Just this morning I was writing about falling into a pit of despair. Not two hours after publishing that post, I hit a pit of da spare… tire that is.
I was riding on the indoor trainer and listening to none other than the best podcaster around, Babbittville Radio. Twelve minutes into the workout, I heard a loud snap. Not a pop. A snap. You guessed it: a spoke broke, that ain’t no joke.
Not all is lost. I do have another wheel. Maybe if it warms up today I’ll go out on the road. In my case, the road is usually very safe. However, today is Thanksgiving day in the US and that means hunting: lots of hunting all around me. I’m not sure I want to get hit by stray bullets or run over by frantic wildlife.
Before I start working out the details of my IM70.3Chatty training plan, I need a ladder. Not a step ladder or an extension ladder. I need a ladder to climb out of those negative, energy sucking, life draining emotional pits of despair.
Surely you know what I’m talking about. This isn’t just a triathlon thing, it’s an everybody thing. When you start something new, you get the excited, I-can-do-anything feeling. After a few weeks of hard work and fun, that feeling slowly turns into the why-the-hell-did-I-commit-to-such-a-stupid-idea thought. That’s a pit of despair and it’s just the first one on the road to crossing the finish line. Another one is the I-can’t-do-this-I’m-not-good-enough-self-doubt feeling. If they catch you by surprise, you might hang up your IRONMAN dreams and just do the local sprint next weekend.
On the other hand, if you’re ready for the pits and potholes along your journey, you’ll know exactly what to do to keep you going. My ladders are simple.
Ladder Number 1
Even if you’ve never heard of Bob Babbitt, you’ve probably heard Bob Babbitt. His podcasts are the best in our sport. He knows everyone: the pros, the challenged, the innovators, the old guard, the new guard, the mainstream, the offbeat, the unbeaten, the rookies, the comebacks, the famous, the infamous. All of them.
Remember the movie that I promoted in Wilmington (August, 2018), We Are Triathletes? Bob was executive producer of that film. But that’s beside the point.
The real point is that during my training, I’m going to get into a bad wave of negativity and self doubt which will tempt me to hang it all up and just do a 5k instead. There’s simply no way to avoid it. After 13 years of training and racing, I know this will happen and that’s when I turn to the long list of podcasts on Babbittville Radio.
Just the other day, Bob was interviewing Charley French about his life and his involvement in triathlon. I’m not going to spoil it for you, so you’ll just have to listen for yourself about this 93 year old who invented the aero bars that all triathletes and time trialers use. Spoiler alert: he still races! Talk about inspiring. And if that doesn’t do it for you, throw away the heart rate monitor because YOU’RE DEAD. Just kidding. Read on.
Ladder Number 2
If the podcasts don’t do it for me, I have a backup ladder: my father. He’s been dead since 2010, so he won’t mind if I talk about him here.
There were two people I idolized when I was growing up. One was Will Rogers and the other was Don LaFontaine. Not really. Will Rogers yes. Don LaFontaine no. That was just a jab in the ribs of my father who’s been dead 9 years. If you want to know about the jab, you’ll have to ask, but you should always be careful about jabbing dead people: yuck. Of course, the other role model of mine was, and still is, dad.
Dad, Hal as he was called, was in a comfortable position in a major Southern California university. One day, he looked down the hallway and saw his own funeral. Either he was hallucinating or he was speaking metaphorically, but either way it had a tremendous impact on him. He resigned and became Rhoda’s father and Betty White’s boyfriend among other roles. More importantly, he was living his dream.
These days when I think of him, I’m reminded that hard work and a dream can and will yield fantastic results if you get out of your own way. For that reason I carry a picture of him on my basebars.
That’s really all there is to it for me. The key is to know that there will be bad days ahead and to prepare for them. The best ladder is one that I didn’t even mention above: a group, a club, training buddies. In other words, a support network that knows what you are going through. They don’t have to counsel you. They just need to be there, because after all we are social creatures. You get the idea.
If you live in the States, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. If you don’t live in the states, I wish a very happy Thursday.