This is part 3 of my “Phases of Motivation” articles that I began writing after finishing my last Ironman as a professional (click for part 1 and part 2). It took me almost an entire year to realize what “Phase 3” was, but here it is…
The picture above was taken during a Thanksgiving 4-mile race. I did the race because it sounded like a fun thing to do, but as I lined up at the start line I had this strange thought that I ‘owed it to myself’ to do this race. Why was that???
Motivation Phase III – Devotion
The spirit moves in mysterious ways. I really have no control over what I am inspired to do (does anyone???). From as early as I can remember, I loved to compete – not only against others, but against myself too. There hasn’t been a time in my life where I haven’t set some sort of goal and tried to go after it. Actually there have been a couple of times I didn’t have a goal, and I wasn’t a happy person – one time was when I was contemplating retiring from my track career (what can I do to satisfy my competitive nature?); the other time was when I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after I got my Master’s degree (what do I want to do with my life?).
I feel complete when I am working towards a goal. I can’t imagine life without this type of challenge. As a kid, I was immersed in baseball, soccer, basketball, or track season. When one of these seasons was over, I was planning for and working towards the next season. As an adult, I always try to have athletic and academic goals to work towards. These goals not only provide meaning in life, but they underlie the very essence of living. They serve as a guide, as a motivator, and as inspiration.
Sometimes training and competing at a high level is tiring. There are times I wish I didn’t have to always be listening to my body, wondering whether that niggle is the beginning of an injury or not. BUT the reality is that I love it. I love paying attention to my body, planning the next challenge, working towards the next goal, feeling the ecstasy of a great training session, enjoying the adrenaline rush of a race. Most of all, I love knowing that I have a certain level of fitness that, with a bit of tweaking, can transform me into a very fit, fast athlete.
One of my greatest wishes is that one day I’ll wake up and be totally content to NOT COMPETE! To NOT TRAIN! That day hasn’t come (yet), and I don’t know if it ever will.* Until then, I feel devoted to competition. Training is my rock. It has been such a deep part of my existence for the past 25 years that I cannot imagine life without it. I feel almost obligated to continue on the legacy; to not give up on what I have done for so long.
So Phase III for me is to honor the years I have invested. I cannot let that die. My performances now are a display, theater if you will, of what I have been doing for the past couple of decades. I have spent a lot of time honing a skill. I want to celebrate that opus.
Note: This was written during the winter of 2008, my first year after ‘retiring’ from professional triathlon racing.
* That day DID come. In the early 2010s, I finally was at peace ‘not training.’ I woke up and was fine being content without the desire to train. I was totally and completely at peace without it. As I approach my 45th birthday and contemplate getting back into competition, I am searching for the seeds of devotion that were habit in the first 35 years of my life. I need a injection of that obsession drug that I had 10 years ago. I suppose that will be “Phase IV.” The resurrection. I haven’t written that post. Yet.