Wednesday, June 04, 2008


. . . This could be the
worst disaster NASA's ever experienced.

- With all due respect, sir. I believe this is gonna be our
finest hour.

I've been seeing things all wrong. As I look back over my posts and my thoughts for the last several weeks, I know I have been worrying about potential difficulties and obstacles that the weather or the course or happenstance might throw in my path to make this Ironman unsuccessful. I've been worried about doing worse at this one than in the first one. I've even been worried about not finishing this one because conditions turn out to be more difficult than the first one. Some might call that type of vision realistic. I call it cloudy, cowardly even.

The people I admire--that we all admire--in history and literature don't ignore the difficulties and obstacles; but, they always seem to see beyond them to the outcome they desire. In seeing life like that, all the obstacles and difficulties simply become stair steps or ascents--the more difficult or steeper they are, the greater the victory or success when they are overcome.

We see that kind of vision in Gene Krantz, flight operations director for the Apollo space program who doggedly worked to bring his astronauts home. Contrast Krantz with the NASA engineer in the movie who seeks only to cover his butt by refusing to take responsibility for procedures and equipment that had not been tested under these conditions. He was the bureaucratic realist. Krantz was the opposite. Breakdown after snafu after screw up conspired to make it seem impossible, and yet Krantz saw past the hurdles to the outcome he wanted, and rightly foresaw that it would be NASA's finest hour.

We see that kind of vision in Henry V's St. Crispin's Day speech where, outnumbered by the French, King Henry does not bemoan the troops he lacks. On the contrary, he bids any reluctant participant to depart:

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
* * *
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.

Henry had the common, English long bowman who was more than a match for the French cavalry. "All things be ready, " he declared, "if our minds be so." He was right. The French were cut down before they could even engage. Henry and his "few, [his] happy few" garnered glory that Henry (at least the Shakespearean version) foresaw. They became the eternal archetype for the "Band of Brothers."

Finally, we see that kind of visionary leadership in Winston Churchill, who knew very well that his countrymen were about to be pummled to within an inch of their very existence by the worst that modern warfare had to offer at the time. He called for a kind of sacrifice that this country, by all modern observations, would never tolerate in our current mindset. But he did so while seeing past the obstacles to the British Empire's "finest hour."

Now, I fully recognize that triathlon and Ironman are nowhere near as important or as significant as warfare or the saving of human life. Nevertheless, these far more serious pursuits have something to teach me. Starting now, I'm through with my old way of thinking. If the lake is cold, it's cold. The colder it is, the greater the accomplishment in overcoming it. If the course his hilly or windy or hard, so be it. I will find a way, and when I do, the finish line will be all the sweeter.

In the words of Sir Winston, "Do your worst, and we shall do our best."


a.maria said...

well said, and GREAT quote to end on.

... you know you have to move me from the non-texans list here in about a month or so, right?!


Spokane Al said...

Well said.

Tri to Be Funny said...

And besides, we all like this Greyhound better than crabby grumpy Greyhound :-)

21stCenturyMom said...

Well said and an excellent demonstration of your grasp of history.

I know this is at the other end of the 'feel better' spectrum but how about lightening up and having fun??!! That's the way uh huh uh huh we like it uh huh uh huh.

LBTEPA said...


Fe-lady said...

hear hear...
My mind says "yes" but my body isn't I am at the finish probably with the other sherpas on your best day!
Go for it!
(I'll do a practice swim with you ...and tell you how great you are ...'kay?)

Bigun said...

Harumph, Harumph!

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

I have another Churchill quote for you that I think is appropriate:

If you are going through hell, keep going.

Tim said...

Nicely put.

KCWoodhead said...

Yup - you're tapering and finally getting some much-needed rest!

Timmy said...

I had the pleasure of hearing Gene Krantz speak. We hired him to be the keynote speaker at a conference. The title of his presentation was "Failure Is Not An Option". It was one of the most inspirational speeches I have ever heard.

BRFOOT said...

The water WILL be cold, the bike course IS hilly and there probably will be wind. 26.2 miles is a long run no matter the conditions...... SO WHAT!!! HTFU

Nytro said...

yes.... and in the words of The Big Bad Wolf (sorta): "The better to brag about!"

you're gonna be a champ, grey. it's just... elements. And what's a little "element" to an ironman?


CoachLiz said...

I will agree with you here. After finishing the hardest race I have ever done, I look back on my poor finish time with great pride. I FINISHED! I overcame and did it faster than a few and finished what others could not do.

No one can take my pride away.

Supalinds said...

This is the Greyhound I love. Writing words that make me believe in myself, believe in all of us!

Like Nytro said, well kind of, let the elements be - you are ready for an ironman!

Lana said...

I love it!!! This post gave me cold chills!!

TriSaraTops said...

Fantabulous post!

And not just cuz I'm a total history nerd, either.

You are ready for whatever the day may throw at you.