My first extended holiday was a 3-month trip overseas. I saw kids paddling their canoes to school — their school floated atop Cambodia’s Tonlé Sap River.
Each of these experiences compelled me to see things from a different perspective. Of course, the experience that was most effective happened early and often during that holiday. People would ask how long I was traveling. My posture would straighten, my chest would puff out a bit, and I’d proudly reply: “3 months!”
Without fail, each person who asked me seemed saddened and deflated by my response. I soon came to realize that 3 months simply wasn’t long enough, especially when considered within the context of how long these people were traveling. (Most seemed to be traveling for 9 months, 12 months, and 15 months. In fact, when I’d ask them, their reply would be met with an “only 9 months this time”.)
Of course, experiences like these happen regularly in sport. An athlete breaks an existing record, or a distance that many consider extreme is doubled, tripled, multiplied by 10!
That’s what happened to me. Suzy Degazon recently completed a Double Ironman. And when she suggested to me that I give it a go, I shook my head and said I’ll stick with Ironman, thank you. Without missing a beat, Suzy quipped: “That’s fine. You can do the half”.
Ha! I have never considered an Ironman triathlon a “half”. In the world of iron-distance triathlons, we have the 140.6 distance. That is THE distance. A “half” would be 70.3.
But in Suzy’s world, the world of Ultras, of DOUBLE Ironmans, simply doing 140.6 would be the easy way out.
It’s easy for us to become impressed with our distance. Perhaps you’re training for a 10K, or a half-marathon, or your first century. The mental hurdles change depending upon the distance. Last year, for instance, I did a double-century. When you’re riding 200 miles, getting to 100 miles is no big deal. In fact, it simply means that you’re half way there. So perhaps the mind intervenes and disallows the muscles and tendons and ligaments from cramping and aching and niggling. Perhaps these cramps and aches and niggles would’ve made their proud declaration around mile 70 if you were riding a century. But since you’re doing a double, perhaps the mind knows that it cannot send its warnings until later in your day.
And what if this is true? What if we are limited simply by how we perceive things?
As athletes, we work hard to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. At some point, though, we may become too comfortable. We hit the OK plateau, which can lead to terminal mediocrity.
When that happens, hunt for opportunities to see things differently. Find someone who can slap a different perspective into you.
That new perspective can inspire growth.