Monday, December 21, 2009

The Yearly Recommitment... or Something

Upon updating my Facebook status that I was riding my trainer while watching the Ironman Hawaii broadcast on TV Saturday, I found myself in a discussion with a friend about the inspirational stories. Although my Ironman story is far from inpirational, I noted that I was reminded of my own personal trials in finishing the 2002 Kona race (read). I called it a "vomitfest," prompting her to ask: "and you do this...why?"

To which I replied: "to get to the finish line" -- a statement that could mean many things to many people. Last year I wrote a blog about why I "do this." Yesterday, I found myself pondering that same question -- "why?" -- for the entire 12 miles of my run.

Why am I compelled to do another Ironman, another marathon, another 6-hour ride, another 8-hour brick, another 3-hour run? Is it a compulsion? an obsession? both? something else? My only answer is that endurance racing is "what I do." It's my thing. I love the high of finishing a marathon. I love the feeling of pushing through long runs and long rides in 90-degree temperatures. I think I even love the pain. I love learning how far I can push my body. It make me feel alive and gives me self worth.

Some people may think "self worth" should not be a function of athletics. But for me, I don't have anything else to hang my hat on. I am reminded of the words I wrote last year - the reasons "why." Endurance racing is the one thing I do that depends on nothing but me. The accomplishments are mine. The failures are mine. My success does not depend on how much other people like me or rate me or score me. Success or failure has nothing to do with who I "schmooze" or whether I show up to a party or not. It has nothing to do with if I say the right thing or if I'm in the right place at the right time. Oh, there's a collective camaraderie among endurance athletes, but in racing there are no lies or backstabbing or people to impress. It's just me. If I work hard and make smart decisions, I am successful. If not, I fail. But when I make mistakes, no one holds a grudge. I apply the lessons learned and then I make the gains.

There are other things I could do to pass the time, but nothing I enjoy is more quantitative and objective than training and racing. Even in my other hobbies -- art, photography, guitar playing -- being successful is often in the eye (or ear) of the beholder. Which is why I don't attempt to show any of my art. For now, I'll stick to triathlon.

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