August 29, 2008

Addicted? Me?! What?!

“You’re addicted!” The only way you’ve avoided hearing that phrase is by either not telling people you train most days of the week or by not actually training most days of the week. Such sins of omission are entirely understandable. Keeping the peace, or a low profile can be difficult enough when you’ve got a tan like a panda bear and legs as hairless as Michael Jordan’s head. The full story has been known to cause non-athletes to think your last known address was Area 51. Wait till you do an Ironman, then when you explain to people WHAT it is, you will learn the true meaning of blank expression.

But addicted? It’s not like any of us would ever say, “I can stop this any time.” We don’t pretend our lives could go on without sport and remain fulfilled, enjoyable. And shouldn’t that be the definition of addicted? Shouldn’t a true addiction be something we are honest about, the thing without which our lives would lose some luster?

We, ourselves, can joke about being addicted to being outdoors and testing ourselves. About how when we miss it we get the DTs. How we get neurotic without that outlet. How our loved ones beg us to go outside and do something that burns that energy in a positive way when we`re being “that person”.

No matter how we joke, most people simply don’t understand our devotion. From following the racing, to structured workouts and, of course, the numbers of hours we spend in the grandeur of the outdoors each week, our love for sport can seem unnatural, even unhealthy. And anything done to excess must be unhealthy, right?

But here is where I find the difference remarkable. True addictions narrow one’s world. Whether drugs, alcohol or compulsive disorders, addictions define a person’s world into necessary and unnecessary and as the disease progresses, less and less is necessary. Meals, jobs and eventually even loved ones can be determined expendable by the brain hijacked by the disease.

What an active lifestyle / committed sports lifestyle has done for my life is anything but. I don’t think anything else in my life taught me the value of hard work the way training has (insert image of Raoul swimming 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 10 years of his youth here). My interest initially in swimming, then biathlon, and now triathlon has led to learning about physics, metallurgy, physiology, GPS technology, blood chemistry, metabolism, diet, European cultures and cuisine, Hannibal and wine, not to mention expanding my knowledge of other subjects I was already interested in including geography and photography. Now that I`m adding a digital side to my life, it mixed with that, and if you are reading this right now, then you are bearing witness to this.

My experience can’t possibly be unique. But universality is no standard by which to judge. The epiphany I came to in defending my love of and devotion to triathlon and specifically Ironman is that the sport has made my world bigger. What it has done for me is nothing short of miraculous. It has exposed my weaknesses and foibles like no shrink could. I give nearly everything in my life greater effort thanks to Ironman and there’s a chance that I’m a more tolerable person to friends and family. Come to think of it, I am a wholly better person thanks to making a commitment to a valued life of excellence and much of this comes from being involved in my Ironman goals, which by chance involves 18 hour training weeks. I have never felt as awesome as I do this year.

I doubt very much the definition of addiction includes feeling better about yourself.

Now go train…

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