Part Two: What do you want?

Goal setting is a journey.  Let’s start this journey with the end in mind.  And I’m talking about the end.  The when they’re writing your obituary end.  Bleak?  Maybe.  But if you could look back on your life from that perspective, what do you see?  What do you want?

For me, I look back, and I see a life lived in good health.  I sort of envision a kind of younger-looking version of Jack LaLanne.  Maybe someone like Sister Madonna Buder.  I see someone who didn’t need a walker or a mobility scooter, right up until the end.  (However, if I ever do need a mobility scooter, I call dibs on this one.)

What does it take to make it happen?  I’m a firm believer in goal-setting.  When I’ve done it, it works.  If you’ve never set goals before, a quick run-down on some of the criteria that make a goal a good one.  I like the “SMART” acronym, personally.

  • Specific.  Target a very specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable.  How will you know that you were successful/how successful were you?
  • Attainable (or Achievable).  Can it actually be done?
  • Relevant.  Does it really matter to you?
  • Time-bound.

Trouble with “SMART” is that it means different things, depending on who you ask.  For instance, some corporations use “A = Aligned with Corporate Goals”, which completely deludes both the company and the employee.  More often than not, corporations are only interested in year-over-year goal-setting.  But goals are really about making you great in the long-term, which in turn makes everything you do touched by greatness.  In other words, if you take care of your personal life, your health and your career, everybody wins.

Let’s stick with “Attainable”, and focus on those three areas of life.  We start with the end in mind, and work out the steps it’ll take to get there.  Think long-term.  That’s 10 years from now.  What will you have achieved by then?  Let’s try a fictitious goal as an example:

By January 2024, I have established a successful business, supplying widgets to the entire West Coast region.

And there it is.  It’s got a deadline, and it’s pretty specific about how and what will be measured on that deadline.  What’s more, it’s written in past tense, which is really just a trick to make you believe it.  Moving on… backward:

By January 2019, I am Regional Sales Manager, Western Division for XYZ Mega Corp.

Cool.  You’re going to need industry contacts.  Your boss won’t be pleased that you’re thinking about spinning off that sales division into your own company, though.  Best keep that under wraps for now.  But wait — maybe, just maybe, they’ll even help — if you can show that the National Corporate Headquarters can benefit by lopping off the Western Division.

By January 2015, I’ve successfully completed a Continuing Education course about writing a successful business proposal.

That’s only a year off, so now is the time to act on it.  This month, there are steps that you can take to attain that goal.  You might not be able to start your company tomorrow, but you can certainly pick up the phone and enrol in a course that will help you get there.

Rinse, lather and repeat.

By September 2023, I have completed five iron-distance triathlons.

or

By April 2019, I have 2.5 children and a house with a picket fence.

The sky is the limit.  Now try it in your own notebook.  And feel free to add some of your goal ideas in the comments section.  In Part Three (of what is becoming a poorly-planned three-part series in four [or more] parts), we’ll discuss some strategies for taking your goals from your notebook into reality.

All the best,

Darryl

Part One: Discovering the high-performance athlete inside

Triathlon is a unique sport in that professionals and amateurs often compete on the same course and on the same day, if not side-by-side. For many of us, it’s a lifestyle sport. Unlike many other amateur sports, even the shortest sprint distance triathlon demands a significant outlay of time and effort, not to mention the hemorrhaging of cash credit card debt.  It’s very easy to let the sport take over your entire life. And really, what better obsession? When the sport does take over your entire life, you put up pictures of Paula Findlay or Crowie on your cubicle walls. You derive a sick pleasure in watching people cringe when you tell them you spent more than $500 $5000 on a bicycle, and that you have at least two or three of them.

You probably do this for a reason. If you didn’t at least enjoy it, there wouldn’t really be a point at all, no? This is what discovering your inner elite is all about. Whether you are racing competitively against others, or whether you are racing for your own heart.

I do it because it is a challenge, to see whether I am capable of finishing things that ordinary people would call extraordinary. But it’s really not about that. There’s nothing special about the things that we do, except for the fact that we choose to do them.

So if there’s nothing extraordinary about the things that we do, or for that matter, the things that the elite do, then shouldn’t it mean that there’s no difference between the elite, and you?  There is no difference between any of us.

Through racing a few years ago, I learned that I am good enough to justify the time and expense of the triathlon lifestyle. An injury set me back a bit, but 2014 affords a new opportunity to start again.

There is nothing more rewarding in my life when I finally see that spark in someone’s eyes, when they finally get it.

So, make it real. Here are some ideas:

  • Get a personalized license plate for your car. Something like “TRI4PR” or “CARBON”.
  • Create an “Athlete” page on Facebook, so that you can have actual fans!
  • Get someone to take pictures of you and your bike (like you might see in Triathlete magazine).

I think the first point of order here is to really begin to accept myself as a high-performance athlete. That’s not to say that I’m pro-level or elite, but as a high-performance athlete, there is a slightly different bar that applies to me, my workouts, my day job, and my personal life.  But being a high-performance athlete means eliminating all those excuses, and making it real.  Not because I have to, but because there’s no better feeling than doing something that everyone else thought was impossible.

All the best to you, in 2014,

Darryl

Elite, yet normal.

I posted this link last year, but somehow it lost the video reference.  So here it is again.

We have Jens Voigt of Team Saxo-Bank showing The Internet around his hotel room.  I’m not particularly a follower of Voigt, but he is almost certainly a stronger athlete than I.  But he is still human, and shares the same kinds of concerns that us mere mortals do.

Race Report: Cultus Lake Sprint Triathlon

Early in the year, I had an interesting conversation with a man I didn’t know.  He told me that he no longer raced triathlon, because he’s no longer as good as he used to be; that the fun of the sport had essentially been lost.  I found out later, that this man was none other than Peter Reid, multiple Ironman World Champion.  What struck me most was, although he is a world-class athlete, our conversation was humble and, for lack of a better word, normal.

But what of this, getting to a point in the sport where it is no longer interesting?  This concern framed much of my season.  I’ve gone through many interests and obsessions over the years.  I was into rock climbing a few years after high school.  I took up yoga for some time.  My interest faded in both.

It has been a challenging year on many fronts, full of all kinds of issues and drama.  And unfounded fears.  I had initially planned on Kelowna being my season-ender.  Kelowna was my A-race.  An Olympic-distance course shared with the ITU elite, the likes of Paula Findlay and Simon Whitfield.  But there was something missing.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, until I expressed my concerns among a few friends, about losing interest in the sport.  What if I’m not good enough?  What if I reach my limits, and never see improvement?  In a moment of genius, one of my friends suggested that the game ends, once it is no longer fun.  I signed up for Cultus Lake, thinking, this is going to be fun.  I even joked about racing with handlebar streamers, spokey dokes and a hockey card taped to my chainstay.  I was going to have some serious fun!

I never had dreams about rock climbing or yoga.  But about a week before Cultus, I had yet another triathlon-related dream.  I’m sure it was full of metaphor.  The message: The race is not over.  The race is not over.  It is so not over.  So, of course, I looked up last year’s results online.  I realized that it was well within my reach to push harder than ever before, and give more than ever before.  And it was well within my reach to get a 3rd place medal in my age group.  I can do this.

So I decided to take it seriously.  Still have fun, still enjoy it.  But let’s take it seriously.

The race is not over.  This athlete isn’t tired.  Not yet.

Swim: 15:20 (2:03/100m; 10th overall)

My swim is usually pretty consistent during wetsuit-legal races at 1:55/100m, so this split is a little slower than I thought it would be, but I’m by no means disappointed.  At the start, I found myself weaving through a crush of swimmers, and my ankle-grabbing training with Kyndra and the rest of the Canwi gang came in handy here: I got kicked a few times.  I got kicked square in the chin by a guy wearing a yellow swim cap.  He elbowed me in the face later, too.  Yes, it’s all about wrestling in rubber suits.  I had my trepidations a year ago.  Now, I almost enjoy the frenzied mass swim start.  We’ll see if I say the same thing at IMC next summer.  But for now, it’s a small race, with a couple hundred participants.

The first turn came up faster than I expected.  Before I knew it, I was swimming in clear water, finding a pair of feet to draft off for a while, then pushing ahead to the next pair of feet.  I don’t recall thinking about much of anything on the swim, but I tried to remember that I have legs, and that I can use them to help propel myself forward.

Coming around the second turn, I found myself neck-and-neck with another swimmer.  He tried to pull away, and I pushed a bit more.  There were also two swimmers behind us, drafting off our feet.  I didn’t know it at the time, but Jeremy (who finished 3rd overall) was one of them.  His remark: We were drafting behind two guys.  One was kicking up a storm and the other wasn’t moving his feet at all.

I was tenth out of the water.  And I don’t know any of these people were at this point, because as far as I can remember, I was the only one around.  I see from the results that I was definitely not the only one around, but it seemed like it.

Transition 1: 1:47 (3rd overall T1 split)

Wetsuit off.  Sunglasses.  Helmet.  Chin strap.  Bike.  Go.  I lost my goggles somewhere in T1.  They were decent goggles, but I’ll just have to get a new pair.

Bike: 34:29 (34.8km/h; 1st overall bike split)

I was the sixth athlete to get out onto the bike course  My previous race in Kelowna had a much larger pack, so I passed a lot more people on the bike.  I had no idea how many people were ahead of me.  I passed three competitors fairly early on the bike course, and didn’t see anyone else for at least ten minutes.  It was very strange, being completely alone on the bike course.  I looked back, and there was nobody chasing me.  There was nobody ahead of me.

I wasn’t as diligent about hydration as I should have been, mostly because I was running a single bottle aft, with nothing between my aerobars, and nothing in the frame.  I think I took three or four sips, but really: it’s a sprint, and it wasn’t all that hot yet on the bike course.  I think in the future I’d like to have something between my aerobars.

Not a lot else going through my mind at this point.  I was comfortably spinning about 94rpm, keeping it nice and easy.  Focussing on an even pedal stroke.  10k to the turnaround.  It didn’t seem like 10k.  I began watching the other side of the road to see how many cyclists had already made the 180°.  I counted two.  I was apparently in third place, behind Joel from Victoria, and Jimmy, the speedster in a Canadian team tri suit.  I’m pretty sure I counted wrong.  There’s no way I’m in third place overall right now.  I made the turnaround, and then caught up to Mr. Team Canada.  Passed him like he was standing still.  Riding into T2, I hear Jordan’s voice over the speakers.  “We now have our second athlete coming into transition.”  I’m still pretty sure he’s talking about someone who’s ahead of me.

Transition 2: 1:52 (2nd fastest T2 time overall)

I racked my bike on an empty rack, slipped on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and race belt, and go.  There’s not really much else to do in transition.

Run: 25:59 (46th overall run split)

They say that runners win triathlons.  Unfortunately, I’m not as strong a runner as I am a cyclist.  I was first overall on the bike split, but 46th on the run.  I’m seven minutes slower than the fastest runner (who, incidentally, finished almost exactly five minutes after me).

The phrase, if you feel like you’re about to puke, you’re going too slow was in my head.  I kept repeating to myself anything I could, in effort to dig deeper and push harder.

As I approach the finish line, it’s time to turn on the afterburners and use up what little is left in my legs by this point.  I don’t remember seeing the clock, or there was something wrong with the clock, so I had no idea about time.  So I pushed, hard.  Darryl-style sprint finish.

While I didn’t do terribly well compared to 45 other runners (and particularly the five who did well enough on the run to make up for the dust I left them in on the bike), I did achieve my best 5k split ever.  I consider it a resounding success.

Overall finish: 1:19:25 (7th overall, 1st in age group)

Technically not a sprint PR, because my last sprint was 1:18 and change.  The asterisk though, is that the 1:18 course was a little shorter on the bike.

What’s unique about this finish though, is that I placed seventh overall, and first in my age group.  First.  I thought I could barely make third, and here I am, placing first.  Mind buzzing.  I kept looking at the posted results, thinking, there must be something wrong.  But it was right.  I’m first.  For the first time in my life, I’ve won something.  It’s not ITU world championships, but I won something.

More importantly, I had a fun time doing it.  It was a great race, and I made some cool friends.  I’m sure I’ll see them again next year, somewhere.  I’m sure I’ll be a better runner.  I’m sure I’ll be a better swimmer.  Now, more than ever, I believe in me.  I had my doubts, before.  I had my doubts that I wasn’t good enough.  But now I know, that I am worth it.  I believe that I am good enough to justify the time and expense required to reach the next level in my sport, to become an even better triathlete.

On what is not possible.

Gattaca is probably my favourite movie of all time.  It’s all about finding strength in the face of what appears, on the outside, to be insurmountable odds.

You are the authority on what is not possible, aren’t you Irene? They’ve got you looking for any flaw, that after a while that’s all you see. For what it’s worth, I’m here to tell you that it is possible. It is possible.

Of course, the world of Gattaca is fiction.  But there is a lot of truth in the metaphor.  I think we are often brought down by those in our lives who, whether they mean to or not, bring us down.

For me, I’ve been working through this for a while.  My family has always been focussed around team sports such as hockey, and more traditional sports such as golf or tennis.

I’ve never been into those. I don’t really know why.  But I’ve always loved the idea of being athletic.  I dabbled with the track team at high school, but got injured before I could really prove myself.

Maybe my family hasn’t been supportive, because I’ve had passions before that have ended in disinterest.  I tried rock climbing, but 5.8 was about the biggest challenge I wanted.  I was into yoga for a while, but that practice subsequently waxed and waned.

There has always been the bike, though.  I always loved the bike.  And I’ve got to get this through my head: I am good enough to justify the time and expense required to become a better triathlete, to bring my swim and run skills up to match my cycling talent.

There is a real possibility that I can, if I push harder than I’ve ever pushed before… There is a real possibility that I can make my way to the podium (for my age group) at my next race, this coming Sunday.  I know I can make this attempt without your support, but I’d rather do this for love and not for spite.

Some Random Suggestions

13 excerpts from an e-mail that a good friend sent me about a year ago:
  1. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
  2. Clear your clutter from your house, your car, your desk and let new and flowing energy into your life.
  3. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
  4. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  5. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
  6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
  7. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
  8. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  9. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”
  10. Forgive everyone for everything.
  11. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  12. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time!
  13. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

On becoming extraordinary…

We all come to the sport of triathlon for our own personal reasons.  My friends I’ve talked to have all manner of excuses for plopping down thousands of dollars on equipment, race entry fees, trainers, coaches and nutrition.  These reasons range from very personal to highly altruistic and selfless.  I come to the sport to battle the personal demons of my past, and to become a better person.

I’ve discovered that I’m a decently strong cyclist.  A friend e-mailed me yesterday, and said:

We already know you’re an excellent cyclist.  Now’s a good time to focus on your running if you want to have a good chance at being fast during Ironman.  Honestly, with your bike talent, if you follow [a particular running training plan], you’ll be much faster than all of us at IMC.

I’m not used to this.  I’m not used to being singled out as better than anyone else at anything.  It makes me feel somewhat overwhelmed.  I don’t feel like I’m worthy of this kind of attention.  I believe that the things I do are not any better than the things that anyone else does.  I have a lot of trouble accepting that I am any more extraordinary than anyone else.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been through ordinary.  I know that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is actually quite negligible.  The difference between someone who has accomplished great feats and someone who hasn’t, is nothing more than the choice to do these things.  I don’t think it could have been said any better, than how Jordan Rapp put it, in his speech to the 2011 Ironman Canada finishers the other night was poignant and summed up with:

But no one in this room has a burning desire to be, “typical.” That is not why you do an Ironman. You do an Ironman because you want to reach the stars. And you want to do it the hard way. Because that is what makes it special.

There is no easy way to reach the stars.  For me, even as comfortable as I am on the bike, it’s by no means easy.  An hour on the trainer sometimes feels like ten.  I have no patience for people who get in my way.

Playing to my strengths means focussing on improving my cycling ability.  I know that I can become a better cyclist, because I’ve been doing this for only a year.  I know that the difference between myself and Jens Voigt is that he’s been doing it longer than me.

Becoming extraordinary means you must first accept that you are an amazing human being, and that you have the innate ability to do extraordinary things.  Becoming extraordinary really takes nothing more than a choice to do something extraordinary.  And you will inspire me.

Kelowna Apple Triathlon 2011

Kelowna marks the last A-race of my first true season of triathlon.  And I’m really quite pleased with how the first year turned out.

I’m an average swimmer, a strong cyclist, and a weak runner.

Swim: 27:56/1500m

One year ago, I didn’t know how to swim.  I could barely scramble 25m, with a level of skill barely suitable for swimming at the cottage.  I worked hard through the winter, starting off with 30 minutes in the pool almost every day, until I learned how to do 100m.  Then 200m.  I consider myself a triathlete more than a swimmer, but swimming is certainly not my weak point.

For Apple, my estimated time for the swim was 30 minutes.  I haven’t been setting stretch goals for the swim, just yet.  All I wanted at Apple was to get through the swim, and post something close to 30 minutes.  I got out of the water with two minutes to spare.

The swim itself went reasonably well.  I probably went off course a little, but that will improve with more open water practice and sighting.  All in due time.  My swim speed will increase with practice and technique improvements, and perhaps learning how to have a productive kick!

Transition 1: 1:50

Is it possible to do this faster?  Probably.  I had a few things sitting in my helmet that I had planned to stuff into my back pockets, and that did take a few seconds.  But I did take advantage of some cool tricks, like leaving my goggles and swim cap inside my wetsuit sleeve, having my shoes pre-clipped to the pedals, and racking over the back of the saddle.

Bike: 1:08:10 (35.2km/h)

This bike course was awesome.  I felt strong and fast.  I was only a few minutes off the #1 position on the bike course, and even so, placing within the top sixth of finishers on the bike course is nothing to sneer at.  I worked on keeping loose, and finding that balance between effort and ease.  I rode according to plan, pushing hard up Knox, then spinning free throughout the rest of the course.

Transition 2: 1:05

This clocking represents mostly the run through transition, from the bike entrance to the run exit.   Once my bike was racked, helmet off, shoes on, I was back out on the course.  The only way I think I could improve this time would be to be a faster runner.  I’m by no means disappointed with this.

Run: 1:00:54 (6:06/km)

Yes, the run is my weakness.  I’ve been battling IT-band issues for the last half of the season, and haven’t really been focussed on improving my run speed.  Though I did maintain my roughly 6:00/km average, and that was my goal.