July 12, 2007

Buy A Bigger Bowl

I remember racing my first 10k and not having any fathom of how I could run one step further. 6.3 miles was impossible.

I did my first Olympic distance triathlon and couldn’t imagine how people completed anything longer.

I did a ½ Ironman and knew without a doubt that there was no way in hell I could ever race twice that distance.

I did an Ironman.
And I felt wonderful at the end.

We are interesting animals, us humans. (Yes, I know we’re mammals, but let’s not split hairs on this one right now. You’ll make me lose my train of thought.) Most of us can only imagine what we already know. Sure we can pretend to muddle about other things, but true imagination is different. Imagination has one foot in reality. In the confines of our human brains, imagination has boundaries.

We live in a box that we call reality, trapped on all sides by boundaries and categories. And for most of us that box defines the limit of our imaginations.

We leverage our life experiences as a means to stretch our imagination. Like a theme from the Truman Show, day after day we travel down the same road, until one day we dare to imagine a different route to a different destination.

As athletes, we are given the opportunity to dream on a regular basis. We strive to go faster, harder, stronger, longer. We dream of beating this time or conquering that course. And when we focus on the dream, when we set out a plan, suddenly the dream is in the realm of reality. It is within our box.

Our bodies are controlled by our minds. Nobody ever won without first daring to dream that they could. So we push ourselves not as much to the limits of our body, but to the limits of our imagination. Assume you can never finish an Ironman, and you never will.

Let’s call it the Bannister Effect.

In a world that believed in the limitations of man, Roger Bannister dared to imagine. He imagined that he could run a sub-4 minute mile, a feat that was far beyond the collective imagination of the time. Yet once he stretched beyond these mindless limitations and broke the 4-minute barrier, the floodgates of imagination were let loose. Just as suddenly, many others dared to imagine within the expanded Bannister walls. And just as quickly, dozens of others ran faster than a 4 minute mile.

As triathletes, it is up to us to challenge ourselves and stretch the limits of our minds. As we do, so our bodies will follow.

In a funny way we are like goldfish – we will always expand to the size of our bowl. No matter how big the challenge set before us, we will find a way to succeed.

Think you can’t do an Ironman?
I think you are wrong.
Buy a bigger bowl.

Dare to dream. Dare to peek outside the confines of your imagination. Stretch out your arm and put your hand through the fire. Grab hold of the other side and pull yourself through.

I promise, you won’t get burned.


jbmmommy said...

A very inspiring post. Thanks.

snowygrl said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence it is always nice to hear.

Spokane Al said...

Buy a bigger bowl.

Amen brother.

No Wetsuit Girl... overseas! said...

I always loved that anecdote about the 4 minute mile. Didn't they say that IF he ever did it he would drop dead at the finish? And then like 17 people broke 4 minutes in one year. Yeah, I wish I could break 4 minutes. I can do it in a car, that's within my box.

ChrisM said...

I still don't think I can do IMAZ. gonna try anyway

jgirl said...

Wow. I am going to have to check in here more often. You have a gift of words. Thank you. ~j

triathlonmom said...


TriTurtL said...

Needed to hear this! Thanks man!

carmen said...

same sentiment
but much more positive
than my favorite saying

TriGirl Kate O said...

Thank you for putting it in perspective for me. I told my husband to shoot me if I ever said I wanted to sign up for a full iron, during my second 1/2 iron that I DNF'd. Now that I have that taste of quitting in my mouth, I'm rueing my decision and words and may yet sign up for the full iron meal. Time for me to go shopping for that bigger bowl...

Anonymous said...

During ironman training, I often looked down at my dinner and said... "I need a bigger bowl!" LoL. Nice post!

aLdZ said...

oh wow!! I just read your may 14, 2009 post that led me to this post...


..I just gave up on doing my first sprint tri..

..and after reading, i am INSPIRED!! please allow me to share this article with others.. thanx..

jeanne said...

awesome awesome awesome!!!

Three weeks ago, i was TOTALLY convinced I could NEVER do a half IM. THen I rode 67 miles. And the thought popped into my head, that maybe, just maybe...next year!