Monday, 27 July 2015

Ironman UK 2015 - A different perspective

I have been to see Ironman UK twice before - but this time I was lucky enough to see a different side of this amazing event.

The previous occasions had been focused on an athlete I was supporting who was capable of posting a good time and when his race was done it was time go. (or go to the hospital but that's a different story.....) And I didn't know what I was missing. Don't get me wrong - I had been fortunate enough to watch the pros and top age groupers race at the sharp end but there was a more humbling and emotional experience waiting for me as the hours ticked by.

What you need to understand about Ironman is that its a true feat of human endurance and arguably the hardest one day event on the planet. No disrespect to people who do long bike sportives or run a marathon - this is different gravy and takes long term dedication and sacrifice to train to a level to have even a chance of finishing within the time limit. And without cast iron will to pull you through when the inevitable dark times arrive then you in for a whole world of mental and physical pain and the heartache of your dream being shattered.

So I was here again, in familiar territory but I had 2 focal points for the day. Firstly I was again following my good friend and aspiring Ironman athlete, John Mcavoy, who was geared up to post a blistering time and challenge the front runners. But I also had another good friend, Darren Davis, competing in his first Ironman race and he was an unknown quantity with regards to his potential performance.

Anyway, the reason for this post is actually nothing to do with them as I was confident that John would be in the game and I knew Darren would finish - so in this respect I could enjoy the moment, give them encouragement and wait to see them succeed. However as Darrens race extended in to the early hours of the evening I witnessed scenes that will live with me forever.

During the day it is not unusual to see people vomiting at the side of the road, struggling to even jog and suffering more than us mere mortals can imagine. But they are still moving forwards and are in control. But as the sun goes down and the crowds thin out things start to change. The smiles disappear, the pace subsides and people cast long, lonely shadows as they realise they could be close to failure. A year or more of training, untold hours pushing yourself to the edge of human endurance and all for a DNF (Did Not Finish).

I wasn't prepared for this harrowing spectacle and I actually felt helpless and isolated behind the cold, metal barriers. You could see the super human effort being expended to get to the finish line but for some there was no happy ending, no rapturous applause and no shiny medal to hang around their weary necks.

But that's not the point.

I watched in awe of these ordinary people attempting an extraordinary thing. They had stepped way outside their comfort zone and were willing to lay themselves bare and challenge themselves in a way that most of us won't even dare to think about. For that one day they learn more about themselves and their limits than most people learn in a lifetime. For that they deserve utter respect.

So I suppose the final question is what are you doing to learn about yourself, push your own limits and be the best you can be? I think its a question most of us leave unanswered.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

We've heard them all before. Either as thoughts in our own head or verbally expressed. Or they could be written down, set in stone, as a more permanent reminder of what I call evasive thinking.

At best they are a distraction, at worst they destroy progress.

Real improvement is only seen when people take responsibility for their results. Good, bad or indifferent. And when they give an honest appreciation of their performance - every, single time.

This takes real guts. Because the human condition doesn't like criticism, especially not your own. It can be like open heart surgery and can be an emotionally painful process however the rewards can be spectacular.

Once our ego is out of the way and we stop worrying about what people think or what it means to others we are free to logically inspect the reality - and act.

So next time you are about to blame an outside influence for that failed attempt, slow time or missed opportunity try something different. Take a cold, hard look at yourself and embrace the power of true self reflection.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Win at all costs

I have been fortunate to work and interact with some top class athletes and business teams over the years and I am also involved in coaching young children in a sporting environment. And I have some serious concerns about what I see as a "Win at all costs" mentality which is filtering down to our younger generation.

Over the last few years we have seen the fall from grace of Lance Armstrong and witnessed drug doping issues appear in a multitude of sports. We also see every week the lack of respect for football referees and the simulated diving and play acting to gain an advantage. But what is more concerning is the justification of the above activities due to the pressures to win.

What are we teaching our children? What happened to enjoyment of sport and life?

This is not a new issue and at grassroots there has always been the over enthusiastic adult wanting to live their life through their children. But what I see now in our modern society is an absolute need to win at all levels irrespective of the human cost.

Its a cost to honour, innocence, integrity, trust, happiness. And the list goes on. Is it any wonder that levels of depression and anxiety are exponentially increasing in our society?

I don't know what the answer is but what I do know is it needs to change.

Don't measure your success by what you lost by winning, measure your success by what you retained by winning.

Lance Armstrong divides opinion like no other. But there is no disputing he lost trust, honour and integrity in his incredible 7 tour wins. Is this really "winning"?