I'm here in Kelowna this weekend for the Apple Triathlon National Championships, not racing, but supporting my good friend Tash and a group of other athletes from my club. I'm still really enjoying my time off, and today after a day surrounded by motivated, fit, geared up, race-ready athletes, while I thought I might feel the itch to race, I'm still quite happy to not be racing, and enjoying the down time.
In fact, this past week I've struggled with how much I'm actually enjoying my time off. I'm starting to question if it's normal to feel this releived that I'm through with Triathlon (for the season). I've really been embracing all the things I've been able to do with my free time including having all this extra energy to divvy up into my work and into my social life. This is something I knew was a challenge when I was in full training, but I guess I didn't really realize how true it really is until you get that time and energy back.
I've started to question myself, and my goals for triathlon. Specifically, I've started to question my commitment to Ironman 2010. For the past 8 months, I've completely dedicated myself to triathlon. I've focused, persevered, sacrificed and dedicated day after day for something that I truly believed in. I've had an incredible year and I'm so proud of everything that I've accomplished and learned, but in doing this, it's now become very clear the sheer magnitude of the goals that I've set for myself and exactly what achieving those goals will mean for my personal life, my professional life, my family and all other aspects of my life that otherwise function unaffected by my training efforts and commitments. I question myself now: am I willing to continue to make those sacrifices?
I read an article today in Triathlon Magazine that asks the question "What Motivates You?" It spoke about the rational and irrational motivators that we use to achieve our goals. It summed up the differences as rational reasons for competing in Triathlon being the "respectable and easy to explain to your friends" reasons. The irrational reasons are more complicated, personal and deep. The irrational motivations can be embarrassing and difficult to identify with. They are emotional and can illuminate our deepest fears and desires. It got me thinking about my motivations, and it couldn't have come at a better time given my recent streak of question and doubt.
So today, while laying quietly in the summer sun, I asked myself: "What do I do this for?"
I've always believed that the Ironman is not a race of the body, but of the mind. It's not something anyone participates in to brag about their time, or what place they finished, it's about achieving something that at the beginning seems so unachievable, it's about finding out what you're made of and finishing what you start. What makes this race so beautiful is that it's not something anyone wakes up one day and decides they will do, it's typically something that is on a "to do before I die" type of list, or it's something dreamed of for many years before, and at the very least (as registration is done a year in advance) for the past year, this race has changed lives. Lives not only of each Ironman participant, but of their families who sacrifice time away from their spouses/moms/dads etc and still support them through their training and encourage them through their doubt. It's about the friends and acquaintances that have been inspired and moved by their commitment to achieve. Of course, it's about the journey. The long, long road that, from the finish line, stretches so much further back than the 42km run, back further than the 180km bike or thru the waters 3.8km. It's the journey of hundreds of miles, countless laps in the pool, emotional, physical and psychological triumphs and failures.
Obsessed with this race since my first encounter with an Ironman in 2006, I made it my 5 year goal to complete an Ironman. Starting with a couple if Try-a-Tri's in 2006, I learned enough to move into Sprint distance races for 2007. In 2008 I learned a little more, and falling a little more in love with the sport, I completed my first Olympic distance race. This year, I've trained harder and put in more to Triathlon than I ever have before and out of it I completed the hardest Half-Iron distance race in North America. In the same year, I completed a second half ironman and my first Ironman 70.3 series race. In 2010 I plan to reach my ultimate goal and complete the Ironman. Talk about journey's....
So what's my irrational motivation? The journey. The lessoned learned in those long lonely miles. The sense of pride in finishing something you know, without a doubt, that you deserve. There are times in our lives where we all take free rides. We cut corners, get praise for things we didn't necessarily earn, and sometimes reap the benefits of simply being in the right place at the right time. There's nothing wrong with that, I'm not saying that I'm taking a free ride anywhere, I'm just saying that in triathlon, and specifically with the Ironman, there isn't anyone that will get you to that finish line besides yourself. When you do, it's all yours. To celebrate. To consume. To soak in and know - you did it.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I get so much more out of this sport than what's on the surface. This passion runs deep for me and I hope that everyone has the opportunity to find something they can be passionate about.