Deep Thoughts Post Kona: Trying to make sense of pursuing goals

Since racing in Kona a month ago, I’ve received many notes congratulating the accomplishment. One of my friends said something to the tune of, It must feel pretty amazing to set after a goal and then finally achieve it after so much hard work. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Yes, it felt awesome to finally get to the Big Island and race among the best in the world. That’s something I’ve dreamed about for a long time now. But afterwards — even after experiencing everything the race had to offer, having a pretty solid day on the course, and enjoying it all with my family and friends there — I was left wanting more. Don’t get me wrong, I had a BLAST, but I walked away feeling like I could do better. Better both in Hawaii and across the Ironman distance in general.   

So, what the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be happy with getting there and chalking up a decent race? Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to sort out. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one who thinks like this. You might as well. I’m pretty sure every goal-driven person, triathlete or otherwise, has this same desire for “more” right when they achieve exactly what they were initially after. You celebrate for a short stretch, and then the goals readjust to something just out of reach at the moment. (Pro Tim Reed wrote about this after winning the 70.3 Ironman World Champs in September. If I feel like I do after racing in Kona as a lowly AG’er, I can only imagine how pros feel after reaching the top of the sport.)  

My feelings post Kona are pretty unsurprising given my track-record. I started in the sport as a back-of-the-pack dude with the goal of just finishing. (Seriously. I was basically a bodybuilder with a side interest in running when I did my first tri back in 2010. It was the Nautica South Beach Sprint Tri. I came in 350 out of 423. Look it up.) Once I proved to myself that I could finish, I then wanted to edge into the Top 25 in my age group. Then it was qualify for and race in Kona.

Bodybuilder trying his hand at triathlon (Sorry for the watermarks; I can't find the files I actually paid for...)

That Kona goal was at the top of the list for a pretty long time. (Shocker! Just look at those photos above!) It’s weird to have now done it. As much as I want to kick back and say Mission Accomplished!, I’m already thinking about how to beat my personal best in an Ironman and get back to the Big Island. (Well, sort of. As I mentioned in the Kona Recap, I’m going to focus on 70.3 distance for 2017, and get back to full-distance Ironmans in 2018. I have yet to race a 70.3 in solid shape, so that should be pretty fun.)

So, what am I getting at here? I guess the moral of the story, from what I can piece together, is that accomplishing your goals isn’t necessarily going to provide all the satisfaction you’ve been dreaming of. This obviously isn’t some revolutionary discovery. For years people have been preaching the “It’s not about the destination. It’s the journey that matters.” I’ve always thought, Alright Emerson, T.S. Eliot, that’s all well and good, but I’ve got some things I want to accomplish in my life. I always saw this philosophy being at odds with being driven by goals. I know realize that it doesn’t have to be.

For me, having goals is still hugely important. Yes, they’re going to evolve over time, with ambitions getting higher, and that’s good. This has always helped me push myself to do cool things and accomplish more than I figured possible. And, while achieving goals isn’t some euphoric experience, I get a TON of satisfaction from all the small ‘wins’ along the way; knowing that I’m working towards a goal and getting closer each day. (As it relates to triathlon, it helps to be able to train with awesome people in beautiful places around the world!) So yes, it’s the journey that I really enjoy, but it’s the journey with a clear destination (even if it’s just short-term). Once hitting that destination, there’s a short-lived sense of accomplishment, and then it’s on to the next one.

Probably should have posted this first Deep Thoughts after Prop 64 passes here in Cali… Hope this exercise in me sorting out my own thoughts was somewhat of interest to you as a reader :)