I have a Whitney Houston song stuck in my head.
When my sister celebrated her bat mitzvah, "One Moment in Time" was the song she chose as the theme music for her childhood photo montage during the reception. I never told her, or anyone, but that song -- that moment -- struck a chord with me...no pun intended. Maybe it was the cute photos on the screen as the music played. Or the words themselves. But I've never forgotten how I felt when I watched my sister's video more than 20 years ago. It made Dana seem larger than life. And the power of the lyrics and Houston's voice made me feel invincible even though it wasn't even my special day.
I want one moment in time
When I'm more than I thought I could be...
Yeah, I can relate. In fact, that thought has propelled my triathlon training for five seasons now.
This past Sunday, in Colorado at Ironman 70.3 Boulder, I finally had my moment. At least from an athletics perspective.
This isn't going to be my typical race report, as I'll be incorporating the step-by-step details into my next nutrition column for Lava Magazine online. Instead, I just wanted to express how reaching one of my two biggest goals in the sport -- qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships -- has immediately changed me as a triathlete.
Time to get real -- maybe a little cheesy, so be forewarned. At the heart of my obsession with triathlon is a not-so-subtle romance with fantasy fulfillment. Namely the fantasy of being an elite athlete. Growing up a huge sports fanatic and sportswriter, I've always wondered what it would feel like to be on the other side of the pen or the TV. What would it feel like to have a team of supporters ranging from massage therapists, nutritionists, strength coaches, training coaches, teammates, etc. (I'll pass on the groupies though.) At the top of the list, of course, is fantasizing about winning something epic. What does it feel like to hold a Super Bowl trophy? The Stanley Cup? The maillot jaune of the Tour de France. I'll never reach that level and most people on the planet won't either.
But for one moment in time this past Sunday, I punched my ticket to the triathlon equivalent of the NCAA basketball tournament. (Kona is the Super Bowl and the next goal on the list!) Even if I'm the equivalent of tiny Bucknell University and the beneficiary of an at-large tournament birth, I'm still going to the Big Show. For once, it was me dancing at the proverbial center court, cutting down an invisible net. I realize I grabbed a roll down slot that rolled down pretty darn far. But there are no asterisks next to names at the starting line. The Patriot League conference representative still gets to share the same court as Duke come March. And ya know what? I did PR by 25 minutes with a 4:50:55. I got a little game too.
The best part was that I didn't expect to qualify in Boulder at all. Not on that course, with all those other fast triathletes. I had already resigned myself to trying next season for my Vegas slot. In fact, my 2014 race schedule was already set with courses that better suit my racing style (tough weather, lots of hills). St. George. Lake Stevens.
Days after my phone and Facebook have stopped blowing up with congratulatory messages, I'm still in shock. And utter relief. From a fantasy standpoint, I understand a bit more how guys with a lot more pressure on their shoulders feel -- LeBron James comes to mind -- after winning their first big title. I've been chasing this big dream of mine and getting pretty worked up over it at times. Am I fast enough? Do I have the body for this sport? Am I just wasting my time -- and money? Will it EVER be my turn?
For one moment in time, the answers are yes, yes, hell no and hell yes! I didn't receive a lot of personal sports trophies growing up even though I played on some great teams. And if I did earn an award, it was usually reserved for the non-athletic kids, stuff like "most improved," or "most hustle." Not that there's anything wrong with those! In fact, those kinds of awards pretty much define me as a person. Scrappy. But let's face it, we all want to be the ace. The fastest. The best. Or in this instance, the qualifier.
For one moment in time, the fantasy came true. Now I'm left with the happy task of redefining my goals. I'm doing so filled with a simple sense of joy for training and racing that I haven't had in many months. Perhaps I was competing against myself -- doubting, snarling, fighting, cajoling my body to go farther and faster than what I thought possible. Now I feel free to compete with myself as a true physical partner aligned with my psyche -- encouraging, smiling, shouting and simply racing for the love of racing. I can't wait to see how that feels again.
And so the training resumes. Yet somehow everything has changed. There are no more brooding questions. No more self-doubts. No more insecurity. I feel validated as a triathlete. I belong here. This is my sport. This is my lifestyle. And who knows, maybe the best is still yet to come.
Prior to the start of Sunday's race, my friend and teammate Ian caught me dancing in T1 while I prepped my bike. I was listening to Muse's "Unsustainable." From a musical perspective, there are other songs out there that get me more jacked up. But aside from the cinematic score throughout the piece, I just love hearing that synthesized chime of unsustainable. I feel like that robot is talking to me. Goading me. Pushing me. Shoving me. "YOU'RE UNSUSTAINABLE."
Sunday, I shoved back.
HOPE is not unsustainable.
DESIRE is not unsustainable.
HARD WORK is not unsustainable.