Friday, August 7, 2015

Tales from the front - racing, the Games, the Tour and scars? Yes, scars

Hey all,

Yes, its been too long. But a lot has been going on, and just like that, its August. So, let's get the required reading out of the way first  -

I've raced twice, under the careful watch of Mr. Cody Burkhardt, and notched 2 overall wins in the process. One, in the rain, and the other on a technical course that was hot. Why is this important? Well, I've had mixed results in the rain in the past, and heat usually kicks me in the ass. But in the last 8 weeks, I've found something, something that I was fearing was possibly lost. My desire to compete. Not simply show up and go through the motions, but actually throw down, leave everything I have on the race course. Smart, tactical, and super aggressive.

Does this mean that I feel like I'm all the way back? No. Not even close. My training shows me new holes in my fitness everyday. And that's what makes it so exciting. Working on improvement everyday. But its not just about improving as an athlete, its about improving as a man as well. At first, I thought seeing glaring issues would be mentally exhausting, requiring more focus and attention to detail then I was willing to do. But it was in those moments, wondering if I would ever get something right that I realized - this is the beauty of failing. Its a constant opportunity for growth. Learning patience, learning to laugh at yourself, learning to accept the things I'm not good at, and making it a point to keep working on those "goats". Accepting being imperfect even when you are striving for perfection. Accepting you know less than you think, so that you can learn more. Listening more than you talk, move more than you sit, and opening your mind instead of being stubborn. And trust me, those who know me well, know how stubborn I am. Its a Petruzzelli trait. I come from a long line of stone headed men and women, so this has taken some doing. But if I can, I know you can as well.

Now, on to "what happened in July". First, the Tour. It was a rather torrid affair in the first week, with a lot of what seemed to be, unnecessary risks, especially watching the yellow jersey take a fall that seemed, well, weird. The biggest take away for me, and this is not going to make me very popular, is that without a true patron of the peleton, the opportunity for danger rises. And the last real patron was, yep you guessed it, Lance. I'm not defending what he did, or even saying I understand, but there is something to be said for a strong leader in the group. Even if he gained the respect through pay offs and threats, there was "normality" in the Tour, and breakaways and mountain top finishes were just as exciting. Sprints were just as chaotic and beautiful, the raw power of massive quads churning up to 1500 plus watts for 200 meters, while pure climbers made even the steepest and longest of climbs seem effortless. But there was order, and less carnage. Does Froome have that presence? I don't know. But the saddest thing was seeing only 3 Americans in the race, and knowing that doesn't help cycling's popularity stateside. My hope is that come next year, the numbers will be better.

And yes, the Crossfit Games. There is a politically correct way to address this, and I can't do that. Let me start by saying this - I am, and will continue to be a huge supporter of Crossfit. But the 2015 Games were not about the "Sport of Fitness". To me, it looked more like a bunch of really fit people on "Survivor". I understand that Crossfit is supposed to prepare you for the Unknown and Unknowable, however, that has always been within the parameters of functional fitness, and the notion that the movements in Crossfit can mimic everyday life. But these Games, it had a game show feel to it, more of a "2 men/women entire and 1 leaves". To quote last year's women's winner, Camille LeBlanc Bazinet, after winning 1 event this year - "Well, at least I can Crossfit". That statement, to me, punctuated what most of the athletes felt. The problem is, the Games normally don't take a step backwards, so what will 2016 look like? I salute the athletes this year more than ever, for gutting out the events, and making it through. My hope is that casual fans won't be turned off to Crossfit and realize that the Games are not what happens in Crossfit gyms across the world.

So, on to scars. I recently watched fellow pro triathlete Jordan Rapp on a podcast, discussing his accident a few years back, and how it still haunts him today. He held up a photo of the accident scene, next to the scar on his shoulder where a metal plate now holds his collarbone together. His words hit home, as I looked at my own scar, in the same spot, with a similar metal plate, screws, and wiring keeping mine together. But it wasn't the actual scar that was bothering him this season, it was what the scar left him with, mentally and emotionally. And that resonated with me on a even deeper level, knowing that trying to push past what happened doesn't help you heal inside.I applauded his openness, his willingness to be vulnerable, to admit his accident was crippling his ability to race at his best. To train the way he wanted. And it got me to realize, we all have scars. How we overcome our scars is what defines us, and why they might be preventing us from moving forward in life. Scars are like walls, they can become bigger and more ominous than they actually are. Its why I decided to wear mine as a badge of honor and use my experiences to help others come to terms with their scars. Its like I said at the beginning - I'm not perfect. None of us are. And there is nothing wrong with that. Don't fear your scars. Own them. Face them. And know you aren't alone in your fight. If you don't, those scars can grow bigger, even if you've had them for years. If you need to, take a picture of it, to remind yourself of its true size, and how its something you can overcome. Otherwise you will miss out on an opportunity to realize how much you really have in life.

Stay strong,