Fucking nailed that best man’s speech… Well that’s this year’s terrifying ordeal over with. No, there is no proof; yes, you are taking my word that I did fucking nail it, you miserly cynics. I think I’m going to quit my day job and just become a best man for hire.
Back to the sporting talk.
I love this picture. That gloriously awkward smirk is the face that’s launched phase two of Project Half-Rust: the fundraising page up above now has a working link to donate money on my behalf to the Maytree Foundation (explanation of who they are on the fundraising page). That’s all I plan to say on that for the time being – because I will be That Guy, yelling about this from every conceivable rooftop, come next year. But yeah, it exists.
So, having covered last week why I’m in to the sporting thing in general, this week I’m going to take a shot at explaining why triathlons in particular and why an Ironman.
Triathlon as a sport can look pretty intimidating to get into. Financially, the entry costs are pretty high compared to a lot of sports. Once you’ve got a wetsuit, goggles, bike, helmet, bike shoes and cleats of inevitable and excruciatingly embarrassing doom, running trainers, and a tri suit; that’s a fair whack. It’s not like, say, football: a fifty quid pair of football boots and you’re good to go. If you’re looking really top-end, you can accompany said boots with a fancy replica shirt with your favourite player’s name on the back, and steel yourself for the crushing sorrow as he deserts you as soon as the next transfer windows rolls around. Looking at you, Grant. You broke my heart.
It’s not just the money thing: there’s a lot of time involved in practising a multi-discipline sport if you want to improve at it. You can’t pop out a couple of times a week for training – if you want to be improving in all three disciplines you have to dedicate a large portion of your free time to work on each of them. The nosedive in the amount of gigs and shows I have been to see this year compared to last is testament to this sacrifice. Early mornings and late nights become commonplace. There simply isn’t enough time in my life for a lot else.
You also need to be pretty tough mentally, because you’ll be spending more time than is healthy in a spandex one-piece, around a lot of people with chiselled athletic physiques. It toughens you. I’ve heard it said that triathletes are arrogant narcissists – yep, no argument here. It’s a necessary survival mechanism; the one-piece demands it.
With all of that, it’s a wonder I made it into this sport at all. Triathlons are one of those things I’d idly threatened to do for years in a very non-committal manner. I was a very non-committal type of guy in general for years – God forbid you should actually put some effort into something, because if you think it’s bad now, wait until you see how much you harangue yourself for failing something you actually tried at. “Oh, I’d like to do a triathlon one day” ranked up there with “I should learn a foreign language” and “maybe I’ll try writing an essay some time other than the day it’s due in”. Wanting was a lot less painful than actually doing.
In effect, me actually starting to do the whole triathlon thing is me becoming my own make-a-wish foundation. Triathlon to me means actually working towards and achieving a long-term goal, rather than just drifting, too afraid of life to make any meaningful decisions. Finally, I am following through with an idea. I imagine the sudden switch from meandering to focused and recluse to athlete (hah!) is probably the cause of the sudden whiplash that’s led to an Ironman.
It may surprise some people to learn that I was not the athletic kid at school. I was the maths geek. And the everything-else geek, to a degree. Bless me, I tried at sport, but never really had the coordination for it (anyone who’s seen me practicing rolling bike mounts at transition training will be reading that and thinking “no, really?”). The only physical activities I was vaguely competent at had endurance as the basis of the competition: I’d opt for the longest distance run available for the ‘everyone in the class has to represent at something’ sports days; as a Thai boxer I was always much better at getting face-punched than doing the face-punching.
With a newfound hunger for all things active, it makes sense to me to test the limits of what I am capable, mentally and physically. An Ironman is the perfect way to do that, because it’s just beyond the limits of sensible at this stage in my triathlon ‘career’, without being completely unrealistic. A more rational person might have started with a half-Ironman, to make sure that they’re comfortable with the distance. Hell, maybe they might have run a marathon so they at least we’re sure they were capable of one aspect of this endeavor.
I’m not really doing this to be comfortable though. What I want is this: to take all those years of self-abuse and be able to look at them and say, hey, I got tough. I might have gained my strength through some pretty awful methods, but I got there. I want it to count for something, I want to be able to use it for something positive, something that I can be proud of. I own my psychological problems, and I intend to whip them like a sadistic circus animal handler until they dance for me, dammit. It’s time to stop wanting and start doing.
Also, part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise funds and awareness for The Maytree Respite Centre, a small charity in North London that provides support for people going through a suicidal crisis – so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here. Thanks so much!