While I spend the last few days here in Victoria preparing to leave for Hawaii, I can’t help but become very philosophical on WHY we do what we do, and what positive effect our actions and choices have on others. It is hard to stay focussed on "winning" things when the achievement is truly fleeting. I feel that only when you manage to inspire someone else, and they carry on to inspire the next person, that your achievement may have lasting value… I was recently at Interbike for the big North American cycling trade show, where all the cool factor of this industry is showcased. I was there for one of the coolest new things… the Compex Sport E-stim device, and they treated me like a rock star, which makes you feel great, and satisfied that you worked hard to get there. However, it was the number of people who follow my sport and my career, who felt that they wanted to come and talk to me, who really made me feel like someone special. I could not believe the number of people who asked me to sign copies of the Adventure Sports magazine I was on the cover of, or just came to wish me good luck and tell me stories about how they are triathletes thinking about Xterra, or how someone in their family is. It felt so great, to be approached by someone who would then relay stories about their life, and how maybe, in some small way, I affected the direction their life might have taken.
Xterra is growing in terms of participation, as well as recognition in the triathlon community. I am proud of how the women’s race is recognized equally as the men’s. This is why I believe the rivalry in my sport at the moment is so important. Women generally aren’t viewed as intensely competitive as men, it isn’t LADYLIKE. This is crap, women are as gutsy, fierce and driven as our male counterparts, and the athletes who race are maybe not equally physically strong, but they definitely are as mentally strong. I believe the portrayal of strong, driven and focussed women in this type of "reality tv" is so positive for young girls and women around the world.
This brings me back to the beginning of this story. Inspiration. I think it is VERY important to inspire the youth of today to take up sports. I believe the lessons learned in sport are so valuable when one decides to leave active competition in sport to pursue active competition in the workplace. Drive, ambition, integrity, goal setting – all of these qualities one finds in an athlete is what one would expect in the highest level of any organization (or the government). Or at least this is what one would hope! Given the landscape of corporate and goverment scandal we are seeing at the moment, wouldn’t we hope that the next generation of athletes would turn their attention to the corporate world, to government, or to activism? Wouldn’t their skill and energy shape a brighter future?
Besides the kids, I am looking at the women I meet every day. I don’t know how many women I know, some very, very close to me, that don’t have the self-esteem or confidence to live their lives the way they dreamed. They are at a loss for goals, for self-worth, and as a result, for motivation. No one encouraged them as children to be active, to be athletic, to be competitive. Now they might be at a new stage in life, perhaps after all the kids are gone or they’re changing careers and they don’t know what would be their passion. Aren’t these the perfect people to take up sport as a new challenge? If you made some time to train, to start fresh, to be a part of a whole new world you didn’t live in while you were younger, why not live there now? These women are the categories from 40-60+ years we will see at the Xterra World Championships, and they are the ones who, this year, inspire me. They will tell 2 friends their accomplishment, who will tell 2 friends, and so on. In this way, perhaps, more women will fight depression with training, and will turn away from unhealthy lifestyle choices with goals of competing in a world championship. Not only will they live a healthier life, but so will their family and maybe their friends as a result.
Soon after this World Championships, one of the most important elections will take place for American citizens. My survey this month is related to that. I hope that every US citizen votes, stands for what they believe in, and I hope that when we go into 2005 we have an optimistic and bright new season to look forward to. Our participation in this event reflects the healthy lifestyle and choices of about 800 people, plus the 2000 people at Ironman, and the hundreds of thousands who might not have made it to these events, but aspire to next season. All the best to all of us competing this weekend, and congratulations to all the Ironman athletes who had such gutsy and admirable performances this past weekend. The world IS a better place when there is sport around.