Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Bawdy Ink and Allegory.

I remember when I first embarked upon this TRIron-journey. The first question non-triathletes asked me, after "how far?" and "are you flippin' nuts?", was "are you going to get the tattoo?".

Now that was something everyone could understand. A tattoo. A permanent mark both recognizing and advertising the accomplishment. A brand...well, actually not a brand at all, more like a badge of honour. Branding is an entirely different kink.

I don't mean any sarcasm or misplaced witt in my words. The desire to celebrate an accomplishment is reasonable and justified. And I respect that. How one does it is a very personal and meaningful commitment to themselves or to those around them. Tattoos have a lot of history under them both personal and anthropological, other than those that are in some Asian script that actually spells "that ain't chicken".

So before I completed my first Ironman. My head was a-buzz with the merits of getting the M-dot. For all you noobs, that's what the call that M with a dot over it. It is actually a trademarked symbol. Its use in most of the media is somewhat strictly regulated - although not as much as the Olympics and their logo - but that "society" has a budget that rivals the Vatican.

I even recall some talk of tattoos with the M-dot having to have the Registered mark on them...but you can't believe everything you read, especially not online.

If you haven't figured it out just yet, symbols are just as important as words to me. And while I completely respect anyone's use of a now very commercial symbol on their body, I could not justify doing likewise. At least not without investing some additional meaning to it.

So on the advice of some very good friends and others who have seen me without clothes on, I came upon a design that included the M-dot, but was based on the stylized imagery of the individual events and my struggle to find proficiency. (still haven't found it by the way.) In addition, I also chose this to be a canvas in progress. Filling in the M-dots as I completed up to three Ironman races.

I found this to be the perfect marriage of making use of meaningful symbols and a nod to a recognizable, commercial entity, Ironman.

I was happy with the results a little anklet-like tattoo with swim bike run, one filled-in M-dot and two unfilled ones. The idea being that the unfilled ones would get filled as I completed more Ironman races.

Now I'm at two completed with another scheduled a few month hence. I haven't bothered to go "fill in" #2. Is it laziness? Fear of Hepatitis? Or do I just not want to stay away from swimming for a week or two for the expected crust to heal.

I think it goes deeper than the ink. It is the understanding of the finality of things. By completing this trio of ink it signals that I will be done. It will be over. Filling in #2 means #3 will need to be done soon too - if I ever complete the IMC in August.

Then what? More races...Silverman? Something more extreme?  Eating at KFC? More tattoos? Do I stop racing? Do I switch to branding or piercing? Or do I just suck it up and stop thinking about things so much.

Well. If I find a two week lull in my swim training, which I doubt, I might fill in #2...If not,  I will get it filled in after the race. Easy decision.

What about #3. Will I get that filled in then too?

Well, I know that I have acres of extra real estate on my body - even the small tracts that are unforested. But I don't really have any compulsion to get more ink, at least not of the iron variety.

So I'm seriously thinking of leaving one space unfinished...a hint that there will always be one more race. This could be my incentive to keep the spirit and soul of this lifestyle alive.

In some ways, it is a bit like the birthmark in  Nathaniel Hawthorne's story. Only in reverse. Adding it will foreshadow the end.

So who would have thunk that getting some ink in your body would end up being allegorical. Interesting things happen to one's body and mind when we are pushed to our limits.


  1. Then what, you say? Then you do what you're supposed to do... you just keep moving forward.

  2. Wise words that I once heeded and will continue to in the unpredictable future.

  3. Very strong post. Thought I'd read just this one and ended up reading a few over again, Thanks!


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