Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why Ironman is good for my family

Sure training for an Ironman (or any long endurance race) takes us as athletes away from our families, that is the down side of this obsessive hobby we call triathlon, but there is an upside too. There is the exotic travel to popular tourist destinations like Boise, Idaho, Louisville, Kentucky, or Tempe, Arizona. OK maybe not all of them are exotic but all roads to Kona go through the lesser known  meccas of triathlon. Another benefit to the family that my wife could attest to is getting to see me in tight spandex. Who doesn't look good in spandex, right?

All kidding aside though there is one benefit that is not always obvious and probably should be articulated to others more often. That is, the underlying life lessons that training and racing teaches us and hopefully teaches others around us.

My children are at an age where they are just becoming aware of the values of hard work, perseverance, failure and did I mention hard work. I here parents complain that they don't know how to motivate their kids to do more than the minimum. They don't know how to get their kids to look at the ultimate goal ahead and learn to plan a strategy for reaching it. Motivation is a very personal thing so it is hard to know how to get anyone to be excited about accomplishments but as a triathlete I hope that my children can see what I do and translate that into inspiration for their own lives.

Some of the comments I have been hearing at home are; "I will never be able to". "She is better than me". "Its just too hard". "What if I am not good enough". Phrases familiar to all of us at one time or another in our lives. To me the fascinating part of life is the variety of choices people make to deal with these thoughts. Some cave under the pressure, some fight to the death. Still others choose something in between. In the end what we do, how we succeed or fail, whether we decide to try or not, is based on more factors than we can possibly imagine. All of us choose differently and it could even vary with the situation. Just because you try does not mean you will succeed. Just because you work harder than anyone else does not mean you will win.

So how does this all relate to Ironman and my family. Well, in triathlon nothing is guaranteed. Race day could be hot or cold, wet or dry. You could be injured or healthy. Your equipment could fail you or it could be your best friend. The nutrition that you ate at the last race could cause you to get sick at the next. In training you do what you think will work and some times it doesn't. You have to decide whether to train through injury or not. You have slow days and fast days. The list could go on forever.Triathlon is like life in more ways than you can imagine. The point is that life and ultimately triathlon is not about the trophies or being on top. Its about the experience of trying to get there, and if it happens that you win so be it, but if not what did you lose? Nothing compared to what you would if you never tried at all.

So here is a list of some lessons I have learned from Ironman and hope that my kids can learn from their IronDad:
  1. Setting a goal is the easy part.
  2. There is NEVER a guarantee of success.
  3. Not everyone wins.
  4. You can still win even if you are not 1st place.
  5. There is always somebody who will work half as much as you and still be better.
  6. Have a back up plan.
  7. Set intermediate goals. re-evaluate, and adjust as needed.
  8. Learn to enjoy the struggle. Pride in hard work is better than any trophy.
  9. Stretch yourself mentally and physically everyday.
  10. All forward motion is good. Never get caught standing still.
  11. Whatever the outcome giving your all is never a failure.
  12. Improvement takes time.
I think that the character values needed to do what I do are something that is learned. I can see it now as I think back on my childhood and the choices I have made in life. I don't know if my parents consciously taught it and I don't know if I am doing it right but I hope that somewhere in my kids minds there is some subconscious absorption going on.


Clint-Murphy said...

Well said.

I like to think my son and future children will get good value out of what we do, as there is definitely an element of missed family time ;-)

Marv said...

Really liked the thoughtful post about family and triathlon. I too wish I had found this lifestyle a long time ago. I think we can be inspiration to others as well as our families and I would imagine you are just that. You dare to be an example. I like the saying, "Advice is often confusing. Example never is." I plan on the Longhorn Oct 17 as well.