Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Countdown to Ironman, Week 36: Sacrificing the Gift

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift"  -- Steve Prefontaine

In every competition, I learn something about myself. If that wasn't true, I'm not sure I would want to compete any more. Even though this weekend we traveled to a karate competition and not a triathlon or running race, the learning component is the same. When you arrive at a competition, you should be prepared to do your best, having trained to the best of your abilities.

This then is what I learned this weekend that I want to take forward into my Ironman training: I must be 100% committed to my training in order to feel good about the way I compete. For this competition, I had hemmed and hawed about whether or not I was going to compete. My arm isn't at 100% yet (still some weakness at the elbow joint), which means I can't really achieve the same intensity of movement that I will be able to once its fully healed. Plus, I had some niggling worries about my left knee with the kata I had learned for competition. There's one move that puts a ton of lateral stress on that knee, but I've performed the kata dozens of times in the last few weeks without it giving me a problem. Still, I knew the problem was there.

Finally, I decided to wear my knee brace for the kata and do the competition. Problem was, I forgot to bring the knee brace. Still, the chances were small of something going wrong....

Except that it did. My knee locked up at that point in the kata and I couldn't get it unstuck. All I could do was to sit down in the middle of the floor in the middle of the arena and move it around in circles trying to get it to snap back in place. Finally, after what seemed like forever, it did. I wanted to die of embarassment. The judges graciously allowed me to start over, but my knee was now weak and shaky and I definitely was not able to do my best. Although I placed third in my division, I knew that I had not been able to perform at the level I should have.

The high point of the competition of course was watching my kids compete. Seeing everything that they bring to their karate is always inspiring to me. I especially loved the fact that they entered the synchronized kata competition with a friend and did really well, taking second in their division. Seeing them working together toward a common goal made me very proud of them. Meanwhile, I entered synchronized kata as well, with two of our teenage black belts and thankfully that went very well and we took second in our division as well.

The other wonderful thing about going to this competition was being part of the team effort of our whole dojo. We're only a year old this month, but we were able to take a great group of competitors, everyone from little kids to adults, from colored belts to black belts. Our teen black belts took home some amazing honors including having the Junior Champion Black Belt in kata and sparring. Our youngest competitor took home a first place, and our synchronized team of brown belt moms, the "Mama Sans" also brought home a 1st place.

So when our sensei asked me how I felt about the competition and how I placed, I was very happy overall with having come to the tournament. Although I didn't do as well as I personally hoped, my efforts still added to our team's amazing accomplishment of being the highest performing team there overall. That's pretty great stuff.

But having said that, when I look forward to my own individual competitions like the Ironman next year, I know that I need to make sure I'm able to put in 100% when I get there. That means I have to train the hardest that I possibly can, while making sure I avoid the traps of overtraining and injuries. If I can just get through this year without breaking any more bones, that would be a great start. But I also need to critically look at my weaknesses and make sure that I have a plan for overcoming them. My performance in this karate competition could've been dramatically changed if I had just put my knee brace into my bag. Sometimes everything rides on the smallest details, and Ironman is nothing if not managing the details.

More than anything, when my Ironman day is over, I want to know that I have done my absolute best, that I have not sacrificed the gift.

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