Monday, March 10, 2008

The Emptiness of An Endurance Sport

Sunday, for the first time in months I decided to skip my long run, put my feet up for the day and relax. My mind, body and soul all were exhausted from a draining few weeks so I simply needed to recharge. After a long and in-depth conversation with my Coach we decided to pull out of the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. Coach Eggers fully felt that I could finish the race but only at a slow and steady pace. My competitive spirit won't allow me "just to do something," I feel the need to challenge myself at every turn. Entering an event with the idea of just finishing really sat poorly with me, I knew full well once the gun went off I would have killed myself to get past the finish as quickly as I possibly could. Given my psychotic competitive spirit we both determined that the marathon would be a huge detriment to my training.

But all this got me thinking about endurance sports, the challenge they present and how they directly contrast to my athletic past. As a football player I was motivated not only by my desire to be a good player but more importantly my refusal to let my teammates down. I would have done anything for my fellow lineman; Haggs, Latimer, Nate, Adam, Ricky, Noz, Archer, Ryan, Kubs, Baker and Ralphie are like brothers to me - I haven't spoken with some of them in years but if my phone rang and they needed anything I'd be the first to volunteer. The family spirit that football creates is totally absent from endurance sports. Where I would have been devastated if I ever let the boys down, the onus of preparation falls squarely on an individuals shoulders in Triathlon training. If I fail to prepare, if I don't give my all the only person I'm hurting is myself; sure I may fail to live up to other's expectations but in no way have I violated their trust.

Diabetes in many ways is like training for a triathlon. Each day we grind away, testing our blood sugars, measuring our carb intake and making it through to the best of our ability. When we can no longer handle all the metrics we must calculate to control our blood sugars we can take a meal off and in the short-term the only person we're hurting is our self. However, contrary to endurance sports in the long-term our families will suffer along with us due to the complications of not controlling our disease while the fear of death is constant motivation to manage one's blood sugar. In triathlon training, the only motivating factor is the question of whether crossing the finish line is important enough.

Like everything else in life sacrifices must be made; the only way one can have the stomach to sacrifice is if that goal, that person, that event is important enough to give you the strength to do it. Proving to myself that I am still an athlete and inspiring others with chronic illnesses is important enough to me to keep me motivated to train. In the recent past I have lost some of the other influences that gave me the strength to train but must focus on the positive as endurance sports are lonely enough. It is easy to sacrifice when you fear letting people whom you really care about down, but either when others aren't important enough or you're competing in an individual event you must find that one thing that will continually motivate you to train and sacrifice.


Allison said...

Hi Wingman, Just stumbled upon your blog and am enjoying hearing about your training for the Ironman and your acceptance to Darden. I went to undergrad about 45 minutes from's an awesome area!

:) Allison

Scott K. Johnson said...

Great post Ed.

Finding that motivation is often an elusive goal. I like the parallels you've drawn here between the team sports and endurance (solo) events.

Anonymous said...

ur blog is preachy and boring

Alison said...

Ed, good post. All of us need breaks every now and then to recharge. If we don't take the time to regroup or center ourselves no matter in what context that might be then we might find ourselves simply existing rather than living. Renewal is a very important part of life. :0)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I caught you on a Sunday when you were taking it easy :) Thanks for the inspiration.