Being a Champion (Part III)

This is Amy Purdy, and she is a champion.


A half ironman isn’t easy.  Even for high level endurance athletes who do full ironman races and double irons…  It’s just less hard than the longer races.  Actually, for me, the whole point of doing a half ironman is that it is NOT easy. When I signed up, the idea that there would come a day where I line up with a bunch of other people and walk out into that water wasn’t really real… It still doesn’t actually seem real, especially after a month of being hurt and sick.  This would’t be an epic undertaking, though, if it was easy or seemed realistic from the start.

The whole idea with this was that I would give myself a challenge.  I chose to do something that is beyond my reach and hopefully to reap the physical and mental benefits of working to meet that challenge. I wanted…. needed a mental reset.  When I started this endeavor, I had a goal, a beautiful woman, the most amazing dog anyone could ever have and some idea of how it would go.  All of those are gone now, and I think part of me knew they would be.  What is left, though, is a new version of me, still incomplete and prone to stumbles and failure, but standing on the shoulders of the old version.  I’ve already overcome obstacles that people told me would prevent me from doing this.  I’ve run into new barriers that I didn’t even know would exist. I’ve pushed myself, fallen harder and gotten up stronger than I ever thought I would.  And I’m not even half way there.

When I started, this was a ridiculous undertaking because:

  1. I have a surgically repaired knee that has never been quite right
  2. I’ve never been a distance runner, which isn’t really a thing that people with a bad knee try to undertake
  3. I barely knew how to swim
  4. Most of my bike riding has been done with the intention of copious alcohol consumption afterwards
  5. I didn’t even know what a transition was
  6. I didn’t have the time
  7. I still don’t have the money
  8. I’m a short, not very athletic white guy who has spent most of his life playing classical music and being slightly above average in the academics… decidedly not a groomed athlete
These are all just barriers though… Border crossings to be navigated.

And more barriers have been put up since then… Brutal tendinitis in my elbow.  Recurring left knee pains.  Back pain due to a weak core.  And most significantly, a stress injury to the bone in my lower right leg which has left me in a walking boot.

I think in some ways these barriers, especially getting injured might be a good thing for me.  They have brought me to the brink of giving up on this dream.  I think that’s what I was really doing in my head on the way to Lexington last weekend… I think I was unknowingly pondering if I felt like I was big enough and strong enough to actually do what i set out to do.  I think this podcast came at exactly the right time and opened my eyes to that these struggles have actually made me bigger, and stronger and more able to accomplish what I want.  I’ve been forced adjust my outlook and I’ve been put in a position where I HAVE to decide that I’m going to ditch the sub-7 hour goal and master what I can; execute in the best way that I can, even if I haven’t done as much training as I would have liked.  I’ve had to get creative with my workouts of course, but I’ve also had to adapt my mindset.  I’m no longer training for a triathlon.  I’m training for me.  I think what that podcast taught me was that when you let go of everything else, and are doing something for yourself, that’s when the door opens to becoming a champion.

I’m not going to win.  I’m not going to be close to the winners on that Sunday in June.  I’m probably going to finish middle to back of the pack. But I can still be a champion.  I can believe like a champion.  I can care like a champion.  I can work like a champion. Because being a champion is about pounding it out of yourself.  It’s about turning off the voices, internal AND external, that tell you to stop or that you can’t.  Being a champion is about falling and then getting up again.  And again.  And again.  Being a champion is answering the question of “what are you going to do?” with “whatever it takes.”  Being a champion isn’t about winning.  It’s not about glory.  It’s not about victory.  It’s about heart.

So I think what I want to put down about having listened to that podcast; the thing that I took away from it and which is propelling me forward is this:

The difference between normal or even good, and great… the difference between a participant and a champion?  It’s heart. It’s refusing to be satisfied with where you are and always believing that you can be more.  It’s breaking things down into manageable chunks and then having an insatiable appetite for devouring those chunks.  That difference is not unlike the difference between being swallowed by the darkness of depression and breaking out into the light.  Sure, it takes help from outside and there will be setbacks and stumbling blocks… But do what you can do right now, use the setbacks as stepping stones to whatever is next, never stop believing in yourself, and you’ll make it past where you wanted to be into a whole new bright world you never knew existed.

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