Aug 16, 2010

Not a 24hr Solo race

***Eye safety warning*** - the race was hot, like 30 degrees at the start line and a bunch of hard-hours-racing kind of hot, don't let my glaringly white chest blind you. End of eye safety warning.

11I've taken a longer than normal amount of time to think about my recent failure at the 24hr Solo race I did just over two weeks ago. I use the term 'failure' because I only completed 19hrs of the event and of course that has irritated me... a lot. Basically I quit racing at 0730hrs in the morning, Doreen told me not to and that I would regret it, she's usually right about these kinds of things.

It took quite a few days after the race to put things into the right perspective post-event. As the days slipped by and the fatigue and injuries started to feel better, I eventually stopped seeing the result as a complete failure and managed to see it from a bigger picture perspective, a more positive view. As it turns out it was almost a 'need to happen' in order for me to learn a few more things about myself and this style of racing in general, and that will help me improve my game moving forward.

So what did I learn, or re-learn from this race...

I hope to answer that question by covering three different questions that Evan has asked me over the last week or so. For whatever reason, and I'm still scratching my head on where he comes up with this stuff, he asked me specifically about discipline, fear and toughness.

The first notable question early last week that made me sit back and think was "Dad, what's discipline?" I gave him a definition and then explained a few examples of what I have experienced in regards to discipline. Now, to be sure I'm not leading anyone astray, particularly Evan and Keegan when they come back to read this, here's Wiki's definition of self-discipline:

"Self-discipline refers to the training that one gives one's self to accomplish a certain task or to adopt a particular pattern of behavior, even though one would really rather be doing something else. For example, denying oneself of an extravagant pleasure in order to accomplish a more demanding charitable deed. Thus, self-discipline is the assertion of willpower over more base desires, and is usually understood to be a synonym of 'self control'. Self-discipline is to some extent a substitute for motivation, when one uses reason to determine a best course of action that opposes one's desires."


I learned real discipline during the 13yrs I spent in the military. From the time I joined as a young Infantry soldier until the time I departed as a Special Forces Warrant Officer, I was constantly aware of the demands to maintain high levels of personal discipline. The ramifications for not delivering on that character trait were often rapid and left no room for interpretation, lack of discipline usually had negative repercussions.

A simple but defining moment of discipline that stands out during those military years would occur on my Patrol Pathfinder Course... Back in the day when I was in 2 Commando I decided I was going to do the toughest course in the regular army. The Pathfinder course was 70 days of non-stop hardcore arse kicking, a 90+ percent failure rate, a real suffer-fest. A third of the way into the course and I had already redefined 'hard' several times and another moment of clarity was about to present itself on a particularly red-hot summer day. As I was in the pushup position while wearing an extremely heavy army backpack, watching my hands sink deeper and deeper into the boiling tarmac with every pushup, my thoughts ranged from 'this is outrageous' to 'my hands are sinking into the boiling tarmac from all this weight' and on to 'I wish the instructor would stop spitting on my face while he's screaming in my ear'. Then the moment of clarity snapped into focus 'You aren't going to break me, you'll have to kill me first' and with that I had my definition of discipline required for that moment. If you want something bad enough you simply won't break. A couple of guys quit on that red-hot day, I'm sure a few more of us got stronger from it. When we finally got to stand up I just stared at my hand prints in the parade square, as the sweat dripped off my nose, and I focused on the big picture of steeling up for the remainder of the program. Far harder things would occur on that course but that moment stands out in my mind as a 'make it or break it occasion' and luckily I didn't break. Less than 10 Pathfinders passed selection that year, I learned a lot from that selection.


A 24hr solo race is a bit like a Pathfinder course, you don't eat enough or sleep enough during those 24hrs, the pace is grueling and you have to be strong-willed, you have to be disciplined. I had taken that aspect of 24hr racing for granted, I didn't give it the respect it deserved, I wasn't disciplined and I paid the price. Admitting that to my boys after the race was a tough moment but a valuable lesson.

Evan's second question came a few days later "Dad, what are you scared of?" My stock answer to this is always "You guys getting hurt" but the truth is I'm scared of heights, though the boys don't know that yet. It's an irrational fear and I'm not sure why I'm scared of heights. I've faced my fair share of height related scenarios and never failed. I've parachuted out of planes or helicopters nearly 370 times, as part of spec-ops I've rappelled and fast-roped out of helicopters on to multi-storey rooftops countless times, I've hung upside down on the outside of multi-story buildings in order to blow the window for a room entry multiple times, I've climbed up and down elevator shafts in the pitch black, etc, etc, etc - I've faced my irrational fear of heights too many times and in too many different ways to count and each time I didn't like it but I got it done.


So what else am I scared of? Letting my boys down. They are getting to an age where they know the difference between trying your best and quitting. After the race I had to tell them I quit earlier than I should have. It doesn't matter if I had good reasons at the time, I didn't give it 100% at the time and I had to fess up to that. We have a saying in our house 'It doesn't matter if you win or lose as long as you try your best and you have fun', it might sound corny but we say that sentence a lot and we try to instill it in the boys. During that race I didn't practice what I preach, I didn't give it 100%, I didn't do my best, I've told my boys that won't happen again.


The last question Evan asked was just a couple of days ago, he said "Dad, what makes you so tough?", well that's not an easy question. Am I tough? What is tough? How do you explain 'tough' to a 6yr old, and where does he come up with these tough questions? I tried to answer it by talking about strength through adversity - facing really hard challenges and beating them, sometimes being beaten by them, but always getting tougher by facing those challenges.

I've got loads of stories to tell the boys about 'tough' when they are old enough to understand a bit better, but right now they are old enough to understand 24hr solo races are tough. So I talked about a few of my 24's and how tough they can be. So they asked questions about how tough this race was and why was it tough. I had to tell them it was one of my toughest races ever because I wasn't taking on enough calories, my injury was bugging me and eventually the race was tougher than I was. They know I faced a hard challenge and got beaten by it but that I learned a few things and I'm now tougher because of that.

82.5 weeks after the race and I'm feeling good on the bike again. My nagging injury has almost faded and I'm looking forward to the World Championships in Australia. My 24hr solo world is feeling a lot better than it was a couple of weeks ago.

It's funny what a 6yr old can teach you. Just a few simple questions led to a lot of introspection and I'm better for it.

Testing my self-discipline, facing adversity and wondering about my racing toughness were a few of the reasons I initially got into 24hr solo racing. Years later my 6yr old is reminding me of the things that started me down the solo rabbit hole and I'll keep that in mind when I stand on the next start line.

Before I sign off, here's the important stuff...

As always, thanks goes out to George for coming down to work my pit. Thanks goes out to Deadgoat Racing for the support. Thanks goes out to all the people who cheered me on. And of course the biggest thanks goes out to Doreen for doing what she does - love ya' honey.


John F said...

Great post!

I plan on reading it a few more times....

But in the immediate time I'm just thinking it over and am so glad I'm not the racer that will invariably be just a little bit in front of you deep into your race down under.

That dude simply has no idea what sort of hell he's in for. ;)

Shaun Taylor said...

It's gonna be hell. ;-)

Anonymous said...

While I still think the possibility of photoshop being used in the photos is likely, one thing for sure is your wonderful ability to look at a situation and instill a little of life's lessons. I was wondering when you would write something... and it's been worth the wait. Stuart

Shaun Taylor said...

You nailed it, that was my stunt double in all those photos. I spent the entire race signing autographs in my pit and being followed around by my entourage whenever I wandered over to get a bacon sandwich. ;-)

Nick Gonzales said...

How did you get some many nice photos AT ONE EVENT? I'm lucky to get one or two in an entire season of racing.

Shaun Taylor said...

Hey Nick,

The photography team flew in from Germany and they were as Pro as I've ever seen at an event. They are the same crew that will be shooting Worlds in Canberra in Oct.

The company is Sportograf and I've got another 40 or 50 images that they shot which are also excellent. The best part is the pricing, they count on a lot of the competitors to purchase the 'full package' - which includes all photos taken of you plus another bunch of 'event memories' images - and because a lot of competitors do buy the full package the volume pricing seems to work for Sportograf. I paid less than $30 for all my images, as full digital downloads, approx 2-7Mb per file so they are good enough to print with excellent results, or do whatever you want with them.

Crazy pricing on excellent images, but who am I to complain.