Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fear and Karma

For several weeks, I have been planning to return to masters swim for the first time since my injury took me out of the pool. I had even put it on the training plan in the sidebar.

But I didn't do it.

I didn't do it because I was afraid.

What if I haven't gained back as much strength as I think? What if I get hurt again? What if I can't hang with the workout? What will the good swimmers think of me? I'll look like a fool and a poser.

But Friday, I did it anyway. I was in the slowest lane, but I did it anyway.

Saturday, I almost did not show up for a group ride with the Lone Star Multisport club from the Woodlands. Again, I was afraid. I've never ridden with that group before, and beyond my usual reluctance to meet new people, I knew they were a strong group. I wasn't wrong. There were at least half a dozen studs with ironman finisher gear. What if I can't hang with them? What will they think of me? I'll look like a fool and a poser.

But Saturday, I did it anyway. I got dropped by the Justice League crew in the first group, but I did it anyway . . .

. . . and I pulled someone on a road bike who later thought better of pursuing the long route that day. Karma.

On the hills outside Anderson, Texas, having long since been dropped and riding alone with my own thoughts, I crested a hill and saw another solitary rider. Actually, he was not riding. This card carrying member of the Justice League was on the side of the road with one slowly leaking tube, one tube that would hold no air, and having expended all his CO2.

As luck would have it, I was carrying 4 cannisters instead of my usual 2. Karma.

I was la lanterne rouge of the long route, and the little voice in my head was telling me just to avoid the ignominy and jump in the car after my brick run. I was embarassed to talk to anyone, but I did it anyway.

The only person around happened to be the CO2 superhero's friend. He and I both did our first half-iron distance events last year. We began talking about our race schedules and how I had signed up for Ironman Wisconsin after seeing my friends on the course while volunterering. A spark of recognition dawned on his face. He knew I was talking about Iron Wil, and he figured out that I was Greyhound. The superhero soon returned, and besides meeting two great people, I learned some useful information about Wildflower. Karma.

Shortly before Ironman Florida, The Tri-Geek Kahuna observed one profound result of his training: "The one emotion that has ruled his life, that he was weaned on, is missing: fear." Maybe that is one of the things I'm looking for in my Ironman experience. I am the older of two brothers, and yet it was my little brother who had no fear. I was afraid of everything: swimming, girls, boys, athletics, locker rooms, my own appearance, failure, embarassment . . .

. . . a lot of the same things that have kept me out of the pool or away from the group rides.

I will always be the cautious older brother, and the future is always going to have another "it" to be afraid of. I hope that part of this Ironman experience will be increasing measures of courage . . . to do "it" anyway. If I can do that . . .

"If" by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!


21stCenturyMom said...

I'll never be a man but other than that your post really resonated with me. I'm always afraid. I'm always just doing it anyhow because if I never tried to transcend my fear I'd just stay in the house and hide. Nice to know that at some level we are kindred souls.

Are you going to share the Wildflower wisdom? I hope so because I am absolutly terrified of Wildflower.

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

very true. I always get an unnatural fear of dying whenever I prepare to go out on a ride - like I'm going to be hit by a car and never come home.

A couple of weeks ago going down a big hill, I let go of the brakes. I realized that I had already fallen down on a bike and broken my arm once. I knew what that would feel like. And if that was the worst thing that could happen, well OK then.

I still get the pre-ride jitters...It's a process.

Curly Su said...

nice post; thanks.

Amy said...

It is so very easy to avoid our fears. I been doing a lot of thinking about fear. I have decided that there is no room for it. And that I have to do the things that I fear. The only way to get through them is to face them. That's not to say that I don't have any fear, just that I think we can't let it call the shots. Your post today struck deep. Thank you.

Tri-Dummy said...

I'm cautious, too, not being a fan of failure. I often try to set myself up for victory, which sometimes means I avoid things I know I won't succeed at. I think I've missed out on a lot of opportunities to take fear by the back of the neck and smash it into the ground.

I think we might be hookin up in Colorado w/you, Mama, and Tac. Working out the details and looking forward to it.

MartyTheFool said...

Just remember that before Edison succeeded in creating the light bulb he failed hundreds of times.

Don't give up. Ever. Facing the fear is what makes it worth it. When you beat it. If it was easy, we wouldn't do it would we?

See you at Iron Man WI.

I ran into your blog through a mutual friend.

Some good stuff.

tri-mama said...

Can't say how glad I am that you didn't take one look at that goofy couple from MN and run the other way. You've enriched our lives, as I'm sure you will those in your bike group and masters class. Keep pushing that envelope Grayhound.

IM Able said...

Some posts I laugh at. Some I find really informative. Most I take at least something away from. And very few leave a thumbprint impression on the way I *think* about what I choose to *do.*

This was the latter. Thank you.

Phoenix said...

Love this post. I will carry it with my on my next bike ride (and try to keep it rubber side down).

TriJack said...

greyhound, you rock... thanks!

Douglas said...

Thank you for posting this. I had never seen the poem, and it and your thoughts sum up a lot for me. I run cross-country, or did. I was out this year, tired in part of the fear and depression I felt before each race. This helped me remember why I like to run. Thank you.