Weightless, free and pure joy are the emotions racing through me as I soared through the clouds. I must have been four years old as my uncle threw me in the air.  These few seconds of flight represented an eternity in my childhood. And no matter how high I flew, I knew my uncle would be there waiting for me. His presence, his love, and his comforting hug as I landed back in his arms assured me that he would always be close.


My uncle passed away 10 years ago; at first I thought it was a cruel joke. I didn't believe my mom, and I thought it was payback for all of my childhood mischief. But at his funeral as I buried his ashes, I painfully realized this was no joke, this was real. Tears ran down my chubby little cheeks, as I wrestled with the truth, I would never see his smile again. Having never known my real father, my uncle engulfed that role. He raised me, he cared for me, he loved me and he was taken from me. I was angry. I don't know at whom or at what, but I was angry. Anger spiraled into depression as I spent endless nights staring at his memories. I even went as far as reading his old letters and pretending they were new ones. I missed him.


After college, my first job was at Human Options, an agency dedicated to victims of domestic violence. I spoke to thousands of teenagers about domestic violence, teen dating abuse and how to help a friend if they were trapped in an unhealthy relationship. The most powerful story I shared was how my uncle courageously intervened to defend my mother from her abusive boyfriend. This was a tremendously powerful story that touched the hearts of many. My uncle’s courageous actions were healing and helping the lives of others. But, most importantly it was through me, through my voice. This made me feel close to him, and to be perfectly honest, his story was helping me as much as it was helping them.


As a personal trainer I didn’t get to share my uncle’s story much, and so logically I thought I would miss that connection. Boy was I mistaken, I think of him daily! My Uncle Donny's birthday is October 25, 1962, or 10/25. His special number 1025 follows me everywhere. Whether I’m in the gym, or in my car, or anywhere for that matter, it seems every time I glance at the clock it reads 10:25. Even as I commence my grueling workouts, as soon as I try to wrap my head around the hours of exercise to log, I look at my training watch and there it is, 10 minutes and 25 seconds, and in rare cases 10 hours, 25 minutes, (Ironman distance :/) Coincidence? I think not, I honestly think it's my uncle’s way of letting me know that he is nearby, that he is with me. So, why the Ironman? It’s simple, my uncle wants to see me finish. How do I know this? While others may think of my uncle as being gone, I see him everywhere.

Why else would his songs come on during a ride? Why else would I see his face in the clouds during a swim? Why else does a thought of him give me a boost of energy when I feel like quitting? On December 1, 2013 as I look to accomplish the impossible, when I am faced with doubt, all I need to do is look deep inside my heart to find the strength to continue. With my Uncle Donny with me, I am in one word: Unstoppable. Ironman 2013 … it’s TIME!!



Although Donny has been gone for over 10 years, I know he will be with me on December 1, 2013.



I'm doing this Ironman because I am selfish, I want to feel close to him one more time, even if I have to go 140.6 miles to feel it! =)


Robert Diaz