Thursday, December 2, 2010

Moth To A Flame

I wrote a while back about why I do this sport and I talked about a lot of the positive effects that the sport has had on my life.  I stand by that, and I strongly believe that triathlon and long distance triathlon in particular has basically changed my life.  I won't go back over those points now.

Today I'm going to talk about the flip side of the coin, because I'm not being honest with you if I just tell you about how great the sport is, and how I'm so great because I do it.  So much of what I read about triathlon is all balls to the wall, HTFU, MTFU, inspiration and everything is just like totally amazing yeah.  Awesome has to be the most overused word in triathlon circles, and I hear myself saying it over and over again!

So what are the other less glamorous reasons I do triathlon?

I broke up with a girl about 4 years ago, or in actuality what happened was she walked out of my life without a word and it took me 3 weeks before I managed to convince her to meet with me and talk about it.  We had been together 15 months when this happened and I was very much in love.  I was completely emotionally wrecked and the physical pain of this lasted about 6 weeks.

I'm not telling this story to gain any kind of sympathy, it is just to put what I have to say in context.  The truth of the matter is that she gave me a gift, and that gift was a realisation that I had to make significant changes in my life.  If I think about the long road towards better mental health that started when she left me, I am very grateful indeed for what happened.  She's married with a baby boy now and I give her joy of her new life.

I had been running and doing marathons for a couple of years already, and the first thing I did was join a running club - I thought it would be good for the social aspect and also I threw myself into it to numb some of the pain.  Gradually I got more and more involved in endurance running.  The coach there told me that I was a middle distance runner - I had strong speed but not great endurance.  He told me to focus on 3k, 5k, 10k and leave the marathon for later years.  He was right but I thought stuff that, I want a real challenge.

This process brought my marathon time down from about 3:30 at the time, to 3:02.  I remember going back to my coach one day after running a 1:22 Half at Silverstone and his comment was an all time classic in my book: "Wow, that's almost like real running".  That guy knew how to motivate me!

So what was actually going on here?  What was happening was that I had no real self esteem - I did not fundamentally believe that I was a good person and that people would like me for who I am.  And therefore I trained hard, because subconsciously I thought that if I could get good times then people would respect me and that I would feel good about myself.  And this worked.  For a short period of time.

The glow after a good race would die off after a while, and so I was pushed on to try bigger and harder events.  I started triathlon, I was drawn like a moth to a flame to Ironman.  Crossing the finish line at Ironman Western Australia in 2007 was an incredibly emotional moment for me and that made me feel good for a long time - that was the biggest and best hit I have ever experienced, bar none. I had found a legal and socially acceptable drug and I wanted more.

And so I have to face up to this.  The truth is that I also do triathlon to try and gain respect from my peer group and to try and believe that I am a good person because I can cover 140.2 miles faster than many people who try.  I have to face up to the fact that a very large part of why I am trying to qualify is just so that I can get a bigger hit.  In some place in my mind I think that if I can get into Hawaii, then everything will be alright, I'll feel good about myself forever more and people will like me because of what I have achieved.

This is very poor reasoning.

The truth is I have not been getting out the door to train that much at the moment.  And this is not because I am weak and unmotivated and depressed.  No, this is because I am growing as a person and getting healthier and I am building REAL self respect for myself, not the empty self respect that comes from a fast time.

You should know that I am not giving up.  I am taking my bike to Cape Town in January and I am going to be living, working and training there for 2 and a half months.  Then I will come home and shortly after fly to Utah, where I will compete and give everything I have to give.  But it may be that I don't take it too seriously this time.  It may be I goof off some workouts and go do something different instead.  It may be that I let go of striving for Kona for the time being.  My reasons are wrong and I need time to think about that.  Maybe Kona's in my future when my reasons are right, maybe not.

Ultimately I love being outside doing crazy shit with my mates, so I'm still going to do big rides, big runs, big races.  But from now on I will only do these things if I'm having fun.  If it's to try and prove something to myself then I may as well pack up all my stuff and sell it on ebay and use the money to pay for therapy.

And actually by the way, yes, I do see a therapist.  And starting that process 2 years ago was the best decision I ever made.


  1. It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.

    H x

  2. Absolutely H! It's all about taking responsibility and building the life we want.


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