August 18, 2014

Constantly Learning

 “…I’m a continuous battle with excuses. I’m a guy swatting the devil off my shoulder only to have him return with a pitchfork and that same toothy grin.

I’m a guy who “couldn’t” compete in a triathlon because he wasn’t mentally ready and needed a year to prepare. As if it were battlefield deployment I was embarking on as opposed to a pristine lake in the mountains.

I guess the veteran with no arms or legs that swam a half mile spent the year mentally preparing. I suppose the blind man that joined him and swam tied off to a friend spent the last year strategizing just as well.

Wipe that toothy grin off your face, Hades…” – Who Am I, August 20, 2013

Fast forward one year and one West Point Triathlon under my, ahem, race belt and I’m no longer writing about my “battle with excuses”. Yesterday I faced my ultimate fear unaware of what the definition of “ultimate fear” really was. 24 hours later I’m still not sure if that’s something you can define but I do know we came eye to eye to with one another somewhere around minute three of my two hour campaign.

Yesterday was a rollercoaster of emotions for me. This whole week was. I’m nothing if not a very emotional guy. Emotionally intense at times. Some may even call me sensitive. (note the sarcasm) I take competing very seriously. I always have. I love competing…in anything. But it also messes with my head. In last year’s blog I also wrote…

“…Many people say I’m too hard on myself. I say I’m too easy. Those who know me know a person who doesn’t necessarily hate losing as much as he loves winning…”

Facing a half mile swim, a 13.5 mile bike ride up a seemingly endless hill followed up by a 5k run up nearby Bear Mountain's twin sister peak, I didn’t win yesterday. Or did I? That’s what I have to figure out. Better yet, I don’t have to figure anything out. I know the answer. I just have to embrace it.

I’m wrong. I did win. I just won a different game. A more important game. I defeated doubt. I defeated the cloaked-in-fear-devil on my shoulder. I defeated the lazy athlete of my younger days. I defeated the play-to-your-strengths athlete. I defeated the omnipresent inner voice extolling, “This isn’t your game. Step aside.”  

Deep down inside that’s why I was so emotional yesterday. That’s why when I was by myself I had tears in my eyes. That’s why after the post triathlon double grilled cheese diner session I got choked up seconds into my attempted speech. But it’s not the whole reason...

One of my favorite quotes is by Jon Krakauer when he wrote, “Happiness is only real when it’s shared.” No truer words.

Having been able to train alongside Andy Quinn and Brian Bogush for months and months and building a closer friendship as a result has meant the world to me. Two guys who are only a few years into my life but have felt like a few decades. If it weren’t for these two I would not have had yesterday.

A particular thank you to Andy. Someone I admired from the day I met him. His dedication, background, morals, values and overall attitude towards life are all attributes I envy. Had it not been for him encouraging me to sign up in the first place and convincing me I have the ability to do it today’s post would have a drastically different tone. It’s more than just verbally supporting someone though. He was by my side from the get go and played an active role in helping me get to this day.

Andy encouraged me and then committed himself to getting me where I needed to be. He lead me to the finish line not just physically but metaphorically as well. For that I owe thanks.

I learned something about myself yesterday. I’ve learned a lot over the past few years. We all do. We’re all constantly learning. I learned the phrase “I’m not an endurance athlete” may not apply to me anymore.

…of course the word “endurance” is a relative term. (see how I still can’t fully commit)

After telling my father how challenging the event was I used that phrase and he responded…

”I don’t agree with that at all. I’d for damn sure say you’re an endurance athlete. Who gives a crap what your time was not to mention you did that with people who do those things all the time. The fact you finished that, in that environment, under those conditions, is unbelievably impressive…”

Ok fine. Noted. I accept. As uncomfortable as that may be for me. I give in. I suppose he (and everyone else who said that to me) is right. It’s hard for me to give myself credit but like I said, we’re all constantly learning…