|At his Jeffco awards with AJ|
Ironman Boulder, or any Ironman, is like the Death Star and just sucks you in to its grip of doubt and intimidation. But it’s just a day of exercising really. For me, once the swim is over, it’s all down hill from there. No doubt once the day starts there is a lot of nervous energy projected that will cause my adrenaline to spike but I am going to try and think of my good friends’ son AJ during my race. His story has nothing to do with triathlons but more about following his dreams having no idea what was in the pot at the end of the rainbow. Yes, Pearl Street will be an amazing finish, but what’s in that pot?
It always comes down to expectations. Maybe having none is the key to all of this. Maybe if we just focus on the passion and happiness competing gives us, the rest will take care of itself. I know, it’s easy to get swept into the slipstream of race anxiety and the worry of this and that but presumably 50 weeks ago or so you decided to dedicate a year to getting ready for the challenge. AJ started his journey at birth and simply dedicated his life (unknowingly) to his craft.
He recently won the most prestigious art award on the planet for high school kids. A few months ago he had never even had heard of it. Other kids go to special schools and to great lengths to try to even be considered for this award but maybe they focused too much on the reward of their talent, rather than the talent itself.
|At Carnegie with his teacher Mr. Yutzy|
AJ, this joyous, kind of a goofball kid, but with the biggest heart ever, called himself the Bad News Bears of the Scholastic Art & Writing award ceremony recent held at Carnegie Hall in New York City. This truly simple, yet complex kid from the suburbs of Denver going to a very ordinary school won a very coveted gold medal. He came out of the woodwork with over 300,000 entries of art submitted and reviewed. In triathlon terms this would be somewhat like the winner of an age group sprint race going Kona and beating the pros. This is a big deal with the likes of Andy Warhol, Truman Capote and Robert Redford among the lengthy list of recipients of this 90-year-old award.
For 18 years, AJ learned a different way and didn’t really fit into the mainstream school structure. As a wee lad, I remember seeing how he could take a pile of Legos and turn them into the most imaginative and dynamic world ever. He would go at it for hours. I remember a beach trip to Mexico where the sun traversed the sky and AJ made it no further than a patch of sand that became a magical castle.
|All clay, just some of his amazing work|
He kept following his passion and learned the art and science of pottery making. I spent time with him the other night and he explained in amazing detail all that goes into pottery. He described the different types; stoneware, earthenware and porcelain. The complexity blew my mind with all the different types of clay and firing processes and I soon began draw this weird parallel to my passion of triathlon.
His passion taught him more chemistry, history, art, social sciences and problem solving than any book or teacher could ever offer. Knowing how much he struggled with “regular school” and hearing the most articulate and passionate description of his work and the world of pottery and really how it is a big part of human history, really got me thinking. Am I just going about life, and in particular triathlons and ironman’s the wrong way? Am I forgetting the path too often?
Am I forgetting the love of competing and worrying about the reward too much? I’m not even sure what that reward is. Yes a ticket to Kona would probably suffice to say the least, but I don’t control that. Effort is not enough. Everyone tries hard, some people are just faster. Finishing is a great reward but I’m not sure it’s enough for me. But what is? Maybe that is the crux of the challenge of life—what is enough and what isn’t? When is failure a success, what is failure or is there really no such thing, just experience?
An Ironman is great place to find out and dig deep and look back and wonder “what if” and look forward and ask what now.
For AJ, he is lucky; he is on his way to one of the most prestigious art colleges in the country to perfect his craft. Listening to him and his depth of knowledge and desire to learn, this kid who overcame amazing odds will undoubtedly be successful because he simply never gave into his passion. He made it both his destination and journey.
I hope I can do that in two weeks and enjoy the 140.6 miles of effort and pain and be ok with the reward of racing that far and let the chips fall where they may. Like pottery, which in its simplest forms is earth, water and fire, a triathlon is just a swim, a bike and a run; one stroke, one pedal and one stride at a time and worry about everything else later.
Simple right? Just relax, put it together and know there is no right or wrong finish. Every pot is different and beautiful and can never be duplicated. Just like our races, each one is a once in lifetime experience.
Thanks AJ for the lesson…..keep making the world more beautiful.