When I watched the episode last month that was based around our "biology," it really spoke to me. In short, Meredith, the main character, faces whether she can still have children after a miscarriage and finding out she may have a hostile uterus. A man is checked into the ER after doing research on a cure from asthma that entails he swallow worms (and hefights to save them because he truly believes it's his life's work). Finally, a young boy, who has cancer in his leg, is afraid to lose it because he may never dance again (classical ballet).
I guess this episode resonated with me so much because, just as Meredith said, we are born with certain DNA. We can't change that particular part of our lives regardless of how hard we try. We all have a built in system that will make us more susceptible to certain aliments, diseases, or even becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. This is the breaks.
Each one of the characters are fighting against nature to do something they love; something they feel passionate above all else. This season I've had many athlete friends that are facing health conditions and other things that limit their time in training for triathlons, or even in some cases, walking down the street. They’ve faced hardships that I could only dream of facing, and managed to do it with a pretty positive attitude I might add. In both of these cases, biology has to win. They want to be healthy and live fairly normal lives. For them, that may mean having to find other things they like to do and channeling their competitive energy into something else other than triathlons. It's been hard to watch, and at times, I've wrestled with how something like this could be taken away from them. They are good people. Shouldn't they be able to do what they love? Who makes these rules? Why is life so hard?
As athletes we run a very fine line. Pushing our inherited biology to do things that are above and beyond what our bodies sometimes want to do and/or beyond what others think we might be capable of doing. In order to make gains in sport we must find a way to push past the barriers of our biology holding us back. Our muscles scream out in pain and our brain tells us to stop. This mechanism was developed over time to protect us and shield us from things that may hurt us or compromise our health. Yet, through years of practice, we learn to silence these voices…and continue on…but why. Should biology reign supreme?
Dean Karnazes, Ultra Runner and all around crazy endurance guru, once said "Unless you're pushing yourself, you're not living to the fullest. You can't be afraid to fail, but unless you fail, you haven't pushed hard enough. If you look at successful people and happy people, they fail a lot, because they're constantly trying to go further and expand."
This doesn’t necessarily just apply to sports, in my eyes, it applies to LIFE. Whether it’s changing jobs, starting your own business, climbing a mountain or starting an exercise program, we all have a vision at some point when we are young of the way we want our lives to look. Mary said it well when she wrote on her blog this week that “somewhere along the line someone tells you – well, you can do that, that’s too hard for you, or you look silly doing that!” and we believe it. Layers upon layers of disbelief are piled on high and instead of living our dreams, we settle down into the life that makes sense. For me, Dean speaks to my athletic nature. There are certainly things about my biology, or even my past, that I will never be able to change. I didn't grow up swimming, and I don't have a 6 ft wingspan like Micheal Phelps, but I believe that one day I will be a good swimmer. Not because of my biology, but because I will work incredibly hard and put in the time to make it happen.
I love training. I love competing and you don't find something you love that much and let it go. You hold onto it, and you dive in even deeper. Some of my friends are struggling to deal with the loss of not being able to do what they love. They are two very special women and friends (and you know who you are so I'm not going to say it here :) So for me, and for them, there is no way I'm going to anything stand in my way of this 140.6 mile race. Not fear of failure, doubt, or not living up to my own expectations will be enough to hold me back from that starting line. Not even a heard of wild wildebeests... could prevent me from finishing this race.
I think Meredith's last line said it best...
Biology says that we are who we are from birth, that DNA is set in stone, unchangeable. Our DNA doesn't account for all of us. We are human. Life changes us. We develop new traits, become less territorial. We learn from our mistakes. We face our greatest fears. For better or worse, we find ways to become more than our biology. The risk, of course, is that we can change too much, to the point we don't recognize ourselves. Finding our way back can be difficult. There's no compass, no map. We just have to close our eyes, take a step and hope to god we get there.
On November 28th, let's defy some biology - what do you say? Are you with me?
First IM - Hawaii 2008