Thursday, May 15, 2008
Growing up in a very small town of 450 people and graduating high school (yes- I went to school) with a class of 11 I learned from a very young age to appreciate the value of not living in a big city. At the time though I think I yearned for more. After dropping out of college and buying an open ended ticket to Guyana South America I traveled for years starting in South America and working (literally) my way north through the Caribbean island chain. I think I started to gravitate towards the isolation of small places- circling back to my roots. I eventually landed in St. John US Virgin Islands (population 1500) where I could earn $600-800 dollars a night tending bar.. I would take that money and leave during the slow tourist Summer months and head to the small town of Winter Park Colorado.. then come Autumn I would move back to the Caribbean and start my year over. I would spend a lot of time kayaking to small outer islands like Grass Cay and Congo Cay. Grass Cay's only population was a small herd of inbred donkeys that had been living there for decades- the lack of genetic variety made them insane and you had to watch your back. I would pretend that I was ship wrecked and often times would spend the night sleeping on the sand under the stars. Watching the sun set over the immense expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and the invisible and scary Puerto Rico Trench allowed my imagination to easily slip in to another world. One time I swam straight out from Grass Cay daring myself to swim farther and farther. The Puerto Rico Trench is 28,000+ feet deep and the farther out I swam the ocean turned from clear azure to a black blue expanse of nothingness. Even though I was still a mile from the trench... I imagined the animals that were below me and fear bordering on panic eventually jolted me into an all out sprint back to shore. The fear of not knowing what was beneath me was far greater than the encounters I had with a Bull shark and on another occasion a full grown Hammerhead that had taken up residence in the bay where I lived.
I left St John to race in my first 1/2 Ironman (and only 4th triathlon) at Buffalo Springs. I accidentally qualified for a race called the Hawaii Ironman and suddenly my heart drifted away from the isolation I had craved to the impetus of another world. I suddenly craved the challenge of training, a lot. I placed 129th over-all with a time of 9:52. I completely submerged myself in the focus of that race. Placing 44th in 1999 (I took a year off to move to Seattle with my now wife), then 16th over-all in 2000 with an 8:50. As an age grouper I was only 4 minutes out of the top 10.
The new millennium saw me spend the first 5 years trying improve on my 2000 performance- which I eventually did with a 13th placing in 2002. Then I back slid over the next few years due to my obsession with "more is better". My biggest weeks in 2004 saw me biking 30+ hours with weeks of total training over 45 hours. 30 kilometer swim weeks... 100+ mile run weeks... complete destruction.
Last year our son Benjamin Luc entered our lives. I raced one more Ironman in Arizona averaging 9 hours per week of training- my heart had already moved on. I experienced 2 flat tires on the bike while carrying only 1 spare. My competitive chances were gone at that point which turned out be a good thing as I simply relaxed on the run (3:11) and stopped each lap to hug and kiss my wife and new son. I finished 18th with a time of 9:33. It was one of the more enjoyable Ironmans of my 15. That was my last Ironman.
Now as I see Ben starting to grow I feel my heart tugging towards providing him the childhood that I had. I watch the news simply for the weather but I often times catch glimpses of the reality of this world and where I see society heading. I yearn for those simpler times and imagine myself once again ship wrecked on a tiny cay with inbred donkeys.. but I now see myself sitting and watching the sun set, holding a tiny hand in my own and explaining that sometimes the scariest things are the ones we can't see.
I posted a picture of Paul Theroux's book "The Mosquito Coast" because it is a book that I read when I was very young and it became one of my favorites. I see the danger in my being able to relate to Allie Fox and wanting to turn my back on what this world has become. I look around at people.. every day people and I find myself saddened. Trying to teach my son the values that are needed without being anti-establishment seems to be my biggest challenge. Video games (Grand Theft Auto... are you kidding me?), obesity, laziness, lack of discipline, violence, apathy... where do I begin? He will face challenges that I never had to deal with and I ache to protect him from this world and move to a ranch in Wyoming and teach him how to raise a pig rather than how to not try crystal meth.
These are reflections that I have looked at over the past couple of weeks.. part of why I stopped jogging. I hear people say that their minds think more clearly and they sort out their problems when they're exercising but I've never been that way. It works the other way around in my head and in order for me to train effectively I need to have a settled mind. My trip to the desert sparked the reflections. The isolation of the it all made me realize where my heart lies. Jo and I have looked in to moving to Wyoming and buying a ranch...