Thursday, May 15, 2008

Inbred donkeys.



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...

18 comments:

GZ said...

Tim

This is your best post on this blog ever. It provides a beautiful lens on humanity, you, fatherhood, friendship ...

So much to say, but I ain't nearly as good with the words as you are. I guess I'll leave it at this:

You are impacting Ben today. Even if you were to leave this domain today, you have impacted who is and who he will be more than we can ever imagine. Your holding his hand, your time with him in the desert ... it is building synapses in his head, that will in turn build a man.

It is a journey like a marathon or a tri. More is better is not always the approach, but consistency is. Everyday you train, in balance. Every day you love and teach in balance.

"and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

Awesome stuff Lucho. I'd pay to read this stuff. Seriously.

GZ

MJ said...

Hi Tim, I can't remember how I found your blog... I like it though.

This post stirred up a lot of feelings I've been having lately... kids definitely make you look at the world differently. I hear you on Grand Theft Auto and the other items on your list. Wyoming for you - the Gulf Islands (off of BC) for me (or maybe a village in the south of France)... probably just a dream but it's nice to think about. Alas, I think kids do just as many or more drugs on the islands!

Anyway, great post - you're not alone....

Brett said...

This is probably one of the best posts I have ever read anywhere.

I have a 6 year old and a 2 year old. Our 2 year old laughs histerically and loves life. Sometimes under my breath to make my wife laugh I whisper, 'what are you laughing about, don't you know what this world is like?'

Like Metallica says, 'Sad But True'. ;)

Matt said...

Tim,
You're definitely not alone. Grand Theft Auto says it all. It's the microcosm. I'm as concerned about the people that let that ad get on TV as I am about the people who make or play that shit. I'm watching Into the Wild with my classes and there's a point where Emile Hirsch is getting lit with Vince Vaughn and Hirsch, playing McCandless, goes into his rant about how sick society is. It sounds too general, vague and that's Vaughn's character's response: "who exactly are you talking about?" But the generalization does work if one is a thoughtful, analytical type.

Once we had Jack, I moved back to the neighborhood where I grew-up. I hear you on the tug of one's roots. Keep at it, Lucho.

And GZ is right: you're building/preparing/saving Ben as we speak.

Great post. I would pay too to read that shizzle.

Btw, I'm going to go nuts on that trail this weekend!

Wende said...

Tim, move to Missouri instead of Wyoming! Aunt Wende and Uncle Michael would love to help influence Benny! Seriously, I am a very proud big sis and think you and Jo are two of the most conscientious and wonderful parents I know. Benny is well-loved and in good hands.

TriBunny said...

What a beautiful picture of you and your son. Loved your post. It was very powerful. Thanks for sharing

kerrie said...

yep, i totally could have written that(except for the inbred donkey stuff....). i wish i knew the answer and what was safe and could figure out how long do you protect and then when do you let go a little so they can go out an explore the world on their own and make some of their own discoveries and mistakes...(right now i'm thinking at least 18...)
we'll have to continue this conversation at a later date...

Brian said...

Well written.

Maybe the way you were raised had more to do with who was raising you than where.

You can't move off the planet, but you can choose your reaction to it. As in your last ironman, if you go with it and influence what you can, you will enjoy it a lot more (probably your wife did too).

I enjoy your blog. I'll keep reading and trying to be the father my daughter looks up to, the husband my wife deserves and the person my dog thinks I am. That dog is a lot of pressure!

Regards,
Brian

Brett said...

When you get that ranch, let me know. I want to bring the twins out to visit Ben. :)

wassdoc said...

Great post! We all have to find our place in the world and take our own paths. Your thoughtfulness gives us all pause to stop and take a look at our own lives.

Perhaps you and Chuck can have a summer tri camp on the Wyoming ranch!

Keep contemplating!

beth said...

yep. my vote is definintely for wyoming tri camp (can we get a ski camp in there too?). and i promise we won't corrupt ben too much. and then you'll have room to inbreed your own donkeys....

Tom said...

Hey Tim,

Small world. I actually grew-up not far from you in Woodston, Ks (population 112, Salute!, to you Hee Haw fans) and went to high school in Stockton. Kirk Hunter, your old coach, was one of my teammates at FHSU and is one of my better friends. He probably referred to my brother and I as the "Welker Twins". I can relate to the desire for a simpler life and solitude, after an entire childhood in rural western Kansas and living in north Idaho during grad school. I've never really liked metropolitan areas: okay for visiting but not for living. I'm in the Auburn, AL area now and moved to a house in the woods just outside of small town called Loachapoka - very secluded and a great place to train. I have no desire to move back to Kansas, but the west is still calling my name I think. Being an atheist, vegan, hippie-type is not easy in the Deep South. =)

BRFOOT said...

Well said,
A few things for you to think about.
They have and use meth in Wyoming. As well as a whole host of other problems common to the rest of the world. Including stupid video games and people that post dumb comments on letsrun.com.
My kids are older 26 and 19 but I had the same fears 10-15 years ago. And I too tried to isolate us a little. We bought a house on 5 acres in the woods. But more importantly I was always involved. Total committment! To me as responsible parents it is our job to protect and teach our children. And one of the best ways to serve both of those functions is to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and point out the good the bad and the ugly. And not just to identify them but to also explain,to the best of your ability why there is good, bad and ugly in our world. Standing up to the bad also shows your kids that it is important enough for you take a stand.
As someone that works in a hospital I have to see the end result of some of the worst things our world has to offer. And there are a lot of days when I think TOOL has it right, we need a flood.
But just as is illustrated here by the comments that have been posted. There are good people that should not be washed away with the filth of our world. And it is important that those of us that can, stand and fight the crap. Now you can take your ball and go home and I completly understand your frustration. But Ben could learn an awful lot if you stayed.

having said all that I too would dig the tricamp.

Phil said...

I thought I was the only one who felt like this. I have a term I use 'the ugly people' and really it is nothing to do with looks although people who are grossly obsese, drink and smoke to excess generally are, it is more a reference to the way they live there lives without regard for themselves, the planet or those around them. Ugly in spirit and attitude. I find myself increasingly wanting barricade myself and my children away from the rest of the world. We have a quarter acre and I increasingly finding myself wishing for a ranch.

I do enjoy reading your blog, although you are in the states it helps me feel less isolated.

scott said...

Hi Tim
one great read that still sticks in my mind from my childhood is Johnathon Livingston Seagul...have a read of that while listening to Chick Corea Return to Forever and have a midnight walk under the stars after....all the best on your new adventures

Wende said...

Tim, I was thinking about this after I watched Benny walk around on your patio. Gandhi said "Be the change you want to see in the world." and it seems that is what you and Jo are doing. You can't hide Ben away from the world, shelter him from all the ugly people and things, but like brfoot said, you lead by example, give Ben great role models, and be a strong, constant presence in his life. Does that sound too much like a lecture? I hope not, because it wasn't meant as one! Just some reassurance that you and Jo are doing a beautiful job.

Ryan Denner said...

couldn't have said it better myself

Douglas K said...

a few random thoughts..

Brfoot is right, Wyo has huge problems with meth. Drive through Laramie, and count the number of scary billboards advertising rehab. Before it was meth, it was (and is) alcohol. That's how they get through those Wyoming winters.. cf Annie Proulx' "Close Range: Wyoming Stories". No shelter there I think.

I don't have any answers though. I've been through the army, been in high-speed car chases after gun runners, been assaulted beaten and knifed: during all this thought myself well and truly frightened: but I find I never knew the real meaning of fear, before my kids were born.

My consolations, when I feel wholly inadequate to the task of fatherhood (most of the time):
- children are resilient little buggers, they've been growing up to be normal decent human beings despite hideous deprivations, for many generations now. As long as we provide ours with love care and attention, they have at least a fighting chance I think;
- we're not in Iraq, Russia, Zimbabwe, or similar, where we'd need several layers of razor wire and armed guards, just to get a modicum of physical security.