Tri Hearter: If the Buddha did a Triathlon

By Bill Plock

Bill-Mt-GibraltarIf I had accepted my training schedule obstacle like Buddha, I wouldn’t have demanded I find time in the heat of the day to climb one of the most notorious roads in North America only later to find myself crumpled on the new asphalt calling my sister for a ride home.

I woke up this morning, looking at my semi-deformed arm and wondered if the Buddha did triathlons would he have this swollen arm? Stick with me, I will tie this all together.

See, I turned 50 last Monday. I didn’t freak out. I didn’t say would’ve, could’ve and should’ve—well maybe a little bit—all day long. And, I sure as heck didn’t mail back my AARP application. But, my family threw me a great party and a friend gave me a very interesting book to help me navigate the crazy dating world I hate—“If the Buddha Dated” by Charlotte Kasl. She claims it to be a life changer and I must admit I like it so far. The premise, it seems, in general is let go of expectations, live in the present, be grateful for who are and you will attract love.

If the Buddha did triathlons he (is it ok I say he?) would accept training obstacles and be present with his body’s need to rest and the mind’s need to be balanced. He probably wouldn’t have crashed on his bike like I did.

With my arm looking less and less like Popeye’s thanks to antibiotics, and finally being able to swim a little bit, I’m not freaking out as much as I was when I crashed. But I just had to get that ride in right? If I didn’t I might not get that teeny tiny bit of extra fitness that will put me over the top to achieve my goals at the Boulder Ironman. Right?? Give me a break.

Well like the contestant on family feud who once answered “upine” as the number one answer to follow the word “pork” (no kidding) someone should’ve blown a loud buzzer in my ear basically saying “you are dumbass for even riding today (or thinking “upine” is a word). Go enjoy the beach, your daughter and take in the beautiful day.

Three and half weeks ago in California with my bike leaning on the ping pong table in the garage and my daughter and I conflicted about the day’s activities after she pulled out of a beach volleyball camp due to an achy foot, I felt enormous angst. I had planned to workout everyday while she was in camp to at least maintain my fitness while visiting my sister in Santa Barbara. It was the perfect plan.

So we hemmed and hawed about what to do. Each minute piled on top of my head urging me to ride and the pressure made me anxious and irritable. But part of my brain was urging me to relax and spend time with family at the beach or wherever we were going. I was in complete conflict, far from what I imagine the Buddha ever felt as he let himself be present in the moment and not live by expectations.

Think about this quote from the book and how it could relate to training, maybe even racing, let alone dating. “While painful situations are inherent in life, if we accept them as part of life we do not suffer so much. To a large degree, suffering results from the turmoil we create when we demand that life be ‘fair’ and not include obstacles, challenges or illness. Once we accept these aspects of life, we can more easily cope with them or seek solutions.”

Mt-GibraltarI HAD to ride, so I thought. Every year I visit I bring my bike and ride Mt. Gibraltar. It’s a forbidding climb and used to be on the Postal team training regiment—for good reason. The climb is about 9 miles and almost 4,000 feet of climbing. It’s epic. It’s dangerous to some degree with no relief from the sun as it faces south and is relentless with cliffs, but with breathtaking views and very little traffic.

I inflated my tires at sea level. At 4,000 feet my tires were probably a little over inflated. The road had been recently paved—black as black now. The sun beat down and with a 12% grade to negotiate and brake pads heating my rims (I bet you can see where this is going) the pressure was too much. Around a curve I went and bam, a gunshot went off and suddenly I slid on the ground, not even having time to get my hands off the hoods, thankfully in retrospect.

My left armed swelled immediately and blood oozed from where the road peeled the skin off. My hip and shoulder hurt like hell and the face of my Garmin 910xt was shaved off as with a meat processor making slices of see-through turkey. I didn’t even know it until a couple of weeks later, but I cracked my helmet. It could’ve been so much worse.

As I approach my final weekend of training for Ironman Boulder, not even sure if my elbow can withstand the pressure of being aero on my TT bike, I wonder how Buddha would approach this race.

I have put so much pressure on myself to do well. I’m not shy, I truly hope to qualify for Kona. I have a tiny chance if it all goes well, but thinking that way is setting myself up for disaster. Thinking that way almost caused a disaster in California. I should’ve just enjoyed the day at the beach and I almost knocked myself out of contention before the race ever started.

I share this as so many of us are in our final stages of training wondering if we have done enough and worried about this or that. I get it. As much as I know I shouldn’t second guess myself, I will. But maybe I’ll try to think about how Buddha might race, just a little.

Maybe he would enter Boulder Reservoir having let go of the last of year of training and enjoying the moment and knowing everything that could’ve been done was done. That beautiful morning ahead is our chance to test our will. Maybe getting kicked in the head just means swim a little faster to move around the obstacle. Maybe the pain we feel on August 2nd is just our body saying “good job, I am working for you, not against you, don’t worry I won’t let you down, I just need to scream a little.”

I’m trying hard to let go of many things in life including the reflections of my training. Lying on that road, wondering how badly I was hurt, really told me how much I have to live for. That road could’ve taken everything. Instead it woke me up.

I may not have swum as much as I should’ve. I may have lost a little training due to hardly being able to run or ride effectively for a couple of weeks. But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to enjoy every minute of Ironman Boulder, after all it may never had happened…..