A few days ago, after working out in our local government owned and managed exercise facility (Monroe Aquatics and Fitness Center or MAFC, for short), two old men were sharing their stories. One of them shared that the tasks he did during his career don’t exist anymore. The other guy shared that he was a 40+ year veteran of submarine work, and last week, they scuttled the boat he spent all those years working on. He said that he went to the ceremony where his boat became a dive artifact off the coast. He said that over those 40+ years, he put in over 100,000 hours on that boat.
Pause to digest that. Who works in a single career for 100,000 hours anymore? Who can look back on their efforts turning into a tourist attraction with no sense of loss?
He then giggles. He shows no sadness. He displays no sense of loss that the totality of his professional experience has evolved into an unexpected artificial diving reef.
I have been grounded. I see something that I haven’t seen before. My efforts to perform at this level are temporal, at best. Others with experience have told me that the goal of training is not to get to the finish line. It is to get to the starting line, in working condition. You see, the hours of training and the grueling nature of all the long distance cardio makes us all susceptible to snapping, like s stick getting stepped on by a bear in the woods. The stick has no chance, if the bear wants to step on it.
What matters, then, if it is not what we do? Where lies the foundation of “importance?” Less than a year ago, when I was offered the option to go to this sport’s highest level, I felt proud and focused. I saw photos of those who had gone before me, all of them wearing their country’s colors, and racing for a higher purpose. I had placed a high value on getting my chance to follow them, as I concluded it was a privilege and not a God given right to compete at this level.
I went “all in.” I created this blog. I got personal and corporate sponsors. I got a coach, nutrition specialist. I started doing Pilates, Yoga, stretching. I went to “part time” at work, although that hasn’t quite worked out as expected. I eat better than ever, and my physique has gone from OK/Good to ripped and defined. I have spent more money in preparation for this than my entire family has spent on food and dining, during the same time period.
This effort ultimately amounts to naught. Gulp that down. This conclusion was beyond my field of focus until I took the time to really listen to those old timers. One day, this body will fail, and any “records” I set, whether personal or global, be taken. My uniform will be “scuttled,” just like that submarine. My bike will bite the dust, and I, too, will end up in the same horizontal position that everyone does.
With that thought, the light went on.
For the remainder of the week, I trained with a new focus. My normal routine of talking about everything went to near zero. Today, I made progress like never before. Despite today’s race being cancelled due to trail damage in the park system, I decided to do an equivalent race, all by myself. I ran a 5K, cycling 16 miles, then ran another 5k. At the end of the last 5K, I was passed by a group of 20 or so cyclists from a local club, on their Saturday afternoon ride, going the other way. Ironic.
As soon as I got home, my extended family was in the backyard, working on gardens. Everyone was tilling the veggie beds, and my wife was planting winter crops: carrots, potatoes, lettuce, etc.
This is where legacy lies: how we treat our family and friends is what gets carried forward, when we are not here. I chose immediately to help, even before changing out of my racing clothes. We jointly prepped 4 of our veggie beds and dug a French drain. Six of us worked, on an off, for 3 hours, swinging mattocks, digging with shovels, pouring bag after bag of gravel and getting real muddy. Before we went in for dinner and showers, we had done some serious improvements to our garden and drainage systems. In addition to all of that, we moved our portable chicken house to the front yard. After everyone else went in, I stayed back to pick up tools and move things around. Sure, I was tired, but so were everyone else. I was not entitled to special treatment just because I ran twice and did a long bike ride. This is my family, and I am the leader. I needed to act like it.
Never once did I tell anyone how my practice event went, how I felt or what it all meant to me….I knew I cycled well, and ran pretty well, too. Sharing any of that was not in the moment presented to me. I didn’t want to talk about the submarine that was soon to be scuttled.
The people around me love me. Really. My success or failure in an event that none of them have ever participated in does not change their opinion of me. Here, I am Jeff, Dad, Husband, uncle and friend. Today, the chance to just be me and do the mundane things was most important. It is here that I live beyond my days.
It is near bedtime. We are all watching a movie…6 of us on two couches, and my oldest lies on the floor covered by a blanket. There are no first place nor last place here.
I told both of my sons that I got sponsorships, albeit indirectly and I got my plane tickets. They don’t care, though, really. They are proud of me….whatever it is that I am doing.
Tomorrow needs to be like today.