September 19, 2006

An Inspirational Rebuttal

I wrote this random piece a few days ago called "History and The Loss of Tri-Innocence." In case you haven't perused through my thoughts (a much better version of which is on TriFuel), let me give you the basic rundown. It is about inspiration in triathlon and how our source of inspiration has morphed over the years.

I've received some very nice comments about my thoughts. Thank you very much to all you nice comment people. Then, of course, I got this one:

Are you kidding me? There is inspiration at every triathlon event. Look around. Talk to the other competitors. Besides the pros everyone else at a trialthon is fitting in training with life, kids, work, etc. There are thousands of incredible people. Look at Frank Farrah! OMG I look up to him so much more than any pro.

All of the sudden I'm wondering if I made my point clear enough. Apparently I didn't. I usually don't directly respond to negative comments in a public forum but this one came from an anonymous user and, more importantly, it sounds like it's coming from a place of confusion. So let me clarify.

First of all, I did a Google search for Frank Farrah and all I came up with was a whole bunch of gobbledy-gook, including some links to something about Farrah Fawcett and Frank Caliendo (though I'm not sure who he is and what he's doing with Charlie's Angel.) Call me ignorant, but clearly I have no clue who Frank Farrah is. However, I have no doubts that he's a very inspiring gentleman and I hope someday that I'll get to meet him and be inspired, mano a mano.

More importantly, the fact that you find Frank Farrah so inspiring is proof positive of the purpose of my little ditty (which, for the record, is a little ditty that has absolutely nothing to do with Jack and Diane, two American kids growing up in the Heartland.)

My point is that in the early days of triathlon, most of the inspiration came from the professional racers. At that time the sport was so young and, hence, the accomplishments so unbelievable, the inspiration shocked the world. Take Julie Moss, for instance. Her crawl across the finish line in 1982 is, arguably, the single biggest reason why people have gotten into the sport of triathlon. Similarly, the IronWar between Mark Allen and Dave Scott in 1989 had an impact far beyond the world of triathlon. The inspiration of their vicious battle suddenly made Ironman a household name.

However, as triathlon (and Ironman, in particular) continues to grow at an unbelievable rate, we are no longer seeing the same type of inspiration. No longer are the pro racers accomplishing feats that make the whole world hold it's breath, like Julie Moss did oh so long ago. In fact, barring the highly improbably chance of Lance Armstrong winning the Ironman World Championships, I don't think we'll ever again see a professional triathlete inspire the world with their actions. Those days are long gone. For them, triathlon is a business - the faster you go, the more money you make.

Inspiration now lies within the hearts of the age groupers like you and me. Mind-numbing inspiration is no longer something we are watching on television, it is something that we are living. As triathletes, we are displaying and witnessing inspiration every day with our every actions.

Have you ever been to the finish line of an Ironman? Call me crazy, but watching the pro-racers finish is probably the most boring part of the whole damn whizbanggery. At this point the professionals are all in such phenomenal shape and the stakes are getting so high, that racing Ironman is almost just like another day at work for them.

But if you stay and watch those age groupers, whooo-eeee, you're in for a big bite of inspirational pie. The ones coming in at 13 hours and 14 hours... you can start to feel that inspiration as their excitement echoes off the stands. And as the clock tips over to 15 hours and 16 hours, shivers start slipping down your spine like a full body blast from a Peppermint Patty. When the clock starts ticking down the seconds to the 17 hour cut-off, it's like the entire world is once again holding its breath.

So am I saying that there is no inspiration left in the sport? Hell no. To the contrary, my friend, there is so much inspiration out there in every single person, it'd probably be a good idea for Kleenex to start sponsoring some of these events.

Inspiration is in all of us. Even Frank Farrah.
Whoever the hell he is.


Roman Mica said...

I'm with you J. I don't see what The History of Colchester Zoo has to do with anything. ;-) At least that's what I get when I Google Frank. Here's the link:

I say if you want true inspiration try Googling Team Hoyt:

Shelley said...

Are you thinking of Frank Ferrar

Baun said...

It's Frank Farrar. He's a former governor of South Dakota and a young 77-year-old Ironman. Simply Stu even did an interview with him, which is totally worth checking out. Talk about inspirational!

Oh, and check this picture out here of Frank at IMWI 2006 (he missed the 17-hr cutoff by about 15 mins I think):

As RunBubbaRun says, truly one BAMF!

j. said...

awesome, baun. thanks for the tip. Frank Farrar makes a lot more sense than Frank Farrah... i just checked out your links and, without question, Farrar is a boiling pot of inspiration. oh that i may be so active and accomplished when i'm 77.

thanks again for clarifying.
you d'man.