Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On trying harder

Sporting events have to be watched live.

The DVR simply does not suffice. It records the game or the match or the fight fine, but if I accidentally find out the result, it all becomes moot. And like a recent insightful Hyundai commercial (produced by my very smart friends) it's impossible NOT to know the results.

This maxim holds true for most sports.
Not all.

Last week I came across the coverage of the 2013 Kona Ironman. It took place a year ago. And to be honest, I don't really care who won.

In fact, I'm much more interested in the "losers."

Let's be clear about this. There's nothing as boring as watching people swim, bike or run on TV. And yet, like the airings of The Godfather, 12 Angry Men, or Bridge Over the River Kwai, I cannot pull myself away from watching.

I suspect it stems from my own participation in the sport.

I competed in my first triathlon when I was 26, for those of you who are counting, that was eighteen years ago. Growing up I was never involved in any organized athletics. Not in junior high, high school or college. I played Little League baseball and always incurred the wrath of the teammates and teammate's fathers on the bench.

"I bet the fat Jew strikes out. Again."

And of course, I always did.

Nevertheless I always felt like an athlete. So when I moved to California, I started running. And I started competing in 10K races. My obsession grew, so I added swimming. Before long I was doing Tri's and became well versed in carbo-loading, cross fit training and the benefits of ketosis.

The longest triathlon I did covered 1.2 miles in the ocean, 40 miles on the bike followed by 6.2 mile run. It is the Olympic distance and it went by the book. Except for the rib crushing kicks in the water, the flat tire and the bloody blisters. But I finished.

In fact, if I stepped up to the starting line I vowed to myself to always cross the finish line.

At the peak of my involvement I dreamed of crossing the finish line at Kona. That dream never came to fruition. And now with chronic heel pain it never will. I'll never forget the day the orthopedic surgeon showed me the x-ray, pointing out the heel spur, "that's the biggest I've eve seen." If only I had heard something like that from my urologist.

In any case, watching and hearing the stories of those that hurl themselves, despite all odds, over that incredible threshold is nothing less than inspiring. And can often have me grabbing for the Kleenex.

The father with the special needs son.
The woman who lost a leg to diabetes.
The 78-year old widow who wanted to honor his departed wife.

It's all a testament to the better part of the human spirit.

Ample proof that pain is ultimately endurable. Including the pain, I suppose, of fathering two increasingly surly teenage girls.

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