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A Letter to my Coach.

28 September 2017

Hi Marcy,

I just wanted to sum up my thoughts about the past nine months. It’s been an amazing challenge, in a challenging time. And one I don’t think I could have achieved without your guidance.

One of the principal core aspects of my self that I’m proud of is my ability to just keep going. When things are hard, or boring, or frustrating, or confusing. This is, I think, why endurance sports and ever-increasing distances appeal to me. I have never been fast, or agile, or graceful. But I can suffer and persist.

This has always served me well. As a child of a broken and occasionally abusive home, I have always needed to be able to put my pain in the background and trudge forward through whatever comes. As an alcoholic in recovery, I have had to proceed steadfastly through often difficult emotional territory to maintain my sobriety.

But until the past four years, I never applied this innate gift to the field of sports or fitness. Because I wasn’t dextrously gifted, I assumed that sports were outside the realm of potential achievement for me. But as I grew in sobriety, I learned something crucial from my experience:

The only thing it takes to be good at something is the willingness to be bad at it.

And so I started being bad at running. And being bad at cycling. And even though I was bad at it, I kept doing it. Sometimes ashamed, sometimes demoralized, sometimes injured, sometimes ambivalent. I kept on being bad at it. Until, as time went by and my education flourished and I met people who knew more than I did and I learned and grew, I slowly got better.

I have to make regular conscious decisions not to be ashamed of my ignorance and inadequacy. I tell myself: it’s ok not to know things. No one ever taught me this before. And then I go learn.

But some challenges are too big to just go take on alone. And half an Ironman is one of those. And so I decided to look for someone who knew more than I did, who’d done it before and would be willing to teach me. And I found you.

This was one of the biggest challenges I’ve set for myself. And yet, strangely, I still had a sense of shame about lacking the education I needed to accomplish this. I felt as though I should somehow just know what to do, to be able to muddle through the way I have with so many other things.

So there was a weird false pride I had to swallow to hire a coach. And I made that conscious but difficult decision to expose my ignorance, to be vulnerable with the truth of what I didn’t know, and rely on you to lead me the right way.

Few times have I ever placed my trust so well.

As Milton wrote, long is the way, and hard, that out of darkness leads up to light. But the way does lead, and I had a leader in you who knew the pitfalls of the trail, and understood the difficulty I was attempting, and respected the distance I had to go. Rather than frighten me with the length of the way, you inspired me with your passion for the journey.

And so when I stood on the dock, excited and afraid, there was one too-constant companion that I did not share a starting line with that day: doubt.

And after a day’s worth of pain and effort, now I have something that can never be taken. After a year’s worth of dedication and commitment, I have become something that will be a part of me forever.

I still see myself in the mirror sometimes as the fat boy. The smoker. The drunk. The child. The quitter. The loser. The cutter. These are faces staring back at me that I do not get to expunge. But they are joined by new faces you helped me shape.

Athlete. Finisher. And slowly, as the long work of my rehabilitation from fear and abuse and addiction and obesity and self-harm is slowly done, I am renovating myself, that face in the mirror, into the face I’ve always aspired to see: the face of a man.

Just that. I don’t have lofty goals. I only want to be a man in my own eyes, instead of a boy. This is all I’ve ever wanted. Finishing a race doesn’t make me a man. But committing to something daunting, being willing to admit my ignorance, to be vulnerable, to work and work and work, to stumble and cry and then get up and work again – that gets me closer. Closer than I’ve ever been.

I know you only signed up to coach me to the finish line of a half Ironman. But you did so much more.

Thank you.

– Dr. 24hours

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