Never Give Up?

irondad_icon_smallIn my last post, I mentioned that the biggest challenge of never giving up may be to grok what it means to never give up in the first place. As if on cue, my journey as Irondad took a turn that offers up an excellent case-in-point.

It started with my first marathon. I felt pretty good immediately afterward. Finishing in under 4 hours, I did what I had come to San Diego to do. After the adrenaline started wearing off, however, I noticed the outside of my left knee hurt. And when I put weight on my leg, it would occasionally fold as if it couldn’t hold my weight. By the time I got to the airport, I was hobbling so slowly that my friend had to push me through the terminal in a wheelchair to make our flight.

The next day- a Monday- I felt good enough to go in to work, albeit on crutches. The day after that I felt even better; I dispensed with the crutches and got about with a slight limp. And on Wednesday I decided I could run through the limp to do my regular track workout.

But after a few weeks, I noticed that my legs never really felt fresh anymore. Frustratingly, all my times were off by at least 30 sec/mile on my runs, and I felt like I just couldn’t keep up at the track. I asked some more experienced friends and coaches about it, and the first question they all asked me was how much time I took off after the marathon.

So here’s the first takeaway from this post: apparently you’re supposed to take it easy after a big effort like a marathon. Maybe a few short jogs in the first week; certainly no intense interval workouts or running up and down ski slopes at Tough Mudder Tahoe the weekend after. I really screwed the pooch on this one.

In other words, my approach to preparing for the rigors of an IRONMAN was no longer working, and it wasn’t working because I was pushing too hard. Now I had to do something that isn’t easy for me- I had to ask for help. I didn’t want to admit it to myself- much less anyone else- but my 43-year-old body couldn’t keep up with my sky-high expectations for each and every training sess.

First order of business was to see what damage I had done and fix it. I went to see a doctor who specializes in sports medicine. After taking my vital signs and listening to what happened and how I was feeling, he suggested I was in the early stages of overtraining and that a little physical therapy and easing off the training for a couple of weeks should do the trick. Pretty good news, all told.

But how do I continue to make progress without overtaxing my body? I knew I had made a rookie mistake; to decisively put Cozumel in the bank, I’d have to borrow or buy someone else’s expertise. So I hit up three of the most renowned triathlon coaches in the Bay Area. And then I waited.

And waited. And after a week of radio silence, I came to the conclusion that not only were these coaches uninterested in taking me as an athlete, but that no coach would ever consider having any part in a story that is so raw and personal. It was a momentary crisis of faith that a friend- the same friend who wheeled me through the San Diego airport- helped me understand was inevitable in a journey that means so much to me. Fact is, I could do this with or without a coach, and her confidence that I had the determination to get it done either way made it so much easier to believe in myself. Second takeaway from this post: friends like this are few and far between, and you should keep them close and hold them dear.

As it turns out, a few days later my top choice for coach replied with some questions for me. After a day of volleying emails back and forth, I convinced him to take me. And, with that climactic exchange, my chances of finishing Cozumel went dramatically up- as did my training volume. This time- and with this coach’s guidance- it has been ratcheted up in a way that leaves me feeling fresh for the next long workout.

What this tl;dr post boils down to is that Never Give Up does not mean Never Let Go. In fact, letting go is an important part of never giving up. If you’ve chosen a worthy goal, you can and should turn your back to checkpoints that initially looked like they would keep you on track, yet have proven to lie on a dead end as you get a closer look at them. It is an exercise in course correction that will keep you from driving off the cliff as you travel toward that final destination. Put another way, the destination may look a lot like what you expected when you set out, but the journey is likely to constantly surprise you. That’s what keeps it interesting, after all.

I realize that the let-go sounds like some sort of washed-up spiritual claptrap. That’s because it is. But I’ll save it for the next post; right now I’ve got a long workout to put in and only 6 hours of sunlight left.


Happy Father’s Day

And I hope all the dads out there have had plenty of opportunities to be the best fathers they can be today. I’ve found my own opportunity in building this site to share an epic journey I’ve undertaken. I’ve decided to complete a full IRONMAN in Cozumel, Mexico on 11/18/2018.

A little background is probably in order. For the last few years, I’ve spent Father’s Day alone, missing my son terribly, and generally not knowing what to do with myself. I haven’t had contact with my son since last November. And it’s very difficult for me to be an active part of his life in the chaos of legal action in San Francisco Family Court and with the distance between us after his mother moved to Paris, France. That’s all I can say about that, but it should give you some idea of why this journey is so important to me.

Things have been going well so far. I completed my first Olympic triathlon at Wildflower a few months ago. And a few weeks ago, I completed my first marathon in San Diego. I’ll be doing at least two more half IRONMANs before the big day in Cozumel, which happens to be on my son’s birthday. Most of my time nowadays is devoted to training and educating myself on how to avoid injury while maximizing endurance, but I’ve found both interesting enough to keep me coming back for more.

It may not have an immediate impact on my son, but this is the most productive and positive path I’ve found so far towards becoming the best father I can be under the circumstances. I may not be physically present in my son’s life, but I can teach him a few things from afar. Like, the secret to success is no secret at all: successful people all seem to agree that the most important thing is to Never Give Up no matter what challenges you face. Maybe the first- and possibly the biggest- challenge is in understanding what lies below the surface of that deceptively simple mantra.

Fact is, we won’t overcome every challenge. We won’t always win. Sometimes we won’t even finish. That’s exactly when we have to remind ourselves to never give up; when we let go of what didn’t work and open our minds with acceptance, a new approach will almost always become apparent. As non-trivial goals go, the steps I take towards mine are pretty well defined. Thousands of strong men and women have finished IRONMANs over the decades. But that hardly means my own path will be a straight line.

I hope you come back and check in every now and then. Until next time, please keep in mind that being a good father is a full-time job, and an occasional word of appreciation on one of the other 364 days of the year wouldn’t hurt. But for today, the very happiest of Father’s Days to all you dedicated dads out there.