For those of you reading this hoping for information that will help you get faster in the water or in transitions, you’ve come to the wrong place. I certainly have learned a lot about racing in my first few months of Triathlon training; I might argue enough to write a beginners book, or at least a beginners blog post. We’ll have to see if that ever happens.
Far more valuable than anything I’ve learned about racing, is what I’ve learned about myself. From the time I was young, I can remember my father saying to me, “when you set your mind to something, you can do anything you want.” But he didn’t mean it in the way that most fathers do, you know that kind of generic, motivational way. My Dad was referring to things that he’d seen me do.
Before I go into detail, let me tell you a bit about my Dad. He is far from perfect, but he has some amazing characteristics. For over 30 years, my father has left the house at 6:00 am and traveled over an hour from his house in suburban Philadelphia to Wilmington Delaware. He routinely gets home just before 7:00 pm and sits in the living room working until he goes to bed around 11:00. On the weekends, he is most often found in his office, working. When asked why he does it, his response is something like, “because it needs to be done.” He doesn’t complain about his long hours, not at all. He has been a perfect model of a hard work ethic, if not how to be a slave to your job.
My Dad is as down to Earth as they come. Despite his white collar job, I can remember days when I was bartending in my 20s when a group of bikers would come in and ask if I was Pat’s son. They would then tell me that they knew him from Wawa or 7-11 and what a great guy he was. My Dad would stand outside and drink his coffee with these tattooed roofers and construction workers and they loved him. He was so friendly that we joked that he waved to people he knew heading the opposite way down I-95.
My Dad was not without his faults however. He smoked heavily since he was about 12 years old. He drinks regularly, not heavily, but without it, he can become agitated and anxious. My father was probably a model of substance dependence for me too.
Back to the story about me; that is what this is supposed to be right? Anyway, when my Dad told me I could do anything that I set my mind to, he was referring to the things he’d seen. In high school as a rower, I wanted to get a scholarship to college. I worked relentlessly at it and had a singular focus (perhaps at the expense of my grades) and got an athletic scholarship to Temple University, one of the best rowing schools in the country. As I followed in my Dad’s footsteps and became a smoker and heavy drinker, (and unlike my Dad a cocaine addict) I quit cold turkey and have been clean for 7 1/2 years. During the height of my addiction, I got fired fired from my job, my wife left and took my son and I had to sell my house and move back in with my parents. My Dad watched as I rebounded and found a new career, fell in love again, bought a house and had another child.
I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging when I write all of this, I didn’t do it on my own. Throughout all of my struggles and triumphs, my faith in God has grown exponentially and I’ve had an amazing therapist who has pushed and guided me always with the right amount of effort.
I have my first triathlon in three days. In a million years I never would have thought this was something I would have ever been able to do. My Dad always knew I could. I’m not making any predictions about how well I’ll do, but I know I’ll finish. I’ve only begun to understand what he really meant when he told me that I can do anything I set my mind to. I feel empowered now and new words have entered my vocabulary like marathon and ironman. Whether I’ll ever actually complete one of those remains to be seen, but I’m certain my Dad thinks I can and I’m starting to think it’s only a matter of setting my mind to it. He’s believed in me from the beginning and now I’m starting to as well.
This triathlon experience has been the beginning of the evolution of me as a man. I don’t know where this journey will ultimately lead me, but I’m not done and don’t think I will be for a long time.