Matt Wilbanks is a Cloud Specialist for Rackspace. Follow him on Twitter.
Last Saturday I woke up to the most challenging day I’ve ever had. By the end of that day I had finished the Ironman Texas – a triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run – which all had to be completed before a 17 hour cutoff. This was the first time I had raced in an event this long, had dedicated so much time and energy into anything similar and the first time I had the pleasure of racing in Rackspace branded gear!
When I started training for the race 6 months ago, I discussed my plans with a few Rackers and learned that the World Triathlon Corporation (the company that organizes the Ironman races) is a Rackspace customer. (Click here to read blog post, Click here to download Case Study). To show my support, I thought it would be pretty cool to put our Rackspace logo on my racing gear, not knowing how much this would turn out to help me during the race.
Rackspace has been known in the industry for striving to provide the highest level of support for our customers day in and day out. When one of our customers has an issue and needs support, we want to be there to help as much as possible. Many of our customers pass this same type of support along to their customers and as a Racker it’s always special to meet them in person knowing that we’re both working as a team towards a common goal of service.
So, what does any of this have to do with my Ironman race? Everything boils down to support.
That Saturday was a really long day. I finished the swim and then jumped on the bike for the 112 mile ride through the rolling farmland north of Houston, Texas. About 15 minutes into the ride a guy rode up next to me and asked if I was a Racker. He said he was a huge fan and we had bailed him out of several situations that could have really hurt his business if we hadn’t caught them in time. He said he was really happy to see a Racker out there and offered some encouragement to keep going when things got tough later in the day (which they were sure to do). I thought that was pretty cool, as I hadn’t expected to meet customers during the race!
Not too long after that, still on the bike, it happened again. This time a different person rode next to me and said we had provided a lot of guidance for them when their business was first growing and saved them a ton of money by helping them to scale efficiently. Before we split off, he said, “Well, I know I’ll see you at the finish – you Rackers never quit! Keep it up!” That made me feel pretty good and made me even more proud to be racing for Rackspace.
Over the course of the 112 miles, I can’t remember the number of people I heard wish me good luck and say how much they appreciate the service they receive from the Rackers I represented.
After finishing the bike leg, I transitioned to the run and met my biggest challenge of the day. Two weeks before the race I injured my right knee. I did everything I could to try and help it heal, but during the run it came back to get me in mile 7.
Again, now during my run, people recognized the Rackspace logo on my chest and back and called out to me the entire way. Over the next 2 miles people along the road continued to cheer for everyone in the race, but every so often someone would yell out something encouraging about Rackspace.
Variations of “Rackers never quit” seemed to be the popular phrase offered up.
Over those two miles, with the support of those along the course, my attitude changed from doubt to conviction. I found a way to change my stride so I could continue running and I finished the last 18 miles to become an Ironman ahead of my goal time. I had wanted to finish below 13 hours and thanks to the support from my friends and family, and the special, unexpected support from so many Rackspace customers, I crossed the line at 11:25:38 – an hour and a half under my goal.
I am not the first Racker to become an Ironman and I’m sure I will not be the last, but it was pretty special to be able to represent so many talented Rackers, and receive so much support from the customers we try to be helpful to every day.