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Tri 101 The Journey

What are sports for you? Are they a result? Or are they the journey?

Is the value that sticks to the ribs of your memory a top placing? Or will it be the undocumented moments in training shared with your friends? I contend that it’s those hours and days, sometimes spent alone, sometimes with training partners, that we cherish above all. It’s what we have missed the most during COVID. It’s the journey.

For me, some of the greatest moments of impact on my life from sports have indeed taken place in the heat of competition. However…

A race is a potent condensed, self-contained journey. It can seem like a lifetime. It crams volumes into a very intense few hours. And at the end of the day if I topped the podium it was deeply satisfying. But the real gold was what I discovered during the journey of getting from the start line to the finishers chute.

The journey is what transforms something deep within us when challenge rears its demanding head. Do we give up or do we persevere? Do we succumb to the seductive thoughts making it sound so justified to throw in the towel and quit? Or do we quiet our minds and remember back to the source of our initial inspiration to tackle something big?

It doesn’t matter if you are looking back on a specific race or a period in business or a challenging chapter in your life. If you were faced with moments when you were ready to cut and run but didn’t, I will wager those will have the deepest meaning.  It’s when you found the strength to haul yourself up by the bootstraps and recommit with resounding resolve that you’ll remember and cherish most. That is the invaluable pot of gold the journey holds.

I won 6-IRONMAN Triathlon World Championships. I can remember the visceral flood of emotion as I crossed the line in first place in exactly 2 of those. Pathetic right!

But what I do remember are the thousands of nuanced moments in every one of those 6-victories where a lesson was learned. That is where the journey from start to finish made a lasting impact on my life.

October 14, 1989-

6-Time IRONMAN Champ Dave Scott and I have raced each other side by side all day. Half way through the marathon, still side by side, he drops his pace to a 6-minute mile and never relents. No one in the history of the race had done that. I am barely hanging on. I am seconds away from giving up.

Then a memory came back to me. It was an article I’d read two days earlier. The piece was about a holistic way of dealing with life. It was based on an ancient tradition from Mexico, the Huichol tradition. Included were photos of living teachers of that tradition. One was a 110-year old shaman named Don José Matsuwa and the other was his adopted grandson Brant Secunda. They both had a look of being peaceful but powerful.

As an athlete the champion’s sweet spot is feeling both a sense of peace but also a surging sense of your capabilities, your power.

I was ready to give up. Dave Scott was pushing the pace and he was not going to back off! I was suffering and feeling out of gas. But then, out there on the Kona course in the middle of the World Championships, Don José’s image came back to me.

I could feel that same sense of peaceful quiet along with a powerful potential.

The whole race shifted in that moment. I knew it was only a matter of being patient to make the right move. I made that decisive move with less than 2-miles to go in the marathon. 10-minutes later I became the 1989 IRONMAN World Champion. 58-seconds separated me from second place finisher Dave Scott, the man who has set the standard at the race for almost a decade.

The win was life-changing. The elation was more than I will ever be able to explain or share.

But the piece of the journey that was the key that unlocked that very public finish happened miles before out on the lava fields when something shifted in me that had nothing to do with triathlons specifically. It was a vision, a memory of something that at the time seemed random that centered me into strength and peace. It was the key moment in the journey that started years before that needed to be put in place to allow the countless other elements of preparation and persistent training to finally be unleashed in their purest and most powerful form.

That’s what can be both mysterious and exciting about the journey. You never really know which moments along the way are going to be the ones that will shine above all and end up changing you forever.

Yes, you will remember the PR’s. It will make you happy to reflect back on the great achievements, of goals set then met. They’ll be the outward affirmations of your commitment to bringing your best out. But what will mean the most are going to be the trial by fire talents and strengths and skills you developed to get there.

A finish time or a level of production at work will always be followed by another that has meaning in the most immediate future moment. But what will last and transform your life forever are the lessons learned along those journeys.

Let us help you in the journey you are on in triathlons. Mark Allen Coaching.

(This is the 9th and final blog post in the series titled Tri 101. I hope you have enjoyed them all. If you missed any you can find them all at the Stories From The Road on the Mark Allen Coaching Blog.



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