Many people chase happiness as the ultimate goal. This is flawed in many, many ways.
Many leaders also tell us to follow our passions. This is not too far from the truth, but not exactly right either.
As humans, we can exist. We can live everyday by simply eating, sleeping, using the bathroom, and being zombies. We exist for the sake of existing. This is fine, but striving for something better usually makes life more interesting.
Over the past week, I found myself sitting in my apartment in San Antonio, enjoying YouTube, books, and all the great things the internet has to offer.
I started to notice how alone I felt. I started to consider that I was an extrovert instead of being the introvert I always thought I was. Then I realized something was missing from my life. Something of use, perhaps.
And that was just it. Being useful to the world around me. While I am exploring career opportunities, in recent weeks, I’ve spent quite a lot of time alone, working on projects here or there. These projects are quite solitary and really useful only to myself.
While many of us chase happiness, I think the real goal in life is to be useful to your community. That is, you are providing value, giving back, and participating in your community on a regular basis. Doing these things on a regular basis has been quite devoid of my time for the entire year.
I was sick for six months, I left my job to take time off, and now I am able to realize the value of being useful. Being useful not only helps us be a part of our community, but also provides us with an opportunity to socialize, build self-esteem, and even make our community and others better.
As you become useful, you will share a bit of yourself and others will share a bit of themselves with you. This sharing of experience is a vital part of life and is essential to living longer. Those with high quality relationships with others tend to live longer.
As you go through your day, think of the ways you are being useful to those around you. Engage with the people around you and discover what makes them useful. Stop chasing happiness, stop searching for your passions, and just be useful. The rest will come.
Giving back to the community can take many forms. From donations to local charities to adopting a highway, there is more than one way to give back. How one gives back often depends on their beliefs and passions.
Being a triathlete convert from an office potato, I understand the impact of fitness on improving one’s quality of life. So, for my philanthropic project for 2012, I decided to do something so outside my box, that I downright frightened myself.
Combining my passion for competition and the local need for a new type of sporting event, I created the concept of the Goleta Duathlon. A run-bike-run event that is structured as a “B” race, good for seasoned athletes as a warm-up, and a great first race for beginners, that will double as a fundraiser for the Foundation for Girsh Park.
For the first time in my life, I set the bar so high, it drowns me with fear. Being Race Director is a huge responsibility as the success of the event and the safety of all participants lie on my shoulders. This event will sink or swim because of me.
Luckily, some of the same principles I learned in triathlon competition apply to my Race Directorship. In no particular order:
Perseverance – Just don’t give up. Like a triathlon, the mind plays games and tries to get you to stop pushing the edge. When you get a flat tire, you either continue riding or you change it fast and double your effort to make up time. As a Race Director, you must keep moving toward the larger goal, even with “No” thrown at you. If one thing doesn’t work, get feedback and try another angle.
Flexibility – Triathlon requires a large amount of flexibility, particularly when dealing with race day conditions. You can’t let the snow stop you, just adjust your game. As a Race Director, listening to my community leaders and peers has lead to a very different event that I envisioned last summer when I came up with the idea. Instead of being stuck on the original event, I rode along for the ride and adjusted where I needed to.
Attitude is everything – Sure the rain sucks and makes you cold. But the cool thing is that you are doing a triathlon in the rain! Not a lot of people would be bragging about such a thing, but it makes a great story for the grandkids and your friends will respect you a lot more smiling as you cross the finish line in the rain. Race Director’s have to smile a lot too. During my first meeting with the city, my event was rejected. As crushed as I was, I listened to why they rejected it and worked with them. While the smile did disappear for a moment or two, when the smile came back, I knew this event was going to happen.
Enjoy the Journey – Life is not about the destination (death) and neither is the finish line. In fact, I find finish lines quite boring. The action is out on the course with every step. So, every interaction, every sponsor I speak to, and every athlete that contacts me is going to make the journey what it is. I will be focusing less on race day, and more on how to make race day hugely successful. Of course, a week before race day, the Race Director seldom sleeps, something that sweetens the journey.
While the daunting task of making the Goleta Duathlon & Fitness Expo a huge success has just began, I know I will be learning a lot along the way. I know I will also be doing a great thing for my local community. If there is one thing that keeps me going on this project, is knowing that this event will have a positive impact on a lot of people and be the reason for their smiles at the finish.
On this New Year’s Eve, I can’t help but reflect on how much I’ve grown in 2011 and how awesome the year was. While 2009 was the year of firsts and 2010 was the year of obsessive burnout, 2011 was the year of balance. Here are some of my best, and not so best, moments.
September 2011 – Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint
The Carpinteria Triathlon is my favorite triathlon. Period. It was very fitting that this year was the first year that I swam the entire ocean swim freestyle. No more side stroke and kicking with my legs. This translated to more energy and a much improved run time. While still not a PR, my finish time proved that swimming efficiently has a great impact on the other two sports! Read my race report here.
Camarillo Duathlon – August 2011
The Camarillo Duathlon was the event that I’ve been eying since I set my goal to complete my first triathlon a few years ago. Whether it was cancellations or my travel schedule, I was never able to make it to the event. Feeling the need to reconnect with myself, I got myself down to Camarillo and had a great time. Even though I did the sprint, this event drove home how much I love competing and no matter how busy the schedule gets, I must make time to compete and keep up with my training. Read my race report here.
Santa Barbara Triathlon – August 2011
The home town event was a wake up call. Having come off the Camarillo Duathlon, it was time to get back in the water and finish my first tri of the season. At the Santa Barbara Triathlon, wasn’t prepared for the embarrassment, a product of my lack of training (particularly ocean swims), poor dietary choices, and busy schedule. Seeing the pictures of me with a farmer’s tan wearing a race jersey two sizes too small is highly motivating to get back to my 2009 level of fitness. Read my race report here.
Next Generation Fitness Analytics: TrainingMetrix, LLC
2011 was also the year that I turned my passion for data, analytics, and fitness into a reality. By forming an LLC dedicated to helping athletes of all types leverage workout data with analytics, I found my calling. TrainingMetrix is the product of what I couldn’t find. Over the past few years I had struggled to find an analytic solution that worked for me, so I built one using Excel. I am now in the process of turning this into a marketable Excel template and web app. Check out TrainingMetrix.
2012 and Beyond
I am looking toward 2012 with great inspiration. I see the next year as a blank slate for some pretty awesome things to happen on. From expanding TrainingMetrix to completing my first long course triathlon (yep, I am going long!), to even holding my own duathlon as race director, I am planning to reach high and never look back.
I hope all of my readers can look back on 2011 and come away with some awesome moments. If you have some less than awesome moments you can’t shake, leverage them for the better and look forward.
Happy New Year to all! Let’s make 2012 the best year ever!
Given my crazy training year and the lack of ocean swimming practice I’ll take it! It was just fun to get out there on a beautiful Santa Barbara morning and race, support friends, and enjoy the wonderful sport of triathlon.
The swim was longer than last year (again!), the bike was more competitive, but the run felt consistently slow. I feel like I am progressing, but at a slow rate. Can’t wait to see what happens when I can put in a full 6 to 8 weeks of training before.
For the past three years, since the very first Camarillo Duathlon was publicized, I have had the goal of completing the course. Due to cancellations, scheduling conflicts, and even injury, I couldn’t quite get my butt down to Camarillo at the right time to get it done! This race turned into one of those long-term achievements that happen later for a reason.
Back in early 2009 when I set the goal, the race was just an Olympic event (5k run, 20mi bike, 5k run), but today it offers a sprint (1.5mi run, 10mi bike, 1.5mi run). So, when I arrived at Freedom Park in the wee hours of August 14, 2011, I was feeling a little like I had taken the easy road with the sprint. Little did I know that in a matter hours, I would be on cloud 9.
Before I go too much further, I would like to commend Bill Escobar for creating this awesome event for us. Hearing his announcements that morning, watching him interact with the public and volunteers, he demonstrated a passion for multi-sport and a level of hospitality that I haven’t seen before. Clearly he loves what he does and I am honored to be a participant in his events.
Without further ado, here are my highlights from the event. I will spare you the novel that I wrote earlier (you know that blow by blow narrative that is a tad long to post here, but if you want a copy of it, please email me armh31″at”gmail.com).
Of course the start was pretty melodramatic. We lined up and the horn blew. The pack ran off ahead and instead of following the speedy types, I settled into my groove. By the first turn, I was at the back of the pack, but I didn’t care. There were plenty of aircraft to admire along the route. As long as I wasn’t last, I was doing well…. observing, strategizing, and plane spotting!
T1 & Bike
Heading into transition I felt winded and one glance at my heart rate said I had pushed the run a tad hard. Mounting the bike, I sailed out onto the streets amongst the fields of Camarillo. With authorities keeping those pesky cars at bay, I settled into a decent pace for the 10 mile loop.
That is until the dude in the yellow jersey passed me. I don’t know why, but having HIM pass me turned a switch and the game was on! As hard as I tried to keep up with him, I couldn’t quite catch him… until nearly the end of the course. Things got really interesting as I saw him up ahead and slowing down. I easily passed him and we exchanged glances.
I thought I had him when, all of the sudden, a half mile later he goes whizzing passed me. I turn up the speed and start chasing him down, but the zigzags back to dismount kept me from catching him.
Then he made a mistake. He stopped a good 15 feet from the actual dismount line and I went sailing passed him again only to brake hard and stop right on the dismount line itself (a little trick I learned from an experienced triathlete). I had 15 feet on him and I ran hard with the bike to the transition. I still had him!
Run #2 & Finish
With a quick switch of gear, I headed out on the run, not even looking back to see where the mister yellow jersey was. I didn’t care, I had a lead to maintain, so I kept a fast (for me) but steady pace that I was certain I could handle all the way back to the finish. Since I had just run the same course, I knew what to expect and knew that once I was half way down the dirt road, turn on the sprint to finish.
But at the turn around, I saw that my competition had ditched the yellow jersey and wasn’t that far behind me. I was nervous so I picked up the pace just a bit more. Passing him, I could see in his eye that he already gave it his all. I had won… unless I screwed up.
Hitting the dirt road was when the legs seriously started to protest. Just as I considered my options, I was passed by an older guy whom I knew was a sprint participant. He was moving fast for his build and age, so I wasn’t about to give up my spot to him. A little earlier than I wanted, I went into sprint mode and ran him down.
Luckily, there was a curb to run around to the finish chute, which he negotiated rather slowly compared to my more flexible maneuver. Then it was a sprint to the finish and I beat him by two seconds.
And that was the end of a race I will never forget.
With my overall time of 1:09:31, I was happy to see myself just ahead of the Sprint race average of 1:10:33. That was good for 32nd place of 69 competitors. Camarillo Duathlon Sprint Race results were plotted by TrainingMetrix (graph above is reproduced with their permission) and you can see I am just ahead of average (the red dot).
So, have I achieved that goal I set years ago? As much as I want to say yes, I still have to finish the Olympic course and we might save that for 2012. But with the third race of 2011 coming up on Sept. 4th, I might just give the sprint one more try in 2011!
Note: I am working compiling some video of the race (the Olympic start) and will post a video post here when it is complete.