Well, sure as I said I haven't been sick yet this year, I should have known what was coming. I'm down and out. Yep, down.. down.. dowwwwnnn... and yep.. strait up out. No training, I can barely go to work. This week was supposed to be my first week back to training. Not so much. I'm not overly concerned, mostly just annoyed. I'm not going to dwell on it though, I have plenty to do and I am not wasting any time an energy on worrying. It's a great time of year to be sick and when I'm better, I'll get up and after it for 2012.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the four words in the title of this post. I'm not quite sure why. At times, I've had this entire blog post written in my head, but alas, I never have any paper around when that happens. It's usually either mid-third glass of wine or in some deep dark place on the trainer. Those are when the thoughts come to me. Those are when the thoughts form into phrases, sentences, ideas and form the shapes that come to be on this medium.
Regardless of the fact that I can't completely recall my exact sentiments, I'm going to try and put it down on paper anyway.
One of the things I'm most amazed about over the last five years has been the huge surge of people entering the sport of triathlon. It seems nothing can stop the growth of the sport many of us know and love. Not even the current state of our country's economics, seems to have any baring. Triathlon seems to be in it's own little bubble, shielded from the rest of the crises that so many think we have faced / are facing. Don't you think that's a little weird? I certainly do. Who are these people (oh wait, they're me) and where to they get their money (wait, me again). I've heard that the average income of an athlete doing the Ironman branded races is $160,000. Seriously?! Again, I refrain from using swear words, but really?? Let's just say, I don't have to worry about bringing that curve up any time soon.
Yet, the people come. They flock to Ironman like white on rice. Ironman Florida 2012 sells out in 12 minutes. People can't wait to slap down their $600 and press enter. Trust, me, I'm one of those too! It's like disposable cash is not even a second thought. Yet, in my heart, I know it is for the majority of us. It's just that something else is outweighing that, out prioritizing.
What is it, friends, that has created this driving force in our population...this need to do something so big and so monumental??! I have more than one athlete these days let me know that they will be doing their first __insert triathlon distance___ in the preparation to do an Ironman. This is usually the same person that has done less than 7 actual triathlons in their life. I'm not upset about it at all. In fact, I'm not even excluding myself from this proposition. I've stated many a time on this blog that I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid in 2008 before I had even done a 70.3 distance race, half the distance of the full. Granted, I didn't do it, but I almost did!
Do you want to know my theory? Well, you don't have a choice really - because it's my blog, and I'm able to say what I want. PEOPLE WANT TO BE CHALLENGED.
There. I said it.
Have you noticed that sometimes we seem to have gone so far the other way, telling each other that everything is ok.. it's fine to not make your goals happen, it's perfectly normal to feel this way, or that way or let go of our dreams to stay somewhere safer.. well, that's just fine honey. Let's be honest, the world has gotten a little soft. We've become a land of suit wearing, socially acceptable sheep in some ways that has found the norm to be not only somewhat comfortable and acceptable, but I would go as far as to say that leading a life with challenge has been rumored to be silly or unacceptable at times.
What I believe is that there is a whole under ground class of us, wearing out suits and ties, our coordinated scarves that feels deep, so very deep, within our hearts that with every single predictable non-challenging day we die a little inside. The same group that is secretly searching for something...no idea what.. but something. We catch a glimpse of it when we watch a TV show where someone does something seemingly so impossible, so far fetched, yet so amazing... it brings us to tears. All of the sudden, we wonder where our life has gone, where our dreams have gone and what could possibly take us out of this current day in day out grind that we are living.
That's where 140.6 miles comes in.
It might have started with a late December day.. when you catch it on TV. The sweat running down peoples faces, the grimaces of pain, the sun setting behind those out on the Queen K. It may be our first encounter with the fact that for some people, life's success isn't measured by money, or power, or materialistic things. In fact, these people are PAYING to be out there for miles on end, feet covered in blisters, sun beating down on their backs, from what I understand. Really? Paying?? You mean they chose this?? On purpose?
Why yes. Not only did they chose it. They prepared for it, with plenty of mornings that started before 5:00am, with sweat, blood, tears, bike crashes, time away from family, churning out hours of swimming, biking and running...most likely for more than a year. They dreamed about hearing those words "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" heck - they even hired someone to help them get there, a coach of sorts. When people see their first Ironman in Hawaii on TV, they never seem to forget it. In fact, I've met many a person who have no idea that there even is another Ironman other than this race. No matter when or why I end up telling them about triathlon, their first question is, without a shadow of a doubt:
"Have you done that one race, that Ironman, in Hawaii?"
"Have you done that one race, that Ironman, in Hawaii?"
It makes an impression to say the least. I believe 140.6 miles, or any race of challenge is more than just a race. I always have. Look at the explosion of warrior dashes and Tough Mudders all over the country, the world.
I believe these races are symbolic of our life, that we won't be caged and that we won't be beat down by the rat race that sometimes becomes our lives. People want to feel intense pain, intense joy and go through all the emotions that the day brings because frankly, it reminds us we're alive.. living here on earth...that we are human and that a day as long, and this challenging, requires mental gymnastics that we haven't yet known until we were in the thick of it. Somehow that's what makes it all worth it though, and keeps us coming back for more time and time again.
I just watched the movie Serendipity and one of my favorite quotes was:
"You know, the Greeks didn't write Obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died "Did he have passion?"
Don't you think that says something. Don't you think we run the risk of losing it as we get older, and responsibilities come and the world requires a certain "standard" of each one of us? I'm all for responsibility and all, but come on... who said it had to be quite like what we've come to today.
People assume that passion will come to them like a flash flood, overwhelming them with a sense of vitality and commitment to purpose. I don't believe it's like that exactly. I think passion develops slowly and purposefully. That it requires you take time and breathe in and out and consider the unique life and activities that have meaning to you, and you only. Passion doesn't seek you out my friend, rather YOU discover it via a proactive pursuit of things that are interesting and challenging to you - whatever that may be.
My main reason for this post is that it's not about hearing the words "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" Sure, those words have significance to me, but it's not about those words or "being" any one thing. It's about what that thing is for you.. that we're all trying to break out like a rash and discover. I just want to tell you that settling is easy, it's the contrary that is not. Just explore it.. just give it a little time.. just nurture it for one second be open to what comes. You don't have to do an Ironman, but just don't be afraid to see what comes when you let that spark of passion into your heart.
I'll leave you with this in this long blog that is just well, way to looonngg:
John Travers Obituary
It was written while he was living and it reminded him of the "why" of all of this. It's an interesting concept to write our obituary before we're actually gone. This one is pretty dang impressive to me and that's why I love it.
Trager secretly clung to the belief that life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences. Uh-uh.. but rather, it's a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan. Asked about the loss of his dear friend. Dean Kansku, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and executive editor of the New York Times, described Johnathan as a changed man in the last days of his life. "Things were never clearer for him" Kansku noted. Ultimately, Johnathan concluded that if we are to life life in harmony with the universe, we must all possess a powerful faith in what the ancients used to call "fatum" or what we currently refer to as... destiny.
A tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite sublime plan. Most of all, I just don't want to be afraid. I don't think fear has any place in this plan. I have no idea what the next years hold.. I don't know what that plan is my friends, not yet..
but I can't wait to find out. I hope you can't either :)