Thursday, May 24, 2012

''You're doing a what?''

After reflecting on the admittedly silly amount of time and effort I have recently been pouring into training, I asked myself: Why spend hours pounding away on the pedals and the pavement, Steve? What's the point? A valid question, to be sure. An even more valid question might be something along the lines "why the f*** would you sign up for a 226km triathlon?" This is a question which pops up frequently enough when I'm hurting out there on a run. That's because Jeremy - my best mate - inspired me to pull the trigger on registering for Ironman Melbourne. Premature to be signing up for that in my 3rd year in the sport? We'll see on race day, I suppose.

I think part - if not a lot - of the answer for doing all of this madness can be found in my wanting to motivate myself on a daily basis whilst I pushed through many university classes which admittedly did not interest me all too much, and working a job which is not entirely rewarding. These reasons satisfy the motivation for plunging into it more than 'normal' in the last six months. The rest of the answer, however, is perhaps harder to articulate. Whilst I am still searching to regain what creativeness I once might have had as a wordsmith years ago, I think I shall share with you some words from a rather inspiring athlete, Jordan Rapp, taken from his victory speech at Ironman Canada last year:

"[Triathlon/Ironman] is the sort of momentous [...] experience that allows us, ever so briefly, to get close enough to the stars to reach out and touch the heavens. Of course, some of that may just be the delirium of a 226 kilometer journey of swimming, biking, and running in a single day. 

As much as we might curse the wind, and the heat, and the seemingly endless miles when we are out there on the day, those very things are what bind us to this race and also to each other. Nobody gets together over a beer and recounts war stories like, “hey, remember that time we ran a 5k in totally perfect conditions?” Adversity is one of those things that truly implants a memory in our brain. According to Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths, the meaning of life itself is to suffer. I’m not sure I buy into that, even if it has resulted in some great Blues music over the years.

Personally, I prefer view of Viktor Frankl, the great Austrain psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, that the meaning of life is to find meaning in our lives. I think the “to the stars” part is just as important as the “not easy” part. I don’t think anyone wants to go, through great difficulty, to the grocery store. I don’t think we want our lives, in general to be hard, though I don’t think we necessarily want life to be easy either. What I think drives us to seek out great challenges is that it is a choice that we make for ourselves. We don’t have control over the day, but we have control over our decision to pursue this epic journey. We all, for a variety of reasons, chose to wade into the lake with 3300 other people to undertake something that the typical person would call crazy.

But no one in this room has a burning desire to be, “typical.” That is not why you do an Ironman. You do an Ironman because you want to reach the stars. And you want to do it the hard way. Because that is what makes it special."