A few of my triathlon Twitter friends (“Tweeps” as it were) have recently blogged about their lives and got a bit personal in their approach. I’ve recently been giving more thought to why I’m doing this and the things in my life (or missing from) that is driving me on this journey.
It’s a pretty deep issue I think. I am sure I’m not unique in that there are aspects of my formative years as a “yoot” that have set me up for this. I’m not going to over-share here, but I guess I’ll bullet out some of the high and low points.
I was born 1972 in the Philly burbs. Pretty normal early childhood I guess, but from a young age I think I was trying to earn my father’s attention and admiration. In the mid-80s – folks split up during my middle school years – it was pretty ugly. I guess as a distraction I threw myself into band in middle school and high school. I became heavily involved with my high school music program. This lead to a big part of my development and my psyche, especially in the competitive arena.
Just an aside about the band thing. Most of you might have gone to a high school with a decent band. My high school went through my four years never placing lower than 2nd in any adjudicated competition. That included three state championships.
Since band was about the only thing I really “owned” – I decided to major in music ed in college. From my (high school) junior year on I also marched in the highly competitive world of Drum Corps International. This involved auditioning for a non-profit drum and bugle corps, earning a spot, committing the time and significant money to tour tuition, and then leaving right after classes end and jumping on a 52 passenger bus for the summer.
These drum corps tours involve rehearsal days that can easily go into the 16 hour range, very little food, sleeping on gymnasium floors and bus seats, and 128 college-aged kids all working towards the same goals. It’s HIGHLY competitive and physically grueling. In fact, studies have been done on the physical demands of an 12 minute performance, and the heart rate and VO2 metrics show marathon-like conditioning. One season I went on tour with very little spring conditioning (I was working as a trainer at a local gym and was doing a lot of POWERLIFTING) at 225 lbs and low-ish bodyfat, and between June and early August I dropped down to 200 lbs at about 7% body fat. Check out this video to see one of my old teams in action.
So in my background, I come from a highly competitively-charged environment. I’ve taken to other hobbies in the meantime that have a competitive angle to them – namely trap shooting. You keep a handicap average, and in my few years of actually trying to improve I got pretty darn good. I actually considered selling my prized trap shotgun as a way to fund the purchase of a tri bike, but I was fortunate to be able to swing the purchase without it. I guess I thrive on trying to one-up myself, and to try to gain approval from those around me.
Fortunately my family supports me and cheers me on, and without them this wouldn’t be nearly as fun or fulfilling.