Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fly away to Omaha

There is nothing that scares me more on this earth than an expanse of water that is 8 feet wide and 50 meters long.  I have had some hard-bitten dudes point firearms at me in Guatemala.   I have rappelled 100s of feet down into black holes in the ground.  I've ridden a mountain bike off of stuff that would give a billy goat vertigo.  I am no stranger to dumb-ass nail biter stuff.  Having said all that, there is nothing that weakens my knees like standing on the starting blocks at one end of a long course meters pool.  I (mostly) don't do the other dumb things anymore... but I still get on those starting blocks.  I still feel my stomach turn to water.  Nothing is as intimidating (for me) as looking down the length of that 50m.  Conversely, there ain't nothing that thrills me more.  I feel like "I don't belong here" and "this is who I am".  I worry that everyone else standing on the blocks alongside me will know that "I can't do this" and at the same time I know that "I am going to kick all of your asses".  Fear and insecurity are juxtaposed with confidence and swagger on a starting block.  The faster the pool and bigger the swim meet - the louder the dichotomy tilts between the opposites, ringing like a bell.  It is only in that endless nanosecond when Quasimodo stops pulling on the bell rope and the starter's horn sounds that I find all of it washes away.  When I hit that water only the race matters.  

Today I took the plunge and went all in on the 2012 US Master Swimming Nationals swimming meet.  It is in Omaha, Nebraska 5 July through 8 July.  I bought my airline ticket, my hotel room, and my registration for the meet.  I will be swimming 50m/100m/200m butterfly, as well as the 400m free.  I have two months to get ready it.  To be real, I have two months to be ready for the 200m butterfly.  Four lengths of oxygen deprived hell.  In a pool twice the length of what I typically train in.  Four lengths that, at present, I can not not do.  I'll do it.  But I am not going there to finish it.  I am going there to compete in it.  I am in it to win even when I probably can't.  

I am going there to stand on those blocks and make the folks on either side of me think "shit, that is John Beck. I am in big trouble here."  I am going there because (strange and unreasonable as it may sound) I think I can win.  At an intellectual level I know that I can't win.  Hell, an old Clarion team mate, Ross Davis, will be in the same event and I know that he can mop up the deck with me!  To be honest, when I am on the blocks - I am always there to win.

I think that might be the key to achievement in athletics and in life.  I wish I could say that I brought that ethic to every aspect of my life.  I try to, but I often fall short.  That does not mean that we need to be cut-throat or unkind, or even aggressive.  It means that in the pool, in the gym, on the bike, with your family and friends - you need to be "all in".  Half measures achieve nothing but half results.

When I fly away to Omaha, Nebraska this July.  I will be there to win.  Even if I can't.  Wish me luck.


  1. Beautiful honey: don't be afraid to tell folks how real you are- how you have to first figure out that you won't be missing on spending time with the kids, and then the financial struggle and the attempt to utilize continental frequent flyer miles and la quinta inn bonus points, how u r going to have to limit the cost of meals and walk to the stadium where the events are. How you will get to see the greats of swim- the professionals, and how you will fight and swim to make sure that your family and friends are proud of supporting you. You are our super hero- bad hip and all! Today I did a 5 K race and mud run because of you- I stepped out of my comfort zone, I felt the anxiety and the rush you describe, and it was awesome. Bad ass Inspiration to live out one's dreams! That's u!!!! Thank you.

  2. Good luck John. Thanks for letting us come along on your journey.

    1. 'Becca! Thank you. Hope all is well with you.

  3. At age 31, I flat-lined in the OR. I weighed 117 lbs and nearly bled to death from a severe intestinal illness. At age 47, I got a platinum medal in the Tour of the Tucson Mtns bike race, averaging over 23.5 mph for 55 miles (about 3-4 mph slower than Tour de France riders). There is nothing important you cannot do if you believe and train and believe and train. If you have modest natural talent and have the mind and heart to be the best you can be, you can win and/or have the satisfaction that you have done as much with your talent, abilities and age as any human can. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing you have done your absolute best. Commit totally, give everything and celebrate your effort as well as that of others who do the same.