A couple of months ago an acquaintance and I were talking about running and triathlons. She is an avid runner and also enjoys doing olympic distance triathlons. She mentioned that 2 of her friends had recently trained for an Ironman. Then, she went on in great detail to explain how selfish it is for people with young children to take on such a task. I sat and listened carefully and also bit my tongue, as I did not want to mention that I was going to tackle this “selfish” pursuit as well. My lack of bringing it up was more so she did not feel uncomfortable about potentially upsetting and/or insulting me. Actually, I was not upset, as I found all of her points of view to have some validity to them and her convictions were so strong that I was not going to talk her out of them anyway. The one thing that stuck with me from that conversation was “they stole time from their families to do what they wanted”.
I am currently 12 weeks into my training and have about 5 months more to go before the big day. The training has gone well and I have been able to complete the workouts with very little disruption in my family life. Of course, that has not been easy. I carefully and creatively schedule workouts at very early hours before the kids wake up or on days that I am off work, but they are in school. For the most part, I have kept my guilt to a minimum about this time consuming endeavor by keeping the impact low on anyone else.
Our messy, messy, mess of a playroom/exercise room…but having fun!
I had put the conversation about “selfishness” out of mind until this Friday. The past week has been very hectic and I had to change my entire schedule and squeeze things in where I could. Friday morning I started my 3 hour ride on my bike trainer and felt very anxious about the million and one things I had to do. However, #1 was getting the ride done, since the rest of the week had gone amiss. I pedaled for 30-40 minutes and was fine. Then, I started to look around the kid’s playroom (where my bike is located) and I felt overwhelmed with guilt. It is a gigantic mess, toys everywhere, dust bunnies in the corners, and dog hair piled up under the treadmill!
“Let’s see…I can get off this bike now and start cleaning…or sit here for a few more hours!?!”
My mind went off to: “what are you doing?”, “are you really going to spend 3 hours here looking at this mess?”. Then, the conversation came back: “You are stealing time from your family!” “Am I being self-centered?” “Is this indeed a selfish pursuit?”
Fortunately (or unfortunately depends on your point view), I had 2+ more hours on my trainer to think about it!
So what did I come up with? Sure, this is a bit selfish, as this is something that I want to do for me and yes, it is time consuming. (Although, so is a round of golf every weekend and that seems to be socially acceptable.) There is no financial gain here, I’m not winning the event or going to the Olympics. It’s unlikely that I will excel in my career (as an RN) because I have this under my belt. This is not going to help my children in the future or in any other way… Or is it? At this moment, I started to think of all the races I have done and how much fun the kids have had at them. There are some races that they ask me to do again because “that was really fun!”.
They have watched me be very committed to something I love that is not attached to anything financial or material, as it is completely intangible. They have seen me spend hours and hours training for marathons and triathlons then cross the finish line joyfully even though I may have finished at the bottom of my age group. I finished..smiling…and that is what matters.
I had a goal, I worked diligently, and I finished it in the best way that I could! What a great lesson for them to see?! The Ironman is something I dreamed of doing when I was a 14 year old girl that loved being on the track team and competing for the local YMCA swim team. If this dream is a selfish pursuit, then so be it! My only hope is that my children learn from me that it is “ok” to pursue their childhood dreams as an adult, even if others may not understand.
I would love to hear your thoughts? Selfish pursuit or fulfilling a dream?
***This post was originally written in March of 2015 during my training for Ironman Mont Tremblant, which I completed in August 2015. I am currently training for Ironman Lake Placid 2017.