I Brake for Speed: A Primer on Reflection

author : Scott Tinley
comments : 1
by Scott Tinley
  
Ironman World Champion, 1982 & 1985
Ironman Hall of Famer; Triathlon Hall of Famer

          “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop to look around once in a while, you might miss it.”
                Ferris, from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

          Conventional wisdom states that to succeed in the sport of triathlon you have to move quickly. Before the gun is ever fired, some idea of “winning” in the sport requires speed, efficiency and consumptive purpose.  Ironman events sell out in minutes along with online travel packages, discounted wheel sets, and the latest “fastest wetsuit in the world.”  Race results span the coconut wireless at satellite speeds and pros regularly run under 30 minutes for the 10k. In the sport of triathlon, rationality rules and quick convenience is king. Speed might be purchased, we think, if we are fast enough.
          But in many ways, triathlon’s apparent connections to quick, decisive, and consumptive movements are less a sport-specific nuance and more a reflection of a larger social milieu: patience is passé, trends move at the speed of blog entries, and we find our identity in our products.  The most recent cyber-polls tell us that if a web page doesn’t load in 4.3 seconds we cancel the download. The democracy of social media in synch with quick-hit visual sound bites that sell everything from love to religion thrills and challenges our critical thinking. Confluence runs roughshod over consideration and cash can never be king because people don’t remember what it looks like. Triathlon is popular because it reflects other social institutions.
          And you thought it was just a sport that requires swimming, cycling, and running.
          Triathlon is perhaps the first truly emergent post-millennium sport; a new physical culture that reflects the ever-evolving 21st century distinctions. These tastes can move pretty fast. So, if we recognize the intersections between triathlon and a society that shape-shifts at light speed, we might also take notice of the accuracy of our perceived involvement in the sport. Is our participation in triathlon what we thought it would be? Are we truthful with the hows, whys, and what fors? Or perhaps we should slow down long enough to think carefully about how the sport functions in our physical worlds. In quick fashion, here are my top suggestions to prompt a reflection of our connection to sport.

          Wiki-thought #1
          Health and fitness aren’t the same.
          For many of us, we see sport as a healthy endeavor and a way to reduce the stress in our lives. But while we idealize that early evening run through the forested-trails or that solo ride along the empty back roads, we end up running in circles around a dark track or dodging traffic as we navigate by fear of being terminated by a Humvee. Of course, for many of us with few options, any workout is better than no workout. But if you return from a ride with so much stress that only a yoga class can help reduce the tension, has that been a healthy experience? And if you spend 20 minutes trying to get the VCR to play the yoga tape before smashing the disc with your heel and opening a beer, is that a picture of good living?
          Think of Jim Fixx, the 1970s running guru and author of the million-copy book, The Complete Book of Running. Fixx died of a heart attack on his morning run. He had been a 2-pack per day smoker and 60 pounds overweight before taking up running at the age of 36. He had stressful occupation and was in the midst of a 2nd divorce. Jim Fixx was reasonably fit at 52 but his previous health issues came back to claim his body.

          Wiki-thought # 2
          Speed is both relative and controllable.
          You can have as much fun at 16 mph as you can at 22 mph. But the consequences of mistake are different within those 6 mph. The brakes, however, are in your hands whether on the bike or in the bedroom. You can sleep in and roll slowly out of bed and up the street if you’d like. Or you can remove any hindrance to going flat out all the time. The choice is yours. And for those that claim there isn’t enough time to smell the roses, that say they can sleep when they’re dead, well…they might get a chance for the long dirt nap sooner than they planned.
          We are in control of our lives when we decide to be in control of our lives. And when we slow down long enough to realize that we are only competing in 16-20 races in one summer because that is what the event producers, magazines and manufacturers suggest will make us happy, then we might rediscover what original joy thrilled us in the sport. I’ll say it again—the brakes should be in the hand opposite the throttle.

          Wiki-thought #3
          You can’t buy a championship or an authentic smile. Commercial sport and capitalism, while beneficial systems in and of themselves, necessarily prompt an ethos of consumptive behavior. We are taught to think that a new this or a lighter that will enable our break-through performance. And after we win that (enter event name here), then we can relax and enjoy our sport. But there is always more to be bought, sold and bargained. Cruising eBay has become its own virtue with the rewards lining your garage ceiling and back closets.
          All this can be fun, of course, and a market-based economy offers great benefits for the sporting experience. But where it become problematic is when we substitute aero-stuff for aerobic activity.

          Wiki-thought #4
          Consider the possibilities.
          As the school-ditching philosopher, Ferris Bueller told his nervous pal Cameron while they contemplated what a day off could reveal, “today, we ate pancreas,” Cameron’s eye went wide. Too often the aero-bar position extends into our own world purview. We stare at the white line and the pool line and the bottom and all the while we miss the view from the high sweeping roads.
Of course, that’s why I’m a shoddy coach: I have no structure and can’t seem to offer the idea of no idea to anyone else. That said, my plan would be to have a good plan. And then forget it.
And pancreas must contain many essential amino acids.

          Wiki-thought #5
          Leave it at the office, pal. 
          Triathlon is a sport tailor-made for the obsessive-compulsive, senior manager looking to vent their corporate frustrations. But if the boardroom bent carries over into the casual group ride, you become that guy who projects his own Tour de France onto the tour de donut. Don’t be That Guy.

          Wiki-thought #6
          Kill your computer.
          (or at least let it cool down)
          The other philosopher/poet, Jimmy Buffet, suggested that we, “turn off the TV, turn off the crap. Kick off your high-heels and climb into my lap.” Staying connected too much, too long, and too tightly can only end up in failure. While it’s nice to Skype about your sweet swim at the latest pool du jour, we only have so much patience for the linked-in, cyber sale tweeter who forgets that some of us don’t need to share their every moment with Facebook friends.

          Wiki-thought #7
          One more thing
          And through it all sport lives on, institutionalized in many quarters but unaffected at its truthful core. Sport: the great reliever of stress, the builder of character, the last form of entertainment where the end is not predictable, where community extends out from the huddle like spokes from a wheel.
          Even with the white noise rhetoric about sport playing the leading role in every pitch from the perfect weight loss vehicle to a forum for self-identity, all endorsed and infomercialized by “expert commentators,” sport has survived, its head bloodied but unbowed.
          Sport, like grandmothers, pound dogs and old Ford trucks, lives on, thriving under the barrage of duplicity because it has roots like ancient oaks; sport bends in a storm but rarely breaks.

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date: July 4, 2012

Author


Scott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

Author

avatarScott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

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