Wednesday, 16 October
In Perspective: 2013 Tri Season Wrap-up
I just completed my 2013 tri season with my 10th triathlon - USAT Long Course National Championship (LCN). This year the designated race was Rev 3 Half in Anderson, South Carolina. My primary motive for racing this event was to qualify for the 2014 ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championship in Wei Hai, China. USAT qualifies the top 20 of each age group. A nice thing about aging in this sport - every succeeding 5-year age group has a smaller field. With only sixteen in my age group, all I had to do was finish!
Even so, I did show up with my “I wanna-podium-game-face” - a top 3 in the 55-59 age group. No podium this time, not even close. I placed 5th. As an educator in the field of triathlon, it’s great to say I made “Top 5” in a National Championship. (Uh, never mind the minuscule field.) However, I honor the 4 gents who finished in front of me for being a great source of humility.
Humility is vital medicine in my life - as an athlete, as an educator, and as a human being. Without humility, most certainly I would be a danger to myself and my loved ones. I would be elevated even higher (indeed over-inflated) as the ”legend in my own mind”. From this perspective, LCN was definitely a “successful petition for the empowerment of companionship” Humility was my empowerment.
Props to Rev 3
This is my second Rev 3 event. (In 2009, I did the very first Rev 3 Half in Quassey, CT.) Rev 3 is a high-caliber organization - meticulous in their race production and always offering a family-oriented experience. However - beyond the swim course, the Anderson race location offered little for me of great note - with both Survival of the Shawangunks and Savageman still fresh in my memory. These two races are simply world-class in location, and rival Rev 3 for their production. (Read more about my experiences in these two races: 10 September: Survival of the Shawangunks, 20 September: Savageman: ”Another Brick in the Wall?”)
As a passionate performance-oriented multisport athlete, its easy to lose perspective after a disappointing or even mediocre performance. We tend to measure success and even the quality of our experience solely on the goals we succeed or fail to attain. However, I always keep this in mind:
Less than one-tenth of one percent of the world’s population has the health, wealth and political, cultural and familial freedom to live the lifestyle I enjoy. (Forgive me if you have read this passage in any of my past writings - it bears repeating.)
As we lay on our death beds reflecting on our lives through endearing eyes, our successes and failures will not be measured by medals and podiums. What will open our hearts and make our passing graceful and easy will be how we were able to use our experiences in life to enhance the quality of our lives and those around us.
All of us need to maintain this perspective as we enjoy the privilege of training and racing.
My perspective recently “sobered up” quite a bit: I have a step-brother who was diagnosed within the past 6 months with ALS. His condition is progressing quickly - as he loses the use of his arms and has great difficulty swallowing. In his early-mid 40’s, he has two young sons and a wife. The question I contemplate frequently as I train and race now: How do I respond to this? As someone who celebrates and promotes the empowerment of mobility in my service as an athletic educator and in my craft as a “zendurance athlete”, what can I do?
All healthy endurance athletes eventually grapple with our inevitable mortality. We are all brought to this challenge by our loved ones and by our own bodies. The glorious athlete cannot transcend the ordinary human being. However, the glorious athlete can certainly enrich and enhance the ordinary human being.
Consider how many endurance races support a charitable mission to alleviate suffering and disease or facilitate empowerment and mobility. All of us have participated in races that engage in this role. We cannot deny our mortality. Rather, we need to honor and celebrate our finite existence. When we embrace mortality as a vital “spice” in life, it infuses every moment with a preciousness.
Life is a gift of opportunity and possibility. It is up to each of us what we do with it - while we are able.
In my final Entry of the 2012 Triple Ultra Challenge Journal, I revealed my true motive for choosing to take on the Challenge. For almost 40 years now I have been engaged in the practice of mindful movement. This has been my daily practice on my life path. In the simplest terms, I use movement as prayer - as my primary way of bringing harmony, health and peace to my life and to our world.
As I discussed in that final Entry, scientific research has shown a significant decrease in violent crimes and traumatic incidents when a critical percentage of people meditate on compassion, harmony and love. (That’s right - scientific research.) As I train and race, I use the cyclic movement patterns of swimming, biking and running (activities from our childhood) and conscious breath to focus my mind on mantras for peace and harmony. I am absolutely certain that this mindful practice was key to my completion of the Triple Ultra.
Throughout my robust 2013 racing season, I have continued to strengthen the quality of mindfulness I bring to my training, racing and teaching. My best training and racing experiences are those where I abide in this mindfulness - what I call “Mind IN Matter”. When I focus too much on “trying” to go faster and how I compare to the competition (the classic “Mind Over Matter” approach), the quality of my experience diminishes - regardless of how I place in a race, or whether I meet my training objectives.
Aside from perhaps racing less this season, and focusing more on this event, this is where I could have done better at LCN. My attachment and desire obscured the quality of mindfulness I brought to my race. This is the true source of my mild disappointment - not the failure to stand on the podium.
During the past few months, especially during my training sessions, I have contemplated how to respond to my step-brother’s condition, and the reality of diseases like ALS and Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy that devastate physical mobility - such a source of joy in my life - and lead to death. In the next Entry, I will discuss my response - The “2013 One-Two-Three” - my upcoming ultra endeavor for November.
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