Arriving at a season finale DNF last week provided the impetus to come to terms with myself. At what point is it ever enough to simply walk away - not just from a race, but from the status quo? When does it become time to dream a new dream?
Somewhere between the humble first 25m swim at the YWCA pool in 2009 and reaching the top of Mount Gaustatoppen in August, I have managed to chase some pretty lofty aspirations, and achieve what I deemed (at the time) impossible many times over. And in that time, there was a good share of angst, sweat, heartache and sacrifice, a tad bit of crankiness at times and certainly a lot of calories consumed.
So how does this chase evolve? What is the next adventure?
I came to terms last week with a pretty stunning realization: there is absolutely nothing to prove. Just toeing the starting line at a race requires intense focus and determination. You can give it everything you have, and the uncontrollable may prevent you from reaching the finish line. And that is just fine. A finish line medal is not a measure of one's worth. I certainly do not race for anyone except myself, and I have already discovered (many times over) that I am capable of pushing my head and my body to accomplish much more than I ever imagined possible. However, when it stops being fun, when the sacrifice becomes too much, it is simply time to dream a new dream.
Racing and training, and all the routine that comes with it is addictive. So are the endorphins that come with it. And while it may certainly be as "healthy" as addictions can be (if that is possible), and pretty awesome to enjoy the benefits it reaps, doing the same races over and over, challenging the same course and the same demons, simply is not the lifestyle I choose long term. Yes, Ironman is a noble aspiration and was something incredibly worthwhile. However, you soon realize you are being "sold" a lifestyle and, as a lifestyle over the long term, it presents a lot of sacrifice that is simply not sustainable.
I do very little without a plan and clear intention. It is just the way that I am, and part of the reason that I am in the profession I am and why triathlon has made a lot of sense to me. So choosing not to attend roll down at St. Croix in May, and not responding when my name got called for a Kona slot, was entirely intentional. It just was not my dream or goal to race in Hawaii this year. And yet, I was surprised at how many (complete strangers) were incredulous at the possibility that someone would not want to go to Kona.
There are athletes that have raced Kona dozens of times. I salute them for their tenacity, energy and general awesomeness. My dream, however, diverges from this repetitiveness. Perhaps someday I will race on the Big Island again, and perhaps not - for now, three times is enough and I have no desire to make it an annual affair. It is simply not the singular aspiration that I want to consume the best years of my life.
Instead, I chose this year to tackle what I felt was "impossibility", two races that quite frankly scared the shit out of me - Alcatraz and Norseman. In ramming headlong into some demons and finding out that it was possible to conquer them, these two races have simply spoiled me for the experience. True, grassroots, unique events where the entire focus in on athlete experience. Events that demand resilience, where finishing is not only an incredible test of will, a challenge not just against the mind and body, but also a battle against the uncontrollable elements. Races like these are in demand because they are simply unique. Neither are a spandex, "drive-through" parade where you clock in and clock out - you put your soul in, or you do not finish.
While racing has instilled in me the belief that anything is possible, I do believe there are limits to its appeal. Perhaps I am too apt to becoming bored, but committing myself to something "epic" loses its lustre and appeal when it becomes repetitive and mundane. The satisfaction of achievement simply does not stick when it becomes routine or an expectation. So where does it go next? How do I upstage myself? Faster, further, longer, same same.. simply not sustainable or interesting to me. This may sound like disenchantment, but I promise you it is not. It is simply an unwillingness to accept the status quo as the bar that I set for the future.
So as I embark on dreaming a new dream, I take stock of the things I know...
I thrive on my personal (mis)adventures.
I love riding my bike.
I love the feeling of a workout conquered.
I (sometimes) like swimming, but mostly just like hanging out with my lanemates.
I believe the impossible to be possible
I am not getting any younger...or faster
Most of all, I am grateful to have been able to travel and race and chalk up some pretty ridiculous accomplishments this year. By no means am I stepping back, but it is clear to me that that way forward is definitely not the same path I have already blazed. I chose not to repeat the chapter. After all...it's my life!
(I couldn't help myself...shameless inspirational 80's music....)