Why showing up is just as important as finishing
Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,
A few days ago I was talking with my friend Daniel while we were riding our bikes.
I spent several minutes telling him about my injured calf muscle. I told him how I didn’t think it was worth the risk to race in the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon this Sunday. I’ve done the race many times over the years. It’s a great race. Its one of my favorites, in fact. But it’s not one that I’ll draw a lot of satisfaction out of just finishing. Been there done that. A bunch of times.
My goal is breaking 5:30 hours at Rev3 Anderson, SC. Not finishing another Olympic distance race.
I’m not taking anything away from finishing an Olympic distance race. Its an awesome accomplishment. It was one that scared me to death just a few years ago.
I droned on about not taking any chances with my injury. About not wanting to jeopardize my real goal.
It will have been 3 weeks since I’ve run when I start the 10k in Chattanooga. That’s not exactly a recipe for success in short course racing. So I thought about just staying home.
Daniel listened patiently before speaking up.
“What will you write to your kids about not going?” he said.
I considered the question silently as we climbed a hill. I thought about things like explaining “mitigating risk”. I mean, it’s perfectly logical to skip the race and chalk it up to being “careful”, right? Careful is important. Careful is mature. Mitigating risk is what adults do.
“I don’t know, man,” I said. “My calf is hurt. I don’t know if I can run or not. I don’t want to risk it. I’m too emotionally invested in my big goal to take chances.”
I wondered if I were mitigating risk or finding an excuse not to show up. Sometimes that’s what adults do too, when things aren’t going to work out perfectly.
We rode on in silence for awhile. I thought about my years of racing and the years of other experiences I’ve had in my life.
I was a high school wrestler. In 1992 I lost the state title by 1 point. I was devastated. Everything I’d ever wanted in my 17 years of life was lost by a single point. Throughout 1993 I won everything. I was angry. Motivated. But all the while wrestling with my own doubts. I wondered if I would have the courage to handle the pressure and show up at the state tournament again in February when failure was possible. I was there. And I won. But first I had to show up.
I sprained by shoulder and suffered a concussion in a boogie boarding accident before Boulder 70.3. I was unable to swim for several weeks. I remember the surprise of coming out of the water, running past your mommy and saying “fastest swim yet”, after swimming with one arm. I was surprised. My arm had been in a sling a few days earlier. I’d waffled on actually starting the race.
Somehow we find a way to get things done. If we show up.
Life’s going to be that way. I think you’ll question yourself along the way. That’s not a bad thing. Its human nature. Fight or flight.
Doing what you said you were going to do is important though. Even if it’s just “doing”.
I don’t know what this weekend holds, but I said I was going to be there. Chances are I won’t be fast in Chattanooga this year. I haven’t done the work required to be fast yet. But come Sunday morning I’ll be swimming down river. Riding the hills. Running those steps up from the river front. And if my leg seizes up I’ll stop and earn my first DNF. But if it doesn’t, I’ll cross the finish line of another race I started.
So, I’ll show up and set my ego and my excuses aside for the day. I’ll enjoy being a triathlete at one of my favorite races. Because showing up is just as important as finishing.
You never finish races you don’t start.
I love you,
ps. Izzy, a few days ago you and I went to a Cancer Survivorship celebration at Vanderbilt to honor your Nana. We had a great time. You had your picture taken with figure skating super star Scott Hamilton. I’ve heard a lot of key note addresses over the years, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been more inspired. Amazing story. Talk about a guy who “showed up”. Again and again. Through incredible challenges.
Kate, you’re our little hippy child. Always turning in circles and closing your eyes when we listen to the Grateful Dead or Bob Marley. A few days ago you put on this ensemble. Heaven help us when you’re a teenager:
We’ve had record high temperatures in Nashville this week. It was 109 one day! So we got ice-cream. Max, a minute after this picture was taken you decided to take off your shirt for some reason. Dude. Izzy, you’re the typical triathlete kid. Wearing a race shirt.
Sat: Rode 33 miles
Sun: Rode 40 miles
Tues: Swam 1600