It was only by stumbling upon Laozi’s words (at bottom) that I began to find a way to express experiences from this past week and what is present now. Moving into the weekend there was uncertainty, self-doubt and fear. I exited with motivation, self-confidence and gratitude. A shift in viewpoint resulted in a transformation of attitude, but, as pointed to in chapter 29 of the Tao Te Ching, the place I find myself now is where always I’ve been. Both are true from their own perspective.
In a recent post, I shared that I’ve been struggling with frustration and despair—existential and worldly. Feeling discouraged, I spent days leading up to Ironman Kalmar wrestling with the mind, looking for a way to tackle the task that lay before me. Some of the items weighing heavily were: a lingering niggle in the body, an array of hopes for both this race and a larger event later this year, commitments I have to others for that event, and habitual perfectionism that is both a torment and a strength. On the eve of the competition, a plan unfolded that satisfied all conditions, provided a salve for the ego, and set me up for ‘success’.
What I mean by ‘setting up for success’ is that there’s an underlying admission that Life will do as it pleases despite my futile efforts to control it. At the same time, I affirm that a positive attitude can influence movement towards excellence. By meeting practicalities and creating multi-tiered goals I produce a movie with the potential to expand beyond a defined script. I know some people believe this methodology affords ‘outs’ by leaving ajar doors to failure, and that a subset of those people like to ‘keep their eye only on the primary goal’ believing that exclusion of all other thoughts will somehow force the hand of Life to their will. For me, that’s myopic and incongruent with how Life sprouts, grows and blossoms. I prefer to take stock of what’s present, leaving open the possibility that resources and outcomes, for which my limited vision cannot discern, may change the hues of the developing image in ways I wouldn’t have dreamed.
Another aspect of this approach—an open-minded plan of attack, for lack of a better term—is that I create readiness to deal with unexpected issues and opportunities. The wisest people can think on their feet and it’s certainly something I aspire to develop.
• I was fearful of not being able to run the marathon because of an ankle issue.
• I didn’t want to look bad in the eyes of myself or others.
• I wanted to recover quickly after the race and return to regular training for Ultraman WC in November.
• I knew that failure to finish the race would have negative consequences on my outlook.
• The realisation occurred that I could approach the day as a long training opportunity.
• This provided a pressure valve for race eagerness so that I wouldn’t self-destruct from pushing inappropriately.
• Relaxation in mind and body began to spread.
• I felt positive about having an achievable goal and that I could move through the day with gratitude, enjoying the process.
i. Swim comfortably: a pleasant warm-up for the day, embracing relaxation while constantly looking for ways to move through the competitive field.
ii. Bike with the aim to put some solid training load into the muscles, reminding myself that I had a low-intensity (as measured by pace) long-run to do afterwards.
iii. Run the marathon using my ultra-distance methodology of alternating walking and running. This approach creates a mental structure that alleviates the wasted energy of fending off internal demons, while also providing consistent small doses of physical respite that allow me to maintain good form throughout long distances.
i. I had a PR swim.
ii. I was one minute shy of my PR bike. (And I felt incredibly relaxed and engaged throughout the 180km.)
iii. I negative split each of the three 14km loops (ran faster for each lap), stayed positive and present in spite of the increasing fatigue and stiffness, and finished 7th in my age group (M55-59) with a time of 10:35:52, bettering my finishing times at several previous Ironman races.
• My nutrition plan that I wanted to test for Ultraman World Championships worked like a charm.
• I had the energy to attend the ‘Heroes Hour’ finish line party thereby continuing to enjoy and absorb the outpouring of warm-hearted support of thousands of people.
• I’m moving better after the race than after any other.
• I had a ton of fun! More so than any prior Ironman race.
• I declined the ‘Kona Slot’ (Ironman World Championship qualification). Tho a somewhat difficult decision to make, I stayed true to my intentions for the year.
• I leave the weekend motivated and filled with self-confidence.
• New goals are forming, some of which I’ve comprehensively dismissed, until now.
With all that said, I acknowledge that this level of satisfaction may not transpire in every future race. I acknowledge that all hell could break loose at any second. But I also acknowledge that something has shifted internally. That’s an easy thing to say in this post-race glow, and I acknowledge that old patterns, which lead to melancholy, frustration and self-doubt are already trying to seep in. But I’m also reminding myself that, as Lao Tzu wrote, the world is sacred, and I am a part of that world. My ‘job’ is not to try and tamper with what is already divine but rather to constantly open the shutters and doors, to keep walking and, at times, flying the path.
Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.
The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.
There is a time for being ahead,
A time for being behind;
A time for being in motion,
A time for being at rest;
A time for being vigorous,
A time for being exhausted;
A time for being safe,
A time for being in danger.
The Master sees things as they are,
Without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
And resides at the centre of the circle.❞
~Tao Te Ching
✌️ ∙ 🌱 ∙ 🙏
This is my personal journey—a soulful sojourn in which I share musings arising in and from self-inquiry. I don’t always go into all the characterising details; To me, such minutiae carry more value when explored as pointers in investigation occurring in both silence and when teased out through vulnerable conversation. The purpose is to share some insights that may resonate for you in your own journey.