Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Triathlon: Dream it, Plan it, Achieve it.

Two years ago I stood on the Asbury Park boardwalk and watched in amazement as athletes young and old swam, biked and ran through a grueling triathlon. I was awestruck as I thought of the time and energy it took every participant to even complete the event. Though it was not the "ironman" event we see on tv, it was enough to leave me cheering for every athlete as they made their way to the finish line.

Dream it. From that moment, each time I saw runners on the boardwalk, or bikes speeding by me, or swimmers in the swells off the beach I wondered what that feeling was like. What was it like to push yourself farther than you ever thought? I dreamt of running a triathlon. But dreams can either be the illusions of unfulfilled hopes or the springboards for reality. By allowing myself to dream I planted the seeds that would grow to fruition. Because dreaming is only the beginning. Success depends on what we do with our dreams.

Plan it. Earlier this year, Jan, my business partner, saw that there was going to be a woman's triathlon in Asbury Park in August. I've always encouraged Jan and immediately told her I would be her coach for the event. She countered by suggesting "You always are willing to work out to support someone else. Why don't you see if there is a triathlon and do it yourself?" I found the Metroman Triathlon and took a week to finally sign up. Now I was committed. Yet planning is always difficult. I had tons of excuses between my business and my life why I could not train for the event. But I made as much time as I could, planning it out carefully to ensure I could finish the event.

A good friend, Brendan, chose to run it with me and he "planned" through incredible research about things we needed to know to run a triathlon. We planned nutrition, exercise, stretching, strength training. Planning does not just encompass the event, but all of the other parts.

Achieve it. July 18th dawned bright and hot. Even the water was 78 degrees. More than anything else I was conscious of enjoying the event. So often we prepare for a day only to have the day speed by without us being conscious of it. I remember the swim even in the heavy swells, the joy of coming ashore. I laughed at the reality of trying to pull on a tight shirt over a wet torso and jumping on my bike. And I remember the grind of the last mile run when I wanted to give up. But I achieved it.

There is nothing that can't be accomplished through that simple three step process. But it all starts with the dreaming. So, what are you dreaming about?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Making the Most of the Waves

With waves breaking over my head, I fought back panic. Glancing to my left, the shore seemed too far away to make it. I thought how ironic it would be if I drowned. Then I consciously slowed my breathing and heart rate. It took a few minutes, but I regained the calm I needed to complete my swim and I learned an important lesson in my journey to personal greatness.

I've never done a triathlon in my life, never participated in a road race since I was 25, never swam in competition and I gave up running over five years ago. Yet, I find myself entering my first sprint triathlon and facing the joy and pain of preparing for it. The most challenging part is the ocean swim. A little under half a mile, the swim runs along the New Jersey coast line next to Asbury Park. A little over a week ago I was swimming in rough surf when I learned my lesson.

At first the waves just seemed like a nuisance. Little by little they began chipping away at my confidence. Was I a little too far out from shore? Did I over-estimate the distance I could safely swim? Would I make it? After a series of three waves broke over my head just as I was trying to breathe I felt the first hint of panic. My heart started pounding. I cursed the relentless waves and pushed against them with all my might. But I knew one thing, I was losing the battle. That's when I chose to breathe deeply and calm myself. Immediately I realized that I could create a rhythm with my strokes that matched the waves. I surfaced for air in the troughs. Wonderfully as I made my turn to swim south again I realized that now the waves were aiding me. Though I would make two more "laps" I was fine.

Anytime we strive to accomplish something waves of opposition will impede us. Whether from others, organizations, the world around us, or even ourselves. Somehow parts of life resist change. My normal response is to fight as hard as I can against the waves as I did in the ocean. But perhaps I've learned my lesson. Rather than initially push harder against the waves of opposition, the next time I might just take a deep breath and learn their rhythm to see if I can move more efficiently through them.

Let's face it, there will always be waves when we strive to accomplish new things, or change our own life. Sometimes those waves will be larger than others, but they will be there nonetheless. The success of our lives, our personal growth and endeavors will depend on how we handle the waves. Cursing the waves doesn't help (though it might feel momentarily comforting), I'm learning from them and finding a way through them to my goals. Give it a try, the water's fine.