Friday, August 21, 2009

What are you WAITING for?

If you don't stand around to wait for things to happen, you will surely always know what "could be". For those that stand around, waiting for others, you'll always wonder what "could have been". Initiative. It's what transforms dreams and desire into progress and ultimately, success. Whether you wonder if beginning an adventure towards some human performance that is seemingly insurmountable or even starting a business, or breaking away from your current job to see if you float or flop in one of these endeavors, it only happens with initiative. Recently, a name popped up on a forum I hadn't heard in a while. An old arch-rival from Michigan who was heads & tails above anyone in the state in triathlon back around 1990. I'll call him thing I remember was his side-kick Gene (his coach), and this guy's 1 large chain ring (no small ring) at Leon's QEM Triathlon National Championships in Hammond, Indiana. A few things I recall about his bike was that he used Gommatalia tires, his chosen "best" tire out there. Not sure why these odd details of his bike stood out, but one other thing I recall is a top female triathlete named Mellisa Patterson who was on the cover of Triathlete Magazine once. That's about all I recall other than it being the race I first heard of "Tim & Tony Deboom" in the tri world. This was my first really big adventure into top level competition, which led to bigger races. Amongst them, Hawaii Ironman.

I flew out to Hawaii with my brother to see what this Ironman thing was all about. Never would I have even thought about going there if it weren't for "Kenny" my arch rival. He tried to win this little local race, and just couldn't do it. He tried year after year, and became frustrated. On a cool down run with him at this local race in 1993 or 1994, he talked about how he one day wanted to do the Hawaii Ironman. He explained a little bit more about it as I was just a short course guy in the start. It sparked an interest & then I wanted to check it out--soon. I was hooked when I was there with energy crackling in the air at every turn of the corner. Mark Allen won that year I went to watch...his last win. I set out to qualify for this Ironman thing for the following year. Seeing the race in person really prepares you mentally for not only the conditions, but the level you realize you need to get to in order to compete with the best in the world. It took a lot of time, daily consistency in training, and laser beam focus for another year. I'm convinced that once you figure the formula out--even can do it again. The problem is so many do it once and don't have the drive, energy & focus needed to not only get to that original level, but beyond their original level. Each year competition becomes more difficult in our sport of triathlon. Each year you must not settle for a past fitness level, because it won't take you very far. If you see yourself sliding, further and further, wondering why the field has passed you by, it is because the others around you have actually found or re-kindled that passion and desire you once had in search of that goal. They would have never been able to leapfrog you in the results standing if it weren't for that one seed which takes our dreams to reality...that seed that takes reality to levels of legend...that seed called...INITIATIVE. So why are you sitting here reading this...? Get out there and train...get off the couch or out of that chair and START whatever it is that you have packed away in the back of your mind and bring your dreams into the real world.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sport of Solitude

Triathlon in general is a social sport. Master’s swimming, group rides & runs, track sessions…they all can be a place to meet others and create a solid foundation for friendship or otherwise. Cross over into the side of the sport called Ironman and the tables can take you for a ride quite opposite of that which makes up the social side of the sport. Breaking the wall between the two is tough, with the extensive doses of training required, suffering through long and lonely hours can keep one from seeing the light—or it can become the light.
So involved can our sport become, and more specifically, Ironman—it can be something of a comforting “friend” for those looking for escape from other realities of life. It is no surprise that the physical attractiveness of the average triathlete is a draw for some. There is also no surprise that Ironman athletes have the highest divorce rate of any sport (note that ALL of the “Big 4” have been divorced). Athletes need to turn inward and become self-absorbed to an extent in order to achieve the seemingly (at times) insurmountable task of preparing to race 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and then run a full marathon. A spouse must be able to willingly fully support and understand this or else it can become something that erodes a relationship. It can be a sport that provides the very chemicals one needs to battle bouts of depression, or recourse from unhealthy relationships for an athlete. I have worked with athletes that feel comfort from the loneliness that takes you for a ride while getting ready for an Ironman competition. Part of that is because people in the sport know that the long hours provide the endorphins that make them feel good, even when other things in life aren’t. For the athlete not involved in a relationship and hoping to get involved, they may be striking out in