For me it is filling in the blank spaces on my map. It started when I looked at blank rock faces. The first being Right Face. The obvious line that splits the cliffs on Table Mountain to the right of Platteklip Gorge. Then came the huge bowl the Klein Winterhoek which Ocean’s of Fear pierces and later Prime Time on Yellowwood. There are more blank spaces left like Right Wall, Zodiac and a few walls in the Cederberg which will probably never be filled in on my map.
I am inspired by blank space on my map.
I want to run around Mont Blanc. I would not be satisfied with a shorter race like the past few years at UTMB. I think that if I went back I would do the traverse over 4 days and then take part in the official event as a bonus. That would colour in the picture nicely.
I have written about aesthetics before here. For me aesthetics is quite an important motivator. I either look at what others have done or better have not done. I took part in the GSB 3 peaks a few weeks ago. I have raced the Bat Run and Three Peaks before and the GSB was the only one missing from the trilogy of races. I like the history and tradition behind each event. I don’t care if I am the first to do them all or I am not even interested in racing the GSB. I just want to take part and see what it is like. I am really looking forward!
This practice of filling in blank spaces is not a physical map alone but translates to experiences too. I ran the Bat Run three times before I hit the 4h05 mark. I still do not know what sub 4h feels like. I know it is possible for me.
For me a far off goal would be to run Silver at Two Ocean’s Ultra. Why? Not because it is a arbitrary number of 4,29 min/km or a pace of 4:17 for 56km. It is close to the first winning time of 3:55 by Dirkie Steyn in 1970. I have run TO before but I have not filled in this particular experience on my map. That time is relative to that route. (Yes I know there have been some slight route changes since the original start at Villagers)
What does it feel like to bike Xterra hard? What does hard mean? It means like Conrad Stoltz. (Ok so I am nowhere near as good at the Caveman but I did the Xterra lite this year and gave it gas and landed on my face.) I was there riding the same course on a red, black and white bike giving it my all. I felt what I thought the Caveman feels on the bike. This feeling, this desire to push when my body was holding on for dear life came from being motivated by other leaders. Leaders who show us mortals what is possible.
This is why we need heroes.
I remember getting our first TV. It was 1982 and I unpacked it on a Saturday morning and watched from when the test pattern was replaced by sport at lunch time to when I had to go to bed at 21h00. Square eyes for sure! I was intrigued by heroes in every discipline. Wrestling is and was huge. The crowds are massive. Yes there were other sports like cricket with their squeaky clean uniforms (Hansie proved that uniforms could be deceiving). The wrestlers were bad ass though and they were huge! As much as young (and older) boys admire these monsters I don’t think that anybody takes them seriously and the badder they are the better. I don’t think that anybody cares if they take drugs, cheat and play dirty. That is all part of the game. It is written into the rules.
Why apply the squeaky clean rules to some sports and not others?
Just like Tiger Woods chose to play a game where there are strict rules including dress code and if woman are allowed to play (or non whites for that matter). Cyclists are portrayed as clean shaven super athletes where every second counts. Nobody cheats or takes drugs or hangs onto the team car. That is what the promoters tell us anyway. If you break certain unspoken rules it is just not cricket. What if cycling and UCI took some notes from WWE where presenters and the heads of the sport get down and dirty and there is general mayhem all for our entertainment. Would we love our heroes any less? I don’t think so. In fact I think it could be more entertaining.
Imagine if Macca was not the shit talking, bad boy but the squeaky clean guy by comparison to other competitors. Imagine if we had some real meanies playing dirty, bursting in on Macca’s interview with CNN and telling him how they were going to have some one on one fisty cuffs out in the lava fields. Now that would be entertainment!
I would then ride my bike along the Red Road for two hours @ 30km/h and still be impressed that the top guys tweet about motorpacing 100km in the same time period. Just as much as I have not motorpaced I have not taken any PED and both concepts feel equally foreign to me.
In our present sport we need leaders that are credible. That show direction, that are believable, honest and report accurately. The Fastest Known time concept was born from this. I think this is a great system and many events were born from this.
Why do we need heroes?
Heroes are those few who are half deity half man who rise above. Who take that which is possible to another level. The fact that they are half man makes them and their actions so appealing and of value to us. No kid wants to be R2D2 but we all want to be Luke Skywalker, Why? Because Luke is human and we can relate. We can and will measure ourselves against him. We will take his times up Ventoux and compare our effort. Without getting too hung up on the religious side of things “What would Jesus do?” mentality motivates all of us in everyday life and sport.
So now you have commerce who exploit that divide between deity and mere mortal with the buy line: “If you buy this shoe, ride this bike, drink this drink then you too can be like XYZ”
Not only does this take away from our heroes’ ability but it needs to make them human in order for brand X to sell more product.
[Let’s all face it. Even if the recently publicised drug taking did not happen none of us would be able to hang in the bunch. There is not a chance! These guys are in a different league without ever taking any drugs.]
But this does not sell product! In order to maximise a brands impact you need to make the link from us the consumer to our sports heroes. Brands need to show what a good guy Ironman is in order to sell more product. When that hero turns out to be an ass hole then nobody wants to associate and they get dropped.
This debate should be more about the brands and marketing spin than it is about the dopers. We will never be as good as our heroes. We just do not have the genetics (blame your parents). No matter what training we do, no matter what bike we ride or what shoes we wear we will never be able to realistically compete!
Think about it this way. To run a record marathon pace you need to run 100m in 17,6 seconds or there about. Go down to the track today (little ditty comes into my head) and do that, then do another and another X 420 reps and you will see what is involved. This is not human! Now we expect these incredibly gifted athletes to be nice guys as well? We expect them to not take every advantage they can get? We expect them to hold your baby and say the right things.
The pressure is immense and I would not want to be a pro faced with that pressure to perform on so many fronts all the time.