Saturday, October 31, 2009

a kick in the nuts

you meet some interesting characters in endurance sports, particularly for ultra-endurance events like Ironman. they are without a doubt very unique personalities--you have to be one, or you have to become one, in order to get through the transformative experience of long-distance races--and they are the kind that tend to stick with you in your mind.

and i mean this in a good way: the people i've met are some of the best human beings i've ever met, and among the best exemplars of human nature i've ever seen. i consider myself lucky to have met them, and consider myself lucky to continue meeting them. each one has an indelible story to give, with their own slate of lessons learned.

one comes from a former member of my school's triathlon program (a certain Southern California university located in Los Angeles: go Trojans!). i found out that this particular person, apart from being an MBA student and Ironman triathlete, was incidentally also a former U.S. Navy SEAL instructor. i won't give his name, since i suspect he's loathe to give out that kind of personal information about himself, and i won't mention how i met him (that's a story, and quite an entertaining one, for another time).

at some point during the course of our time in the program, we got into a conversation about the requisite character attributes necessary to do ultra-endurance races. in particular, we were talking about our responses to the question people always ask: how do you prepare yourself for an Ironman?

after swapping stories and talking theories, my acquaintance looked at me and smiled and said that in response to the question he usually went back to his SEAL training, and that one of the things that was told to him (and that he subsequently passed on to recruits as an instructor) was the associated question: how do you prepare yourself for a kick in the nuts?

the idea, essentially, is that an experience like Ironman is invariably (indelibly? inevitably? perpetually?) unpleasant. there are some who might beg to differ. but put it this way: which would you associate as being more pleasurable, sex or Ironman? personally, i would hope it would be sex with an Ironman (preferably me, but again, that's a different story). anways, you get the idea.

no matter how you look at it, Ironman is not going to be easy. it's going to be a challenge. it's going to be hard. it's going to be painful. that, in part, is why it is the experience that it is. and that is why you're going to have to deal with it no matter how you perceive it...hopefully with a response that is constructive and conducive to you achieving your goals.

and how you respond to it determines how you finish it--or if you finish it at all.

so to answer the original question, i go back to my acquaintance, who concluded his comments with a shrug and a smile that can only be described as strangely enigmatic, paradoxically mystical, laconically humorous, and supremely dry:

how do you prepare yourself for an Ironman?

how do you prepare yourself for a kick in the nuts?

the answer is you don't.

you just take it.

and move on.

1 comment:

Sladed said...

Just catching up on your posts after finishing my first Ironman in Arizona last week. Not exactly applicable to your post, though I'm referring to the paragraph about pleasure, sex, and Ironman... saw a t-shirt on a guy at IMAZ that read, "I don't do Ironman, I DO an Ironman."