not my actual self but merely a facsimile… © Larry Rosa
Ironman 70.3 St. George
St. George, UT ✮ 2014.05.03
In reviewing my recent race in St. George, I’d like to start out with two points that I think need to be factored into any discussion about the so-called “results.” The first is that had I crossed the finish line ahead of all of the athletes who finished before me, I would have won the race. Likewise, had all of the athletes who finished ahead of me instead finished behind me, I also would have won the race. I think the importance of these two points cannot be overstated. Lest anyone out there come to the faulty conclusion that I am making so-called “excuses,” let’s be clear that these are relevant hypotheticals and/or counterfactuals. And I think that this sets up a useful paradigm for examining the various aspects of the race.
Before the race, I focused entirely on my own self. I mention this because in addition to consideration of relevant and appropriate counterfactuals, I think not enough time is spent focusing on our own perception of both ourselves and events during important periods in our lives. I felt a great sense of peace, which was enhanced by the convenient provision of dedicated “thinking chambers” within the transition corral. After spending time discovering inner peace, I decided to embrace a metaphor for my larger life, which was to use a mechanical device to control nature and to inject the very air we breathe into a confined man-made chamber for my own purposes. In doing so, I also felt a great sense of empowerment. With combined feelings of peace and power, I was certain that nothing could stop me, existentially speaking anyway. Having now established a proper framework for consideration of the day’s happenings, let us now begin.
When thinking about my swim, I don’t want to get bogged down with trivial items like, “how fast did I go?” or, “how much time did I lose to the lead group(s)?” This does not take into consideration important details like the fact that I did not grow up as a competitive swimmer. Had I done so, I clearly would have exited the water in the lead group, if not in the lead of the actual race overall. And the only reason that I did not grow up as a competitive swimmer is because my parents did not force me into it and also because I did not like the idea of swimming competitively very much. But can you imagine if this was not the case. Well, imagine it. And now that you have me coming out of the water first in your mind, we can move forward. And now I’d like to focus on the fact that I very much enjoyed myself during the swim. The water was an appropriate temperature for swimming in a wetsuit. There also was essentially no chop or wake, which was helpful because I also did not grow up swimming in rough water (though imagine if I had done that as well!). And the sun did not shine into my eyes in such a way as to prevent sighting. All of these things combined for a swim where my overall self-image during this portion of the so-called race made me see myself as if I was swimming with perfect form and at high speed. And as a result, I came out of the water exactly where I should have. The fact that some other people chose to come out of the water not where they should have (meaning ahead of me, at least within the narrow confines of traditional definitions of space-time) is not my problem. Next time, they should not do that.
Once onto the bike, I’d to like reframe this whole experience as the earth rotating under my wheels rather than me riding over the earth. I think it gives a truer understanding of events to think about things unfolding around me as I remained perfectly still (in the Zen sense of the word). In this me-centered version of events, there is no time as we know it, meaning that I could not actually have ridden any faster or slower. The earth simply could have moved faster or slower beneath me. Though of course the earth does not move faster or slower. So again, I was transported from the start of the bike to the finish exactly as fast as possible. The movements of other souls (I hate to call them “competitors” because of how limiting that is) is not of concern to me, since how could I know how they would interact with their own versions of the earth-self model. To those who attempted to be untrue to the genuine earth-self by redefining space-time for their own convenience, I have to ask, “how does that really make you feel about yourself inside?” There are numerous self-empowerment books that could be of great value in terms of answering these questions. I hope they read them before we next come together.
Beginning the run, I could not help but feel a sense of destiny, knowing that I would leave from where I started only to return back to almost exactly the same spot, but at a future time. In the common parlance of our times, this is referred to as an “out-and-back” course, though I think this is a foolish idea, since obviously you can never go back in time. Time moves inexorably forward. I felt a very strong sense of oneness on during the run, which was inconveniently interrupted by the presence of other people whose oneness inconvenienced my own. But can you imagine if I was the only person racing? Imagine it. If no one else had been there, then no one could have disturbed the version of events where I cross the so-called finish line having done what some people would describe as winning. And so, really, I think you truthfully can say that even if I did not win the so-called race, I did win the actual race, which was my own internal struggle with my self-image about my place in both space and time.
Before we conclude our analysis of this one particular version of events that occurred in this one particular version of reality, I’d like to discuss one last salient point. One dominating thought that I could not help but dwell on was the idea that I felt very ready to swim, bike, and run for exactly twice as far as I had on this particular day. I can conceive of a world in which we do not compete at a “70.3” race, but rather at a race that is twice as long. I will call this hypothetical race a “140.6” race. This thought was present in my mind at numerous times during the day, and I regularly felt that I would have been in a more favorable position had the previous portion been twice as long. I could not help but feel like had we chosen to swim, bike, and run two times – instead of one – over the same course that I would have fared much better. Perhaps someday soon such an event will come to pass. I dare to dream such a dream, because as Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Like all dreamers, I mistook disenchantment for truth.”
One thought on “Observations on the True Self”
Imagine if the Ironman was a symmetrical event rather than a race predominately weighted (time-wise) towards the cycling portion & the run.
To be more clear, a 10k-swim, a 50m bike, 26m run would be a more fair Ironman. Each event would take about 2-hours-each for an elite athlete in that particular sport and it would thereby make the triathlon a more fair race.
Distance wise the swim portion of a triathlon is really a joke. Even your blog post states that you are never really concerned about the swim. Hence, why have a swim all if elites just don't care about it and the event is inconsequential?