SouthWest MI. United States

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Ironman Steelhead '18 Benton Harbor, MI.



The emotion athletes experience, including what they internalize and what they outwardly express, are both intensely complex and extremely powerful. These emotions are born in the fires of strain and grow through the absolution of pure will power. For most athletes it’s a lifelong battle. A battle not against any outside opponent, but rather against one's own mind and one's own body. The battle of pushing both mind and body to their farthest limits and facing the threshold of failure in the form of injury or quit sometimes slipping off the edge and falling only to then face the battle of getting back up, rising above, growing, and ultimately reconquering the previously unconquerable in a wonderful display of redemption.


For those triathletes who raced in the Ironman Steelhead competition in Benton Harbor Michigan 2018 at the very least entered their war months prior when they began the rigors of training for such an elite competition. Putting in hundreds of hours in some cases, these athletes prepared themselves for the coming fight. They pushed, they pulled, they stopped, they cried, they continued, they sweat, they fell, they bled, and they almost gave up. Yet they made it.



They joined the category of elite athletes when they committed to such an endeavour but were regarded as such the moment they ran into the water for the first challenge. Elite physically, elite mentally, or even elite in both regards; it would be foolish to not consider every single one of them as such.


I know right now I could not even bring myself to commit, train, or even sign up! let alone complete one of three back to back hardcore athletic challenges.


So, kudos to all of you no matter how far you made it or how fast your time was. Congratulations to you for being an inspiration and testimony of will-power for the rest of us. You are now a staple of what it means to face yourself and overcome some of the hardest challenges in this life. Proving that no matter how disparagingly dreadful the current battle may look, the outcome found through perseverance is worth it. In such understanding anything can be accomplished.

Those internal and external challenges bring out some of the most intense and raw emotion unique only to such an event. They exist because each person entered for their own unique reasons and were fighting for their own unique convictions. Each athlete brought their own experiences, thoughts, and beliefs which then came together into this one fantastical athletic performance for the fans and participants alike. The emotions of each person there, especially the emotion of the two thousand plus athletes, culminated and blended into one complex set of energetic vibrations that floated and danced above the entire event like an invisible mist saturated and heavy enough to feel but light enough to lift up the entire beach and park into a state of adrenaline filled excitement.


This vibration, stemming from thousands of pounding hearts beating with irregular force, seeped its way into every crevice, every thought, every particle of sand, every lapping wave, and every steep hill of the course. It was this very vibration I set out to capture.


It was not easy. However, I knew the moment I heard the mini cannon crack with a surprisingly deafening boom and watched as the athletes raced into the water like rejuvenated warriors battling to get home, that even if the photos didn’t turn out great it was worth the experience.


Not just worth the photography experience either, but totally worth the experience of simply being there and watching.


I still had my goals but I quickly found myself just shooting without any extra thought because I was so consumed by the people, the environment, and the event as a whole. Needless to say it was absolutely an amazing spectacle.


Even after practically staying up all night and arriving at 4:30am when the night was still the dominating force, I showed up with a special sense of excitement and anticipation that lasted all day. I could only imagine what the athletes felt as they arrived and prepared.

Upon my arrival the air was surprisingly warm and inviting as if teasing the athletes with comfort. The sounds surrounding the event started with the inaudible lull of waves and background breeze. Not even a single bird flew and sung overhead, but it quickly escalated into the sounds of people laughing and talking, bike pumps pumping, waves crashing harder and then finally speakers roared with upbeat jams. The mood began solemn and still but all of a sudden within the blink of an eye it grew to be the exciting and powerful feelings which surrounded Steelhead as a whole.



Love.

Loss.

Fear.

Excitement.

Pain.

Suffering.

Joy.

Anxiety.

Surprise.

Greif

Trust.

All rolled together into one immense amalgam of emotion.


It was this emotion I attempted to capture in the form of a photograph. Even though in my mind I only accomplished a tiny fraction of what I set out to there is enough to share with all of you. I have hopes that at least one shot touches at least one person and makes them feel even just a small piece of the emotions which swirled around Ironman Steelhead 2018. If that happens then I will have succeeded.


I’ll let you be the judge, but if nothing else some of the athletes will at least have a timeless moment and memory of themselves from the competition. That in itself is priceless and worth me attempting to capture such a grand event.


Thank you Benton Harbor for hosting.


Thank you Ironman for coming to Michigan and specifically this little area of the world some of us consider a tiny piece of paradise on the lake.

Thank you to all the staff and volunteers for your hard work and willingness to serve others.

And of course thank you to every single athlete for showing me that given the right mindset and proper convictions you can push the limits to conquer any mental or physical obstacle in life. You ALL are absolute inspirations.


I’ll speak for everyone and say once more,


THANK YOU.




To see the full album from the event please go to:

https://merkabacandid.wixsite.com/steelhead2018


I hope you all enjoy!

For more images from me check out my webpage and SM accounts:

www.merkabacandid.com

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