Two nights ago I presented at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa to a group of newbies and experienced Ironman athletes. There was a coach and a dietician who spoke, instilling enough fear into the group of 150 or so athletes, so my goal was to inspire. The following is the text that accompanied the slides. You can download the slides HERE (6.5MB download).
Did someone die?
Looking at you lot, I would have said so. Let’s all have a quick smile.
A big thank you to the Sports Science Institute for putting together this evening filled with experts in their fields and well… me.
Now that the dietician and coach have scared the bejezuz out of you, it’s time for some fun.
I have been given the admirable task of inspiring a group of tired, weary and frankly quite obsessed athletes (that’s you) into the future towards this epic goal that is the IRONMAAAAAN!!!
The goal for tonight is to instill more awesome into your lives and for you realize that you are part of a beautiful process, not a life threatening soul destroying training regime.
How many first timers in the room?
A little thing I dislike about Ironman is how they treat the first timers. They make it out like you have a 99% chance of not finishing. If you toe the line, the chance of you not finishing is about 0.001%. Fact. You will finish. Oh, one more thing. Please don’t listen to Paul Kaye when he calls you an Iron Virgin – it sounds like a weapon Hitler used during Blitzkrieg in Poland.
Ironman is this mythical creature that you all want to throttle into submission so that you can get to the finish line where unicorns will fly into the air and sing your name in praise, 100% in tune with ACDC/s Thunderstruck as Paul & Mike scream your name into the heavens: “YOU ARE AN IRONMAAAAAAAAAN”
But alas, you get to the red carpet and you are so hyped up on coke and gels that you sprint down the finish line in 0.23487 nanoseconds, ignoring the unicorns, bashing Paul out the way and diving for the finish line, snot covering your face and chocolate gel covering the rest of your body. Your finish line photo resembles the apocalypse as volunteers dive out the way of the animal dressed in compression-everything who is hell-bent on getting to the pot of gold that waits just other side that finish line.
This, my friends, is where the KVA theory comes in. Currently your KVA (that’s kak versus awesome) chart may look something like this slide:
What we want is more awesome, less kak.
The whole point of Ironman is to be awesome? If the majority-experience of the entire preparation for an Ironman was kak, why are you here?
Count the awesome in your life and lets get cracking on working on flipping the chart.
It was on one of those epically stupid 17 hour brick sessions, somewhere between the 4th bike and 6th run of the day where it all came to me like a tennis ball rolling past the eyes of a relaxed Labrador puppy. Lights went off. Sirens were deafening. Cheerleaders everywhere.
There are some slides here around systems and its important to remember that training + training does not necessarily = awesomeness.
There are few more systems to take heed of – recovery , rest, food, endocrine systems, etc. these are all important. Do your homework.
It was in this moment that the KVA chart flipped in my mind. I was having an epic day out. My body was performing perfectly and I felt like Crowie must feel on Alii drive, heading out to the stone church where the cool air belies what awaits on the Queen K later in the run.
I realized that there was no finish line with unicorns; that my life will not make perfect sense when I hit the red carpet; that there is no finish line big enough. I realized that the inspiration lay in the small goals along the way. I realized that it was the training PB’s, the adventurous rides with crazy mates and the long runs where overcoming myself was where the magic lay. This was where the gold was. This is where the content feeling I like to call “The Ellipsis” came from.
I also came to realize that my days are a 24 hour brick comprising of many systems, actions and tasks. Exercise was merely a part of the total success package.
Relax a little, enjoy the things that make you happy. Consider why you are feeling overwhelmed and why the madness of Ironman appealed to you in the first place. It does not have to be this crazy trip that takes over everything in your life.
It’s no secret. I love beer. I love bacon. I love adventure. Combining them changed my life and improved my Ironman experience. I know some of you are hard on yourselves when you have a beer or eat something fatty. Stop that shit. Seriously.
Images from recent excursions.
So we went adventurisationeering (a real word) and found awesome places and spaces. Life improved. Fitness improved. The KVA chart flipped. I say we because really – I take the camera and I have a friend who is vain enough to like being photographed and together we find cool places to combine these skills. Also, we are both cycling geeks obsessed with beer and bacon. It’s a win-win situation for all.
I know this is a talk about Ironman but really, you entered this race for to find a better version of yourself, or possibly run away from other problems in your life, so really, we should be considering much more than just Ironman to get to both of those problems ie:
- The best version of yourself may be at Otter, at O till O, at Cent Cols Challenge. You have to consider that there are more races on the calendar than a race in April at Hobie Beach.
- If you want to run away from existing problems in your life, why not run away to Saipan, Brazil or Thailand?
So it was after this watershed moment that my time at Ironman dropped by about 90minutes and I qualified for Kona 3 times in the next 3 attempts in Port Elizabeth? I have also been free of injuries since then and have had time to focus on things like nutrition, recovery and economy rather than panic, attack and delusion. Good times. Coincidence?
I also found out that there is life beyond going 226 kilometers on a day. I did a 16 island crossing in the Swedish archipelago, ran the Otter trail and breathed life into a boys cycling trip that would both crush and devour you, but spit you out the other end a better man.
I co-founded a brand centered on pure exploring and adventure which hosts events that include 2 things as mandatory: bikes and beer.
I learned that getting lost is fun, that outside is free and that I have a fondness for the ability of mankind to dominate its environment (and so building me beautiful roads to cycle and run on).
This is my new life. It’s more awesome than kak. I am a balanced human being with more compassion for others problems than when problems dominated my life.
Do you want some of this?
These are all totally fictional, except the one about bar tape. I did that once. Laugh at yourselves a little, you obsessed freaks.
These are moments beyond any finish line. More awesome, less kak. More adventure, less brick workouts. More being inspired by you, less being inspired by 6min Youtube clips and Triathlete Magazine, compression socks and aero bikes.
But here is the deal – Ironman is beautiful. It’s insanely inspiring and just attempting to toe the line is monumental. Already, you are a hero when you dip your toes in the sand on Hobie Beach. Already, you are a legend for putting in the miles to get there, for the sacrifices you have made and the compromises you have persisted to endeavor on your journey to the start line. Ironman is one of the toughest things you will ever endure if you take the risk to put it all out there and leave nothing on the course.
This is the chance to discover the best version of you. That is the ultimate “me” in the purest form. If you can get even close to that, I don’t care about your time, your placing or your stories afterward.
That is the inspiration that I have come here to share with you. That is the moment where nothing else will matter as you face the greatest competitor you will ever have the honor of facing – you.
That is real. That is honest. That is awesome. Flip the KVA chart around to give yourself the opportunity of being in that moment. That is the only finish line worth aiming for in this beautiful continuous movement we call life.
Please enjoy this little video I put together for you. You rock.