It’s 4:30 am on the shores of Elk Lake in Victoria, British Columbia. The race doesn’t start for another 90 minutes, but the athletes nervously tend to their gear all around. There is much to do to prepare for the start.
As people carry bags, bikes and bottles of water towards the starting areas, athletes and their dedicated support teams (including coaches, friends and family) nervously greet each other and mentally prepare for the day ahead. If you don’t immediately associate Eminence Organic Skin Care with Ironman, get ready for a happy surprise (and check out our fabulous post-workout skin care regime).
Panning across the sea of color-coordinated swim caps, there is one athlete who stands out from the crowd: HANK the Bear, our Eminence Kids Foundation mascot. Standing 9 inches tall, he is surrounded by a small group of particularly excited athletes gathered to represent Eminence Organic’s charitable, nonprofit organization, Eminence Kids Foundation. Together, they will race to raise funds to support the mission of providing sick children with organic fruits and vegetables. Their fearless and furry leader is Eminence Organic Skin Care’s own HANK the Bear. HANK knows each member of his team is counting on him to get him and her across the finish line. HANK’s job is a big one – he cuddles and comforts people of all ages around the globe, getting them through the toughest of times. Today is no different and he’s ready to take care of his team.
In the eyes of a triathlete, marathons are easy. You just run from point A to point B. Triathlons involve wetsuits, swim caps & goggles, bikes, spare tires, helmets, efficient transitions, rapidly changing heart rate, extreme conditions…and yes, running shoes. The athletes have to visualize and orchestrate the entire day in their heads, including hydration and nutrition, placing key pieces of gear in not one, but two transition areas. If they are lucky, they’ll cross the finish line before dinner.
HANK and his team, the “#spaspushinglimits” crew and their team captain, Monica, are competing today for a cause very near and dear to his heart: Eminence Kids Foundation. Eminence Organic Skin Care and professionals from all facets of the spa industry will join in this cause. HANK knows that during the day, when things get really tough and he feels tired and uncertain, all he has to do is think of the children and their families rooting for him back home – from Hungary, from the U.S. and Canada – and it will be enough to help him take the next step and the next after that.
6 am and the gun goes off. HANK the Bear takes the first plunge into the dark, cold water. His fur works against him, weighing him down more than the sleek skin suits of athletes passing by. Pay them no mind, HANK tells himself. “You’ve got this.”
Minutes feel like hours, but Hank steps upon the shores, gives himself a tremendous shake (giving athletes around him a bit of a splash) and then makes it to his first transition – from swim to bike. The pedals are a bit far for Hank to reach, so he’s grateful for his teammate and partner, who straps him to the front aero-bars and together they take out on a high-speed chase for the bikes in front of them. The wind blowing through his fur feels refreshing and rejuvenates him. HANK reaches for his organic apple for the perfect fuel to keep him energized and focused.
HANK paces himself, knowing the hardest leg is the final – and slowest – one. Legend has it that the premise for Ironman was conceived by three very competitive athletes trying to out-do one another. One night, they challenged each other to the craziest idea they could come up with, never actually intending the three sports to be done on the same day! But, once one thought so, the other two dared not back down, and thus, the Ironman was born.
More reasonable athletes, like Hank, decided to create a Half-Ironman. Victoria is one of hundreds of event cities around the globe, but it’s known as one of the prettier and gentler courses.
As Hank descends the bike and grabs his running shoes, laces tight, a quick drink of honey water, and takes his first steps of what will be just over 13 miles, he can only think of one thing – not letting the kids down. It’s almost as if the kids who suffer so much worse are carrying him to the finish line. HANK is grateful for their support now more than ever, and he promises that if he can make it to the finish, he’ll give them all the biggest bear hug EVER.
And, just like that…. The finish banner appears in the distance. HANK makes sure it’s not a mirage, that it’s real. And, with every step, it gets closer and the cheering crowds get louder and louder. Their energy carries HANK home, but not before he has one final moment to look around at his fellow teammates and athletes. Ironmans and Half-Ironmans are very intense, but these events also can inspire people – and even bears like HANK – to achieve more than one ever thought possible. Eminence Organic Skin Care athletes and spa professional athletes to HANK’s left and right start cheering madly as they finish one by one.
HANK the Bear threw his paws high above his head as he crossed the Finish Line himself, and shouted, “Thank you, Eminence Kids! We did it!” And then he heard the sweetest words of all come over the loud speaker, “HANK, YOU ARE AN IRONBEAR!”
As HANK was standing on the victory podium, the one and only cele-bear-ity, Miss IronBear, approached and asked Hank to join his official first place photo. As she was was walking away, she looked back over her shoulder and said, “Hank, it’s bears like you that make it all worth it.”
We hope you’ll share the victory of Victoria, the #spaspushinglimits team, and the work of Eminence Kids Foundation with anyone you know who might love to be inspired by a furry friend like HANK the Bear. Have you had any challenges you didn’t know if you’d finish? Have you been inspired to participate in an athletic competition, in support of someone undergoing medical care? We’d love to hear your story. Tell us about it in comments below!