When Too Much is Too Much: Dreaming Your Way Back to Reality

author : Scott Tinley
comments : 0
by Scott Tinley
  
Ironman World Champion, 1982 & 1985
Ironman Hall of Famer; Triathlon Hall of Famer

           There is a fine line between dreams and delusion, between the high empowerment of a Saturday night and the low vagaries of a Sunday morning. It’s that place that Eliot, when thinking about ideas and realities, motions and acts, reminds us is still a shadowy world.   

           Most athletes will exist for a period within the grey confusion of ‘if onlys’ and ‘what ifs’.  It’s a rite of passage, really; this necessary habitat in considering if one’s motives, desires, tools, and traits are good enough for that next level. And for the endurance athlete, perhaps they are never more unnerving as when real decisions have to be made on what might be done to increase real performance.   

           “Just how bad do you want it?” we ask ourselves and wait for the collective reverie that never comes because it is only us who can reply to this audience of one. As an athlete, a teacher/coach, and a parent there was never a harder question than the one asked by the child/student/client wanting to know if that nary cusp of what they are and what they might be; that teetering twist between ideas of greatness and realities of everydayness was worth the weighted investment. Do I swim an extra 1000 yards or show up on time to my son’s soccer game? 

           Those small decisions become larger components in this emo/physio battle of decision and will. And perhaps never more explicit than in the case of the age group athlete wondering if they should “go pro.”

                                            *                                                      *

           You tell yourself that you are an athlete.  A pretty damn good one after all. At least that is what you have convinced yourself. Your athletic resume includes several victories in age group competition.  They weren’t ‘world-is-watching’ events, but a win is a win, you tell yourself, and you are proud.  As you should be.


          Something starts to creep into the recesses of your mind, an unstoppable weed of decisions that require a joining of the heart and the mind and the checkbook.  Only the heart starts to take over, telling the mind of things that it knows to be impossible but nonetheless cannot resist for fear of implication in some later year cancer of regret. The checkbook goes along for the ride. It’s only paper. We’ll deal with the ink later

          Your heart tells you to “go pro.” Your mind says, “Are you joking?”

          Your heart paints pictures of you receiving free entry fees and your current training partners telling others that they “used to be able to stay with you on rides.”  And how much faster could you go, you ask? Oh, so much faster if you weren’t shackled by such irrelevant distractions as jobs, school, and intimate relationships. 

          There is a fight going on inside that mind, a fight between the pragmatic self, defender of predictable stability and the nuclear-fueled “I gotta’ try” voice that wants to answer that call toward ultimate physical expression, if not the indisputable drug of pay-for-passionate play.

           You wonder if quitting your job shows courage or stupidity.  It was a good job after all, one you had gone to school for four years to earn the right to even apply.  But by now it is too late. The heart has won.  You know this because you call up the manufacturers and ask for free stuff.

           You are a pro.  You shouldn’t have to pay.

           You begin to create a whole new life that has at its center, You. You are the Sun and your friends, responsibilities, family, and favorite canine companion Rocky are all subjugated to circling planets.

           All this is fueled by The Dream which is currently made possible by one or more of the following: rich parents, a savings account, the ability to live sparsely, or friends that you can mooch from.  It’s in the name of athletic science, you claim; you’re at the forefront of physiological advancement. And a case of Clif Bars. 

           The delusion and the dream are mated at the altar of swag.

           You learn the the power of The Excuse, that ultimate weapon of every professional athlete regardless of the sport or level of achievement.  You are no longer responsible to anything other than that form of activity that furthers your own advancement as an athlete.  Wash the car?  You have a track workout.   Attend a nephew’s graduation?  That’s your long ride day.  The flexibility built into your training schedule by your new professional coach has less to do with your loosely founded goals of becoming the best ever and more to do with your ability to manipulate life’s inconveniences.

           Life takes on an aura of the surreal.  You take naps in the middle of the day.  You stop reading anything that takes your mind off of The Sport, anything that makes you question the former life, the life that deep inside you know you will have to return to.  But for now, well…it doesn’t exist.

           When no one gives you a bike for free, you dig into your IRA and spend several times more than the amount you spent on your first car.  It could not possibly be safe inside the locked and heated garage alongside other distractions like tennis racquets, golf clubs and your lover’s BMW 730i.  And so it stands poised and ready against a living room wall, a two wheeled reminder of your commitment to speed on land and in the water, a reminder of your pursuit of The Dream.

           One night you discover your libido has vanished.  Oddly, queerly, you don’t seem to mind.  More blood for the quads, you think.  Three days later, the lover and his/her 730i has vanished.  Oh, well.  You’ll recover better sleeping alone at night.

           You train hard.  Your times are faster than ever. But your first race as a Pro is frightening.  You were only 32 seconds faster than your PR as an amateur.  Must have been over-trained, you tell yourself. The coach’s fault.

           You write the new bike off on your tax return.  You have a second plate of pasta.  You do workouts that make people ask, "All in one day?"  You think they admire you but aren't sure.  Then again you aren't so sure about a lot of things these days.

           And so you simply ask for more free shit.  You’re a pro. You shouldn’t have to pay.

           One night you have a lucid dream of winning the Ironman, but as you cross the finish line in glorious exaltation, you are wearing a circus clown outfit, spinning plates on top of sticks.  Someone wearing a large top hat slips an envelope in your back pocket quietly and then places a sandwich board over your head that reads, “EAT AT JOES” on the front in large block letters and “what happened to you?” in tiny, barely legible font on the back.

           You look at other pros.  Most of the time they seem happy chasing The Dream.  But when you look really close, you see a few painted smiles, souls running towards or maybe away from a moveable Grail.

           Your Dream morphs into the nightmare that you’ll be featured in a Sports Illustrated “Where Are They Now?” issue.

           You are paying your dues, you tell yourself, learning the ropes, and serving your apprenticeship.  But wait.  Wasn’t that what you had done while holding down a good job, going to school, going out with friends, having a god damn life, for Christ’s sake?

           You don’t mind being broke. Well, okay, just a little. And you have discovered things about yourself that you never knew. Some good. Some not so good.

           But your world has shrunk, closed in around you instead of opening up like a spring sunflower.  You miss jogging with your over-weight friends, having them pat you on the back after a good race and tell you how well you did and then going out for one too many guilt free beers after a run that leaves you with enough energy to, well…enjoy the rest of the evening.

           You miss all that and more. 

           You were a pro for a while.  And wouldn’t trade the time for anything.  But you want to be a regular athlete for the rest of your life, with all the benefits that profession brings with it.

           The Dream is the same, with a few more colors maybe.

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date: November 24, 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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