“The chief deficiency I see in the skeptical movement is its polarization: Us vs. Them — the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are morons; that if you’re sensible, you’ll listen to us; and if not, to hell with you. This is nonconstructive. It does not get our message across. It condemns us to permanent minority status.” – Carl Sagan
© 2012 Eric Wynn
The Woodlands, TX – 2012.05.19
[2012.05.29 – This was meant to be a catharsis of sorts for me, but I realize from some of the comments that may not be clear, likely for one of the exact reasons that I wrote this post – the world has a short memory these days. So I can appreciate that if you don’t understand exactly what I’m being cathartic about, this may seem kind of odd. Of course, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m probably actually happier, and so I’d need to direct you a whole bunch of stupid stuff I wrote in order for this to make sense. C’est la vie…]
Sometimes I think that I should have Jill take my computer away after I win an Ironman. It seems that the old adage proves true and that idle hands really are the devil’s tools. Except I don’t actual believe in “the devil.” But that’s a topic for another post. Or perhaps just a topic not to discuss. Regardless, I probably should have spent the time writing about a race in Texas than writing to and about a particular Texan, but I didn’t. Though I certainly didn’t mean to go so long without writing a few thoughts about what unfolded in The Wooldlands a week ago. It’s quite hard to believe it’s a week ago as I sit here now. How quickly the limelight fades. As much as I’d like to deny that I seek a way to keep the spotlight on me after the race, I am sure that’s a part of why I sometimes get myself into trouble, especially after a successful performance.
There are so many races. And the world’s attention span is so short even on truly important matters, that I’m sure that lots of folks have already forgotten about the race. Even I have almost forgotten about the race as I look forward to a trip to the East Coast to give my high school commencement speech, to take Quentin for his first swim at our little cabin on a lake, to get back to training, to plan for the next races, and to pack up for a summer in Penticton. I’m sure that my subconscious rails hard against the “dying of the light.” I do not want my victory to go gently into that good night. And perhaps that’s also why I hold off on writing about it. When I share my thoughts, I get to once again bask in the glory of people’s kind wishes and congratulations. I can extend the triumph just that little bit longer. I can extend that finishing chute to my desk where I sit trying to recapture the glory that already has begun to fade.
And I’m sure that’s part of why I poked at Lance on Twitter and on Slowtwitch (on multiple occasions). He had his seven years in the spotlight. Then he returned for two more. And now he’s coming into *my* sport and taking the spotlight here. It’s not fair that so many people “liked” his race win in Florida. (Some day, I will write a blog about how bizarre the meaning of that word has become…) I know that I am jealous and envious of that. Thankfully, I think, I don’t think I am too consciously envious, but maybe it’s worse if it’s below the surface. Who knows. If I didn’t think Freud was bunk, I’m sure I could find some profound explanation of why. I am absolutely sure, however, that it was not because my mother didn’t hold me enough. (Thanks Mom!) I think it’s just some of human nature. As mad as the 99% protestors are, I am certain that there’s a part of them that wishes that they were the 1%. Or maybe that’s just because I’m a 99%, and I know I sometimes wish I was a 1%er. Who doesn’t want a yacht you can land your helicopter on at least sometimes?
To be clear, this is not something that I like about myself. And it is not something that I do consciously. And, certainly, it’s something that I’d like to change. But, like many things you do without realizing it, that’s quite hard to do. As a good friend of mine said during this whole exchange, “you are a positive person. This is not positive.”And he was right. Maybe – maybe – something positive will come out of this. At the very least, one positive would be me not doing it anymore. But I am hoping some more positives might come out of it. If they don’t, that’s fine of course. Self-improvement is a good thing. Oh wait, to quote Tyler Durden, “self improvement is masturbation. Now self-destruction…” But maybe removing some trait of yourself falls under the category of self-destruction. I’ll think that way because I happen to like “Fight Club” a lot.
Simon Whitfield has said to me many times, “the boys run under 3 hours, but the men run under 2:50.” And, for a while, I was sure that this was going to be a blog about what it was like to become a man with my 2:46:55. But, of course, nothing actually changed about me when I ran that fast. I didn’t suddenly grow a lot more chest hair as a result. My voice didn’t drop three octaves into some smooth Barry White sounding tenor. I didn’t suddenly need to buy new underwear to accomodate my increased manhood. Nope, I was the same person. Obviously. And then, in the aftermath, I did something rather un-manly. I decided to stick my nose into something not really related to me and poke Lance. Did the fact that Lance’s win in Florida followed up mine in Texas, and that Lance bumped me down the page on Slowtwitch.com play a role in that? It did not consciously. But I know just enough about how subversive my subconscious brain – all of ours, actually – to say it almost certainly did. Screw you Tex. I just stomped around your home state while you were out playing pro triathlete in Florida. I never actually thought that out loud. But I’m sure I thought it somewhere. My “dark passenger,” to quote “Dexter,” thought it.
And so when the Des Moines Register article “exposing” (or, rather, just simply covering) that Lance had worked out a deal with the folks at HyVee, I fired off a tweet asking him if Simon and Macca could expect similar treatment at the site of a proposed showdown. Correction. I actually composed that tweet, then deleted it, and then ignored my better judgement and rewrote it and clicked “Tweet.” I also wrote a bunch of typically verbose stuff on Slowtwitch about the topic, some before and a lot after. Some of what I wrote was wrong, and I’ve done my best to correct the stuff that was wrong where I saw it. But some incorrect information may still exist – I write way too much on Slowtwitch – and for that, I apologize.
But let’s get back to the race. Sort of. People always seem interested in the race itself, and I’m never that interested in rehashing it. But the folks from Quarq asked me to do a play by play of the bike, which sort of segues in to the run, and that should get published soon. And I wrote a whole bunch on my “Ask Me Anything” thread on Slowtwitch. So if you are interested in that stuff, I’ll point you to there. And I will post a link to the Quarq thing when it’s published. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to get much into writing “race reports” that basically translate into, “I swam. It was far. I felt good. I biked. It was far. I felt good. I ran. It was far. I felt good. I won.” Oh yeah, I *WON*! So why was I not at the park hanging out with Quentin. Ironically, that’s actually where I was when I sent that tweet out. I was enjoying a rare week away from training. I was spending time with my son. And instead of watching him to make sure he wasn’t eating sand, which he tries to do when he’s teething, and which he was in fact doing when I looked up from my phone, I was picking a fight with Lance. And I was picking a fight over a race that I was not going to be at on behalf of two friends of mine who never asked me to defend them from a slight that they didn’t actually perceive. So, remind me again why taking time off from training is a good thing?
Ultimately, I think I wrote some worthwhile stuff that also includes some stuff that I wish I had not written. And you can see where I’ve made notes of what I wrote that was wrong as well as stuff that I just shouldn’t have written. But none of that really has anything to do with Texas. Or maybe it does. I remember one of my best races. It was at Vineman in 2006. I finished 8th. I had, for me, an okay swim. I had a solid ride. And I had my best run at a 70.3 race – a time that it took me quite a while to actually beat. But i finished EIGHTH (random aside, eighth is a weird looking word). I made zero money. Nobody cared. And I got incredibly depressed afterwards. I really almost quit racing. I had trained hard. I had raced well. And I had sucked. Or, rather, my result sucked. So what does that have to do with Texas. Well, I had trained hard. I had raced well. And I had not sucked. And life was good. And I wasn’t about to quit the sport. But… “But what?” But there’s still the simple truth that the reality of what a certain result or performance brings almost inevitably falls short of expectations. Dan wrote recently on the forum, on a different discussion about Lance, how he does not actually want to meet his heroes, because they inevitably fall short of his expectations. And it seems the same is true about races. And I think a lot more. I remember graduating from college and thinking – for about five minutes – “I’m invincible.” Then that faded, and I was thinking, “okay, now what?” And I actually had a job to look forward to unlike a lot of people these days.
I won an Ironman. And then Lance won in Florida. What the heck? Don’t do that! But wait. There’s hope. His “hypocrisy” is shown in the Des Moines Register. I will take it upon myself to expose this hypocrisy. That’s a good idea, right? Well, maybe it was. But there was probably a better way to go about it than the one I chose. I sent the following to someone as an outline of my thoughts on a loosely related matter a while back. They sent it back to me and encouraged me to re-read it. It’s a wonderful quote, written by Carl Sagan, who is more eloquent and certainly much briefer than I:
Carl is talking about religion. But he could really be talking about almost anything. War. Taxes. The state of professionalism in the sport of triathlon. And I don’t think I did a very good job of being cognizant of it. And I think I did condemn myself to at least temporary minority status. I hope it’s not permanent. Not because being a minority is bad. But because a minority implies a majority which necessarily implies a dichotomy. And dichotomy isn’t inherently bad. It’s natural. But there’s something to be said for unity as well.
Texas is a fiercely independent state. I used to joke that you could always tell when you met someone from Texas because no matter where they were, they were standing on Texas soil and that it extended for a three foot radius around them, such that when you shook hands with them, you were actually shaking hands in Texas. That’s something that, in many ways, I admire about Texas. I like that and the gunslinger attitude that often accompanies it. I fancy myself that way sometimes. But something usually happens to gunslingers. They get shot. And there are times when you might draw the analogy of the gunslinger flying too close to the sun like our friend Icarus. But I think that can be a hard comparison to make when you’re lying face down in a ditch with a bullet in your back. Of course, this is all metaphorically speaking. And sometimes you do need to be a gunslinger. But best to keep your weapon holstered until those times when you really need it. To quote another favorite show, “Justified,” “you pull, and I’ll put you down.” And it’s what not said in there that matters. Don’t be the guy that draws first. Don’t fire the first shot. Just make sure you know how to return fire. To follow up with another quote, from Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) in “Unforgiven,” “Look son, being a good shot, being quick with a pistol, that don’t do no harm, but it don’t mean much next to being cool-headed. A man who will keep his head and not get rattled under fire, like as not, he’ll kill ya. It ain’t so easy to shoot a man anyhow, especially if the son-of-a-bitch is shootin’ back at you.”
What’s especially ironic is that when I was on the race course in Texas, I won for one simple reason – I kept my head and did not get rattled under fire. There’s a lesson in that somewhere, I’m sure of it…