever. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the money, the resources, the talent, do it anyway. Don’t wait until you are ready, because you will never be completely ready.”
She told me how God is always there to hold us up through every circumstance and her hope for the future is based on the word of Jesus and his plans for our good. Whatever may happen, he will be there, and everything will be ok.
I thought about her advice and how optimistic Phyllis is, ready to tackle any challenge with a smile and a great attitude. If we all looked at life with the inclination of I can, instead of I can’t, what changes we could accomplish! I recently read that people looking back over their lives rarely regretted what they did, but sincerely mourned the things they always meant to do. Take a lesson from Phyllis, get on your old green bicycle, and take that path that leads to the road called I CAN.