Monday, 30 December 2013

The Return of the Ironman

The parable of the Prodigal has always resonated in my life. But unlike the story in Luke, I've related to the younger sibling in a far more allegorical way. For me it has been less about the leaving and return as it has been about the leaving without ever parting and returning while remaining away.

Nietzsche wrote of the eternal recurrence, and how things will occur over and over again. I'm more drawn to Milan Kundera's challenge in The Unbearable Lightness Of Being that we only live once, thus the "lightness" of being compared to Nietzsche's "heaviness" of recurrence and return.

But for me, this lightness is ill defined and grey. Although we may exist but once, within that finite life are infinite possibilities, lifetimes and existences. And each one of these multiplicities exist within our own consciousness. Both the high road and the low road are taken, as is the road less travelled. It is also that comeback line that you wish you had said to the office bully, but that you thought of only after you got home. In the reality of your consciousness, you did say it. Is that any less real, in your mind, than if you had said it face to face.

Abstract this one step further by thinking about social media. Is something you wrote to a "friend" on Facebook any more or less real than face to face or by telephone or text? And what about something you tweeted or messaged to a total stranger that you may or may never hear from again? Is that any more or less real than the multiplicity of realities that percolate and evolve between your ears? The reality of your existence is what you determine is worthy of your time and your attention. Or, more tangibly, to what extent can you multitask between real life and the more ephemeral journeys in your mind.

Triathlete Identity Disorder

So before I start going down the road of Dissociative Identity Disorder, what road am I returning from and what does this have to do with swimming, biking and running? Well, absolutely nothing. And everything. Similarly it has nothing to do with the story of the Prodigal. Kinda sorta nothing...

I haven't made an entry to this blog since February 2013. And Before that December 2012. Before that I made quite regular entries enumerating triumphs and challenges in my endurance and triathlon reality.

Two Ironman Attempts and Two DNFs

A number of things happened between 2011 and 2013 that I have not written about at length. Obviously an infinite number of things happened. But specifically, in my athletic career, I faced the continuation of my first significant injury with Plantar Faciitis, I also lived through what can be best described as a near drowning at the St. George Ironman. Lastly, I faced the disappointment of quitting the Coeur d'Alene Ironman after finishing the 180km bike ride with serious cramps and having to painfully walk for 21km on the "run".

So that makes five attempts. Three successful ones at Ironman Canada, when it was still in Penticton, BC, yielded faster results and more focused, not necessarily more intense, training. But with return to training between 2011 and 2013 and the two US attempts, I found that I wasn't really "returning" to race form.  I was still away,  traveling along familiar training paths without committing to the new and more intense work that was required as I got older.

I was back, but not really. My mind was still on a journey somewhere that I have yet to define and understand. In many ways, I'm still on this journey, although nothing tangible has changed in front of my eyes. I have taken the high road and the road less traveled and used that killer comeback to the bully simultaneously.

Sisyphus and the Boulder

The Myth of Sisyphus has always helped guide me in my decisions. In part to not live the hubris demonstrated by the king, but more so in the lessons extrapolated by Albert Camus in his postmodernist work, The Myth of Sisyphus. How to live life in the face of the Absurd and in the absence of the absolute has always challenged, intrigued and motivated me. 

The hallmark of the myth is Sisyphus going through eternity having to push/roll a boulder up a hill only to have that boulder fall just before the summit.

The past two Ironman attempts have very much felt like futile exercise.

One of my favorite elements of Milan Kundera's literary leitmotifs is that of life featuring and endless string of coincidences, that although meaningless in isolation can be tied together to lead to significant ends.

There are countless such coincidences in my life that I will explore here in the future. Including the ones that introduced me to the sport in the first place.

But the one that stands out now relates to my return. My return to the sport; to extended family; and hopefully, to the success I had before 2011.

I will be attempting Ironman Boulder (Colorado) in August, 2014. The name of the location is not an overlooked irony. Nor is the fact that I have family and friends in Boulder. It is somewhat also salient to my prodigal theme that I have been away from Boulder for 33 years. My two visits there, while still a teenager were formative, memorable and still resonate in my consciousness.

Let this serve as the notice of the return of the prodigal. To training; to racing; to Ironman; and to Boulder.

Let this too serve as a return of this prodigal to the craft of writing and creation that has too long eluded me.


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