03 August 2011

A Triathlete's Manifesto: CAN!

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." - Steve Prefontaine

Fight Cancer

Beat Cancer

Last One Picked In Gym Class

To Let My Children Know That Anything Is Possible

The T-Shirt

Challenge Myself

There are thousands of athletes that train for triathlons every year. Everyone has something that motivates them. I have heard every reason why people dedicate so much time to go out there on a weekend, spend your heard earned dough, and beat the hell out of yourself for a few hours. 

Lately, I have been getting a lot of questions asked by people—especially family—why I do what I do. 

Do I have something to prove?  Nope. I ran Rev3 Full last year. I know I am capable of doing the mileage. 

So, why the hell do I subject myself to a part-time job that I will never get paid for? 

Those of us who do it, understand why. It is not really a choice. 

It is a lifestyle. 

Like the "choice" to become a composer. It was not really a choice. I had an involuntary urge to want to be accompanied by music all the time. It was not that I "chose" to be a composer, but rather, it chose me. I can never stop thinking about music—it is in my head all the time. I write daily, I play daily. I write music because it is my passion and I have to do it. Whatever it is I do, I want to do it an an exceptionally high level. I think that is one thing I have noticed about triathletes. I have not met too many athletes who race triathlon that are complete slackers outside of that world. Everyone I  know are incredibly hard-working human beings who work hard in every aspect of their lives—whether it is parenting, their careers, scholarship, academics, or their athletic endeavors. I have noticed that triathlon does have a tendency to attract people who are incredibly goal-oriented. That is a good thing, right? Even when I was tending bar in college, I asked myself "what can I do to maximize my tips?" No, Kelly, I did not take off my shirt. Despite what you think, I have worn a shirt more this summer than I have been without one.
There are few things I dislike more than people who say things like "...I just don't have the time," "...we can't do that. It's not possible." 

I have never understood—nor will I ever—understand the notion that something is not possible. How is THAT possible?!

I have worked with people who have given me this line. I would rather work with people who try to find ways to do the seemingly impossible rather than resign themselves to some imaginary notion that they can not do something. 

I see people overcome enormous obstacles everyday. Forget about triathlon. I look at heroic people—ordinary people—with live with physical disabilities, chronic pain, even terminal illnesses—who do not resign themselves to limitations imposed upon them by the words of others, or by their own bodies. Those who live with these "limitations" somehow muster up the courage to summon superhuman will—not allowing their brain to listen when the body says "quit, now," "you're tired," "you can't do this." These people are fighters. They are winners. They are inspiration for me. I think of the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt. If you don't know their story yet, I dare you to watch this video without getting choked up. 

Why do I train? For me, I get little satisfaction out of the physicality of the sport. I mean, I don't wake up in the morning and say "Alright! I am super-psyched about my one hour open water swim and 45-minute training run today!" Okay, I do like to be out there hitting it hard, and I do love the feeling that I have after accomplishing a ride/run/swim, but to me, the more attractive part of triathlon is the mental component. Anyone who puts in the time to train can run a successful triathlon at any distance. By "successful" here, I mean that they can finish. Qualifying for Kona is not an option unless you are genetically predisposed, work your ass off, and, alas, MAKE TIME!

When friends say they don't have time to a man with five children, a full-time job, and a ton of projects constantly on the burner, I feel like I should have a free pass to just punch them in the face. For the record, my wife feels this way too. However, I am not a violent man, and the passive-aggresive route is so transparent to anyone with a brain. But, I do ask, "Is it that you don't have time, or you are just not interested in making time for that?" I have friends that are casual runners. Some even will run the occasional half marathon. One of my friends gets out to run two days a week—once during the week, and one "long" run on the weekend.  I always wonder (aloud), why don't you do more running during the week?

"I don't have the time to train."  

Let me translate what that really means: I am NOT motivated/interested in improving my run. I am okay with being mediocre. There are other things in my life that are more important to me. 

OKAY—I get that!  But, don't say you do not have time to train. I have gone for runs this season at 5:30 in the morning and 11 p.m. at night. I fit it where I can. I also do not run merely to train. I run for my sanity. If I don't run, I become a very irritable person. I need it to help clear the cobwebs, and to escape from the sometimes harsh and brutal realities of la vie quotidienne. 

So, back to the mental part. That is the most difficult. Finding the will. You know, there are days that I just DO NOT want to go outside, I do not want to do it. This has been especially true the last couple of weeks in western New York as temperatures have consistently been in the low-90's, and the humidity can only be described as "brutal." I feel for my blogger buddies like Jeff and Anne who remind me that they live in that weather eleven and a half months out of the year. In the end, I know that if I don't go outside and start training that I am going to feel worse for it later. I am going to be grumpy, tired, lethargic, and filled with guilt (I getter over the guilt thing pretty quickly though, I must say). 

TRAINING: I am currently in the middle of a build week. Everything has been going pretty well. I am biking and swimming where I think I should be. My runs have seemed a bit flat this week, but it could be because of the unbelievably oppressive heat and humidity (I'm blushing Jeff). The asphalt was well over a hundred degrees on my 45 minute run the other day. When I was done, it felt like I ran through a sprinkler. 

I have a monster 6-hour ride this weekend. Yikes. I am going to try to hit a very hilly course. I will probably post the course here when I am done. If I am still alive. 

More soon. Train Smart!


Caratunk Girl said...

Love love love all the Pre quotes and pictures.

I am so with you - anything is possible. People who say they can't...it usually means don't want to. And I have been criticized for my choice - this lifestyle...Even my man is sort of waiting for me to "get over it". It is tough, there are challenges for everyone, and we all overcome them in different ways.

Yeah. No freaking way am I EVER living in TX in the summer. HOLY. CRAP.

Mark said...

Mandy, you freaking crack me up, girl! Even your comments are hysterical!. Love it.

I have a feeling your man may be waiting a loooooooong-ass time. ;-)

TriMOEngr said...

Funny that earlier today I was reading up on some inspiration. First was about Team True Spirit - a group of wounded UK soldiers that just did IronmanUK. AMAZING! And that led me to do a little research on Team Hoyt - tears for sure. "Yes, You Can!" Shouldn't that be all of our mantra?

I finished (not pretty, but across the line at the end) my first two sprint triathlons in July. Still overweight, but in much better fitness than I've been in for a long time. Your points are so true (as are Mandy's) - "can't" really is a matter of "don't want to" for most. Need to get out of our own way and just get it done.

Medievalist said...

Nice post, friend! I don't understand those who say they don't have time - you make time and you prioritize. Anyways, I will be home Tuesday and looking forward to running with you!

tribirdie said...

So true Mark! I often wonder how you get it all done :D I have found that people "don't have time" because their reality does include running at 11pm. Every time I tell people outside of triathlon that I do that (or the 4 am trainer rides) they just shake their head in disbelief. In their reality that time of day does not exist for fitness; it's a time to be awake for emergency or work related travel :D

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

Good post Mark! Lots going on here. FWIW, I cite you as an example to people all the time when they drop the, "I don't have time to do that .." excuse on me! You are the Trump card my friend!

You know what else always kills me? When these same people talk about how they have no time BUT then the very next sentence out of their mouth will be an update on every single reality TV show. It is sad that they are so ignorant to their own hypocrisy. But I guess hypocrisy and ignorance go hand and hand. They need each other!

Yes, it is freaking Africa hot here. No need to even look at the weather forecast as it is 100ish degrees with a crapton of humidity every day. We just got to be careful.

I'd still take this for a few months over 8 months of snow and ice. I am logging many miles on the treadmill while watching baseball!

Based on your rant your mind is in the right place being 38 days out from the Full Rev. You are sitting in that little grey area between complete agitation and hilarity - well done and looking forward to seeing you soon.

KC (my 140 point 6 mile journey) said...

You tell em' Mark! Like Jeff, I mention you a lot. Mostly to make people feel guilty. It goes something like this: "Oh, you don't have time to train? Well this guy I know who works full-time and has 5 very young children has time to train for an Ironman! So now what's your excuse?" I'm so glad you don't live in Hell, Florida, or Texas. At least right now. It is blazing hot. Party on! Speaking of party, I hope you are coming to PCB in November. Keep me posted.

Mark said...

KC—DAMN! You totally crack my ass up!

Hell, Florida! Bwaaahahahahahaha! I was not aware of that town. What county is that in?

I am definitely going to try to make it for my cousin to PCB in November. Oh, I will let you know. Wait... you will for SURE know if I am there. You will not be able to get me out of your head.

Glad I could serve as an example for some. Know that you and Jeff motivate me—as do all my blogger buddies, and fellow athletes—motivate me to train my hardest and NOT make excuses!

Colleen said...

This is a great post Mark. I get so sick of people saying "I could never train like you because I don't have time". Then they tell me about the latest reality tv show that they are into. Hello people... you don't have time? And don't get me started on the "why do you do this" question.

I don't know why anyone would choose to live in TexASS. :)

I hope you head to PCB! Mandy, Kristin and I are going to be there cheering our heads off and we'd love to meet you! Are you going to be at Cedar Point?

Pschall said...

This post rocks! Every time I watch the Hoyt Team video, I get inspired!

5 kids and busting out ironman training--way to kill the “no time to train” excuse that a lot of slackers use. Keep kicking butt, Mark!

We have been feeling the heat in AR too! We had a record high of 110 yesterday. I kind of think it is great though. I hope the Branson 70.3 brings recording breaking September high temps! I’ve definitely be training enough in the heat to take it on. ha

Keep rockin’ the training, Mark!

Jamie said...

Awesome post man. I read it on my phone while on the trainer last night to keep me movin'.

Kiersten said...

Awesome post. I personally catch up on the reality shows WHILE on the trainer!