I sit here today on a simple green plastic chair, just me and a laptop in the backyard. Nice and simple. A good time to start to unpack what had happened in the weekend just before this one.
I had arrived to the Sunshine Coast on Friday, 12 March 2021. It was towards the later part of the day, with the sun already pretty low on the horizon. It took a mini roadtrip to get down there, all the way from Gladstone, final destination Mooloolaba.
First things first, the plan was to link up with a couple buddies of mine. Two particular buddies who were crazy enough to have committed to this adventure months ago. We were all self-nominated participants in the 2021 Mooloolaba Triathlon.
Yes, we were all self-nominated into this crazy business. After all, it is not like gigs such as these are only accepted if under duress.
This is probably not going to make much sense at all, but it is a strange feeling to look back at these photos. It feels disconnected, ephemeral.
'Did that really happen? Did I really do that?' are the first thoughts that enter the mind.
But the biggest question of them all is this.
This is not a new question. And actually, I am confronted with it all the time. Most frequently during training sessions with one of my buddies I mentioned earlier, whose name is Chris.
We have this running joke, where after a long winded 10km or a particularly intense session, we would turn to one another and ask 'Why do we do this?'
Session after session, week after week, year after year, the question keeps getting asked but never gets properly answered.
And yet, the momentum stays. The sessions keep rolling and the very same question does a very poor job of blocking any further progress. Somehow...
'Why bother? Why do we do this?'
Let us flip the script.
Why don't we bother? Why don't we do this?
There is an idea I stumbled upon recently, from someone far wiser than I, from somewhere on the internet. The idea is to take deliberate effort to rephrase statements of 'I have to' into 'I get to', and the massive shift this creates.
'I have to go and shop for food.' vs 'I get to shop for food.'
'I have to go to work' vs 'I get to go to work.'
'I have to do this triathlon' vs 'I get to do this triathlon.'
. . .
You want to know what was the hardest part of the triathlon?
For me, it was during the last leg, the 10km at 11 AM in the morning, with the sun bright and high in the sky. It was hot and steamy all the way through.
But it was not the weather that caught me off guard.
It was the countless sea of participants who were moving on the very left hand side of the road.
They were participants, just like me and my buddies, and there was a whole sea of them.
But what made them stand out was that they were no longer running and instead walking, by the sidelines.
Slowly. One step at a time.
Seeing so many other participants walking was the ultimate demoraliser. It destroyed the mental war I was having between me and my mind.
'Why should you keep going when everyone else is walking?'
'Wouldn't it just be easier to give up?'
The same question again.
The thing that kept me going was that idea that I had picked up prior to the race. By sheer luck, I had acquired a secret weapon to wage the war against the mind.
'Why don't I bother? Why SHOULDN'T I keep pushing? I GET to do this triathlon!'
And maybe you might imagine that this suddenly gave me a boost out of nowhere, that I suddenly started to pick up the pace, and leave all the walking participants behind me.
But no, that was not the reality. The mental switch-up saved me from having to walk. It kept me running and moving well, and this in itself was a great blessing.
At some point, I had decided for myself that I was not going to walk no matter what. This was because deep down, I knew I was afraid. I was afraid that if I slowed the pace and lost it, I would probably not be able to get it back.
If I started walking, it was game over.
. . .
My overall time ended up being 2 hours and 44 minutes for the full Olympic distance triathlon.
30:55 for the 1.5 km swim.
1:13:59 for the 40 km ride.
54:17 for the 10 km run.
I was beyond STOKED. My original target was to cross the finish line, and the stretch was to do the whole triathlon in under 3 hours. I had surpassed my original expectations and I could not have been happier.
I had conquered something that I had previously considered to be impossible for me to accomplish. Woah.
. . .
'So, what is next?' inevitably enters the picture.
To close, I will try to summarise one of the gems I learnt from a great conversation with my other buddy, Duta, over that Mooloolaba weekend.
The spark was inspired by an idea from James Clear, author of the book Atomic Habits. The core tenet is about the contrast between 'setting short sighted goals' vs 'setting long sighted systems'.
A short sighted goal can summarised as such, 'I want to do the Moo Tri 2021.'
Once the goal is achieved, there is nothing left to stand on.
Setting up a long sighted system would look as such, 'I am a fit and healthy person and the Triathlon was a self selected stress test of this.'
And because I would like to continue to try and be someone who is fit and healthy, this Triathlon no longer becomes an end, in and of itself. It becomes a milestone, an important and memorable one to look back upon, during the rest of the journey ahead.
“If you want to understand how this world is made or where it came from, the only way is to actually get up and go out there, feel it with your body. That's how I learned.
Actually meeting people, actually climbing mountains. And after all my travels, I am more and more certain of that now.” - Naoki Ishikawa