Canada Sport Hall of Fame
Simon St.Quentin Whitfield
"I sat down to write an acceptance speech for my induction into Canadas sports hall of fame and found myself with writers block.
What does one say in this briefest of forays upon the stage. Do i speak to the grandiose or simply stick with gratitude, is there a concise way to express both, to touch on the acknowledgement of achievement through dedication, opportunity, and luck while at the same time conveying the deep appreciation one feels towards the people in our life who make us better, the contributors and primary influencers, many of whom are here tonight.
Do i use this short window with the microphone in hand to convey thoughts on life lessons learned through sport. Universal meaning through specific incidence. Do I press forward with thoughts on morality, our shared responsibility to coexist through constructive defiance, or do I pander to national pride, to emphasize and in a sense justify common values and shared belief's; in truth I struggle with nationalism, I dont believe in us and them, we are all in this together, isolation breeds discontent and betrays the advantages inherit in true diversity.
The best of us, is all of us, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I considered giving this moment to observation, my thoughts on performance decision making. I would focus on simplicity as the greatest sophistication and a vivid imagination being the mother of all reality; our greatest attribute as humans is the gift of fiction, our ability to play how about, write and read fiction, in order to think on the grandest scale, learn to be still with your breath and at all costs retain self authority of your attention span, for what we pay attention to makes us human.
Eventually I overcame writers block by sitting and staring at the blank page before striking at the space with pen in hand until the words flowed, and when they stalled again, which they inevitably did, I simply sat a little longer, for this is my gift, through daily ritual I have taught myself to focus my mental landscape, to maintain propriety of my breath throughout, and be intensely persistent.
If for nothing else, with my children here, my daughters whose wide eyes, open hearts and ability to be perpetually present remind me daily what it means to be the best of ourselves, the innocence of youth, the gift of childhood, I lean forward and say, throughout your life "Live into your values", be kind and compassionate, be content, humble, forgiving, honest, principled and dedicated to the service of others by working to create safe space in which others can prosper, have the courage to step forward and believe in yourself, always ask why, express your gifts and forever, and I mean forever continue to play "how about".
Simon St.Quentin Whitfield (November 9th 2017 Toronto Ontario Canada)
To be welcome
by Simon St.Quentin Whitfield (2016)
To be welcome.
At one time you were welcome you were invited, you attended, you were present, you shared space, you listened and you felt heard, you had a sense of belonging, of family.
And then you were no longer welcome. You were no longer invited, you were on your own.
and you felt like you had died, if alive you had descended into a trance of unworthiness, as if you had become invisible.
You feel others are always welcome, they are always invited. You believe in a round table, as many chairs as needed.
There will always be a log and a place by the fire for another.
One day by the fire you wrote a story.
About two stones on a fireplace, between them an entangled piece of wool string, almost floating, like debris. Behind the string a small steal tower, resembling a wind mill; two brass blades, a magnetic motor and a clever cluster of pillars, extending up behind the blades like fingers, ready to convey. Leaning on one stone a small piece of cedar kindling, burnt at one end.
If you look closely you see that the stones both resemble hearts, one whole, an organic shape, it appears almost as a real heart, smooth yet inconsistent and as such unique. The other looks like half a heart, sheered down the middle, a perfect sheered heart, almost like a fairy tale heart, broken. It is darker, absorbing light, while the whole is matte, speckled black, grey and white.
Two stone hearts, each with their own story. The half heart, TheDark heart, is beautiful, and yet it looks cold, inaccessible. The whole heart looks worn, as if formed by kneading hands, melded by work, warm, this stone is the Brave heart.
On the round peak of TheDark heart is a source of heat, a match and against it the kindling. TheDark heart appears isolated, as if nudged, slowly over time, it would just drift away. TheDark Heart looks to be cut in half, once whole, now alone, it is consuming itself, end to end, as all of its energy is now focused on sustaining only itself. The kindling stands like a desperate extension, a temporary prolonging, and the string the debris, cast off into the space in between.
At one time the Brave heart had a match too, it lay in the valley of the heart, between the mountain and the hill, cradled. What makes the whole heart brave was the letting go of the match: as it slide down it lit and when it fell it started a fire. As this fire burned the steal tower began to shake, at first a wobble but it couldn’t be contained, and when it spread up the fingers the motor began to twirl, and the blades began to spin, and the debris that once was, was no more, now fuel for the fire below.
Clear of all debris, free of distortion, there is safe space between them.
The Dark heart lived with indifference; isolated, alone, it cared only for itself, the Brave heart had courage, to surrender its source, in service to others and in doing so bless the space between them.
To be welcome, to be invited, is to bless the space between you, clear of all debris.
by Simon St.Quentin Whitfield (2016)
"Man is the animal that makes pictures of himself, and then comes to resemble the pictures" - Iris Murdoch
Sitting on a park bench I surrender myself to the sounds of the city beyond this small sanctuary of trees, flower beds and narrow dirt paths which meander throughout an urban garden.
Cherish empty space.
I am unable to reconcile my relationship with the world around me when engaged in digital intoxication during this age of screens. Inevitably it leaves me feeling uncalibrated. Constant contact slowly consumes me as i lose propriety of my thoughts and actions through persistent interruptions leaving me feeling continuously unsynchronized; contemplation, self determination and systematic intention casualties in the battle for my attention through the manipulation of our psychological loop holes. I have been induced into a digital coma by these little black mirrors, and each time I emerge, my face no longer lite by a flickering screen, I am quietly aware I have been subjecting myself to a virtual sequence of hidden function command buttons determined to betray me and draw the focus of my mental landscape away from the present.
"Stimulation breeds the need for more stimulation, without it we feel antsy and unsatisfied."
Social media has evolved into manufactured spontaneity. I am unable to use it and find value in it without it reverse engineering and administering me. LifeLive becomes an orchestrated play acted out in front of the camera; recorded and distributed as manicured content carefully curated to reflect an image of uniqueness and identity justified by the fallacy narrative that we must express our individuality. The actualization of our true self being sold as the path to enlightenment, the road to happiness, as if differentiating ourselves through distinction, each i a unique snow flake, is the cure to loneliness and an answer to an apparent need to find meaning; when in fact it fuels the source of any depression, as reflections on the regrets of a past self, and erects pillars of anxiety, as we become detached from the present, borrowing time from tomorrow to worry about the possibility of disenfranchisement in the future. As if being special and unique will enable us to feel a sense of belonging. We belong when we come together engaged in common enterprise, as service to others. Constructive defiance. I am weary of the need to express my true self, "Be true to who you are" - the Mantra of the self help generation who are being told to look inwards to discover who we truly are, finding what we think we need to find and defining ourselves with labels now adhered to the image we choose to project. And yet these narratives are not us, rather they are a reflection of where we think we are at a particular time in our lives, and we risk disabling our ability to change and adapt by deciding and projecting "I'm the type of person that" when in fact we "have become the type of person that", the first suggests we are set in stone, the second acknowledges our capacity, through small incremental change, to shift our behaviour and the decisions we make, the actions we take, to avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy complicit in the predetermined. Social media becomes an echo chamber to "this is the way I am" and "this is what I believe" reenforcing and entrapping us in an un-malleable image of true self.
In 'the nature that emerges from the decree' "just as the world itself is fragmented, we are too. Instead of thinking of ourselves as single, unified selves who we are trying to discover through self-reflection, we could think of ourselves as complex arrays of emotions, dispositions, desires, and traits that often pull us in different and contradictory ways. When we do so, we become malleable. We avoid the danger of defining ourselves as frozen in a moment in time".
Notes to self
A breath considered determines energy flucuation.
Live into your values.
Play music, read and write fiction, as stratagems to expand ones view.
Embrace empty space to create slack in the line.
Be still with your breath.
Self regulate through daily rituals to exist as a centered individual in common enterprise with others and self authority of mental landscape through skilled attention.
simplicity is the greatest sophistication.
Synchronize thoughts and actions to attain propriety of emotional response.
Be guided by your principles with the courage to step forward & keep walking.
Express your gifts.
Commit to constructive defiance.
by Simon St.Quentin Whitfield (2016)
W C Sits in his farm house studio painting with the mist slowly rising off the lawn. Birds sing their morning songs. French doors frame his view. His favourite subject, a pond, is unobstructed, the key factor in deciding where to position his chair. During the colder months he sits inside and paints with the light from the window to the sound of the fire crackling with its ethereal tempo. When the weather improves he pulls the esile outside to sit on a simple stone patio and take in the full landscape with the pond in the foreground, the far off foothills acting as a backdrop to pastures left unattended and yet forever changing. The scene makes for a picturiesc panorama, unobstructed by artificial distractions. Inside his studio is full of the character one would expect from an eccentric. Finished and otherwise, frame canvas's lay against the walls with tidbits here and there, odd pieces to which only the curator knows and appreciates the story. Artifacts collected traveling some are gifts bestowed while others have been acquired by chance. On the mantel sits a vase with scenes of workers in the field and a pompous noble adorning his throne high above. Chipped and discoloured, the vase is a subtle reminder while some live with clean hands and polished boots others toil, a crack draws a line between the workers and the noble, an unintentional yet powerful divide; the stark contrasts in their experiences. He often wonders if the noble yearns for simplicity and direction, to be head down absorbed in your work. While the noble tends to matters of social details and organizational structures, seeming to enjoy the luxuries afforded his powerful position, the worker remains focused, methodical and consumed, entranced in skilled attention. While it maybe true the noble has spare time and resources to express and explore his passions, the worker has a rhythm and sincerity to his existence, tuned into the simple pleasures, though at times few and far between, each is momentous and rich. Small gestures between colleagues acknowledged with a nod or a tip of the hat mark a comraderie to which the noble knows nothing off, lost in expectation and entitlement small rituals pass by without acknowledgment, moments of connection lost amongst the excess. To sit and paint in his studio without distraction is to find the rhythm his world beyond this sanctuary lacks, with its constant whirl of distractions and draws to his attention, the responsibilities and politics of daily existence. With his paint brush he is lost in another world, one to which the final brush stroke only reveals the slightest hint. For it is not the finished and framed accomplishment to which he seeks recognition, it is the space in between, the timeless moments of absorption and defiance. Consumed in his work with no distinction to mark his status. A simple act of creating. And being. He paints to be entranced in a masters skilled attention.
What is getting you up in the morning these days.
by Simon St.Quentin Whitfield (2017)
Said over Mexican train dominos with my daughters holding court, laying down tiles, being theatrical. Old friends were over, the adventurer and the EastCoaster, old friends from back in the day, before kids, friendships made through sport, and yet, still friends today. It’s easy to relate now, and we have history, depth ~ we’ve seen each other’s egos laid bare. The adventurer has a new partner, she is competitive and curious, driven and reflective, just as he is. They fit. The EastCoaster is a father of two, married to another old friend, a gem. He has that EastCoaster kindness to him, enshrined in his joy of a good story, a vivid retelling of a good old yarn, “.. apparently the anistetic gave him a head ache for a week besides how much could a defitbulator really hurt.. “. It had been awhile, and yet, as old friends do, we fell right into sync; complete with a pull up challenge, these men gauging strength, in front of women, now less as posturing and a subtle reminder of gains lost, more of a checking in then a competition, besides, young people put the 40 year olds to shame, with the ease of youth. As they did playing Domineos.
When they were leaving the EastCoaster looked at my truck and asked, What are you doing these days, what gets you up in the morning?
This morning it was writing, copy edit with the next chapter in mind.
What am I up too?
Same as before, creating quality time with my family, and finding ways to channel my energy, to be creative, in a manner that is collaborative and therefor contributive, with the focus of my attention, my mental landscape, continuing to be ‘write, read and create space for timelapses and adventure, to explore; alone, with another, with others’.
Where to from here?
Originally I built a website called TimelapeExlporers, I simply wanted a space to express myself, one platform, a small window into the digital realm, one to which I could open and close at will.
To my mind a Timelapse is simply empty space, slack in the line, transient hypo frontality as those scientist types like to say, a flow state, with the downgrade, or absence of, our pre frontal cortex ~ a mute narrative ~ the silencing of the story, as meaning makers, who am i and what do I do?. Disassociation from our sense of self ~ empty space.
A timelapse is simply doing, a state of deep now, of perpetual presence, full immersion. Born of timelapses, from the distilled thoughts percolating in the back of my mind set free by the provision of empty space, I found myself consumed with building a physical literacy club, to complement, the ventures I am presently engaged in with www.relentlesspursuitpartners.com and www.velofix.com
**BlackFishRedDragonBlueWhale** excursion club @southislandsup
Is a story, a fable, a metaphor, parable.
The Black Fish is the individual, independent, agile, lonely at times, an original, one of a kind, it is the expression, the glory, of the individual mind ~ the source of all inspiration and our sense of being.
The Red Dragon represents collaboration, the procurement of energy in tandem; the head and the heart, combined forces, which, with driven intention, the precision application of energy leading to predictable gain, and the taming of the Dragon, longing.
The Blue Whale represents community, the collective, stability through common enterprise, capable of traveling great distances over time; The Whale is a symbol of longevity, and belonging ~ the coming together of being and longing.
Explore the glory of the individual mind while taking action in a collaborative manner, constructive defiance, in order to fulfil the potential of the collective consciousness. for purposes self evident, and inflicted.
Born of a desire to explore, engaged in skilled attention with others, out into the space in between.
This a space, clear of all debris, to contribute learnings from my experiences and the perspective gained through the pursuit of Mastery of Sport.
With outdoor activity as the medium, and a love of paddling, swimming, cycling, running and triathlon, at its core, I believe simply by coming together, sharing space and participating in constructive defiance; with Black Fish, Red Dragons and a Blue Whales, we have all the tools we need to, through excursions with a sense of adventure, explore not only the space around us, but within us and ultimately develop our personal and professional expressions.
by Simon St.Quentin Whitfield (2017)
Paddling, why paddling, it is freedom, in the space in between, drifting, dancing, taking space to breath, a time node, a pause. Time to regroup, to inhale, immersed in the great outdoors, unobstructed, beyond the noise of days and the drone inherit in the mundane, a low hum that permeates everything, and gathers steam as every hour passes folded into its maze, the trance when we are disengaged from the now, lost in narrative of what is to come and or sheltering ourselves from time past.
It is the textures on the ocean, the ever changing conditions, each path unique; think the freedom of cycling, without the cars, the dynamics of mountain biking, where the surface is always moving, and yet forgives. It's the whole scene, the silhouettes of the shoreline cast on a far off backdrop. Swirling currents, layers upon layers, entangled swells, guiding the boat side to side, an interface, a matrix like topographic map, each prospective trail a first, and never to be repeated, with the wind as an near invisible agent, guiding as it pleases, from a nudge, to a unassailable force,
"we came in with the dust, and we leave with the wind",
out on the ocean, you are quietly reminded of this with every stroke, you are a guest, but you are always welcome, the ocean will meet you where you are at, and in doing so, she will reveal within you everything you need to know. From your darkest dark from which you must see through to the cracks, they let light in, to a sense of pure joy, an awareness you are alive, defiantly dancing in the space in between.
"Do the things that do not commute. Be Earnest. Be Devoted. Be subversive of ease. Read aloud. Risk yourself. Do not be afraid of sentiment even when others call it sentimentality. Be ready to get ripped to pierces; it happens. Permit yourself anger. Fail. Take pause. Accept the rejections. Be vilified by collapse. Practice resuscitation. Have wonder. Bear your portion of the world. Find a reader you trust. They must trust you back. Be a student, not a teacher, even when you teach. Don't B.S. yourself. If you believe the good reviews, you must believe the bad. Still, don't hammer yourself down. Do not allow your heart to harden. Face it, the cynics have better one-liners than we do. Take heart: they can never finish their stories. Enjoy the difficulty. Embrace the mystery. Find the universal in the local. Put your faith in language-character will follow the plot, too, will eventually emerge. Push yourself further. Do not tread water. It is possible to survive this way, but impossible to write. Never be satisfied. Transcend the personal. Have trust in the staying power of what is good. We get our voice from the voices of others. Read promiscuously. Imitate, copy, but become your own voice. Write about that which you want to know. Better still, write toward that which you don't know. The best work comes from outside of yourself. Only then will you reach within. Be bold in
the face of the blank sheet. Restore what has been ridiculed by others. Write beyond despair. Make justice from reality. Sing. Make a vision from the dark. The considered grief is so much better then the unconsidered. Be suspicious of that which give you too much consolation. Hope and belief and faith will fail you often, but so what? Share your rage. Resist. Denounce. Have stamina. Have courage. Have perseverance. The quite lines matter as much as the noisy ones. Trust your blue pencil, but don't forget the red one. Make the essential count. Allow your fear. Give yourself permission. You have something to write about. Just because it's narrow doesn't mean it's not universal. Don't be didactic-nothing kills life quite so much as explanation. Make an argument for the imagined. Begin with doubt. Be an explorer, not a tourist. Go somewhere nobody else has gone. Fight for repair. Believe in detail. Unique your language. A story begins long before its first word. It ends long after its last. Make the ordinary sublime. Don't panic. Reveal a truth that isn't yet there. At the same time, entertain. Satisfy the appetite for seriousness and joy. Dilate your nostrils. Full your lungs with language. A lot can be take from you-even your life- but not your stories about that life. So this, then is a word, not with love and respect, to a young writer: write."
Colum McCann - 'Letters to a young writer'
"Write towards that which you don't know"
by Simon St.Quentin Whitfield (2017)
I'm here in Europe to walk towards that to which I do not know. An Irish writer told me to. "write about that which you want to know. Better still, write towards that which you don't know". So I did. I bought a new notebook and a plane ticket to Europe and for two weeks while my children were away in Central America with their mother and her partner, I planned to walk towards that which I did not know, to see what I find, and write about it.
Having landed in London Gatwick the first thing I have to find is a train to Leeds and accommodation for the night. I'm headed to Yorkshire to spend time with the Brownlee brothers, triathlon legends, and interesting characters. They don't arrive back from training camp in Spain until late at night so I've decided to wing it, make my way north and find a place to rest my pacific time zone head.
This trip will flow in this manner, my itinerary is loose. I'll be in Leeds until Thursday before flying to Nuremberg to participate in Challenge Roth in a relay. I am attending a press conference, and possibly riding a bike, that is all I know. Where I'm staying is still up in the air. Having traveled with a backpack containing two books, a few notebooks, t-shirts, one pair of pants, a hoody, underwear and socks, I have everything I need, as I wander towards that to which I do not know. I'm hoping to bump into Jan and Emma Frodeno, Chrissie Wellington, and possibly Daniel Ryf in Roth. Just to see old friends and possibly ask some questions.
When Roth is done I'm heading to Zurich by train, I've checked a map, they link up fairly easily. I'm making my way to see Reto Hug and Nicola Spirigs home and spend a few days before heading to St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps to visit coach Sutton.
All with the intention of "seeking and learning".
I'm interested in two things, although I suspect this journey will be about so much more; Performance Decision making, their thoughts and processes, their daily rituals. I will let them fill in the rest in the pages to come. My intention is to distill and share the best I can.
And I would like to ask them about the "and yet" side of notoriety. All of these individuals have achieved a certain level of notoriety, to one degree or another, people outside their social circle think they know their story, they have become in some form or another, public domain, and with this notoriety, similar to mine, they have been granted certain privileges, bestowed certain honours. I am sure they have had moments like i have, sitting for lunch with the Queen of England, or Sir Edmund Hilary, or Neil Turak, possibly thinking to themselves, "how did I get here" while hopefully maintaining a perspective on just how fortunate they have been.
"And yet", celebrity, in this case as Olympic/Sporting "gods", comes with significant costs. Before anyone sharpens their knives and loses it here, the Olympics was intended as theatre, disguised as a competition, of the "gods", and i only use that term in that vein, so spare me the eye rolls. Call it anything you want, call me anything you want. The cost is, in my estimation, you become a meme.
Neil Gaimen wrote in 'American gods' "have you ever thought about what it means to be a god... it means you give up your mortal existence to become a meme: something that lives forever in peoples minds, like the tune of a nursery rhyme. It means that everyone gets to re-create you in their own minds. You barely have your own identity any more. Instead you're a thousand aspects of what people want you to be. And everyone wants something different from you. Nothing is fixed, nothing is stable... you have to be all things to all people. Pretty soon, you're spread so thin you're hardly there at all. It's not good."
When I read this I was able to start letting it go. The shame I felt around why so often when people thought they knew me they didn't like me. I could never live up to it. It turns out, we are all flawed, and trying as best we can. I think back to the number of times a new athlete showed up at the training center and introduced themselves as having been inspired to do triathlon because they watched the Sydney Olympics then Beijing. They told me I was their hero. Maybe their parents came with them, and stood beside them and told me their proudest moment as a Canadian was watching either race. And then they met me, and the template they had created, the image, the meme
they wanted to see didn't exist. Just like everyone else does, I got tired, and grumpy, I struggled with good days and bad and I felt like I was under an enormous amount of pressure. I couldn't live up to the athlete role model label, I didn't fit what they wanted, they needed, to see, and when I fell from the pedastile on top of the mountain, i became a different meme, an asshole, and a jerk, and like a virus, it spreads, and when I met their friends, or people who have their ears to the rumour mill, my space was already taken. My story had already been written. And so I began to retreat.
To be a "god", the essence of a characteristic, a meme to which others aspire, you lose yourself, and you pay a cost. I was in Europe to find out something I didn't know, if the others felt the same way.
Day one - Ilkley - Yorkshire.
musings from analog, my note book~I forgot they served their beer warm. This pale ale will take awhile, it's room temperature. A long while. Germany and Chile are playing football on the big screen in the confederation cup, nobody in the pub is paying any attention, aside from myself, I'm captivated by their ball control and spacing, a game of chess, with a ball, on a large field. The Crescent Inn free house and bar is the perfect layover point on my journey to Leeds to spend three days tagging along with the Brownlee brothers in the Yorkshire Dales.
Chile appears to be completely outplaying Germany with the majority of the possession and chances until they make a lazy mistake on a failure to clear, a rudimentary last man back, a don't play fancy play, and now their down 1-0. Germany reminds me of the Brownlees, with their relentless preparation resulting in precision execution. They are surgical in their approach. And that's what I originally came here to see.
The pubs atmosphere is picking up, the old fellas have arrived in all of their grandeur. A regular stands reading money wise in the daily telegraph leaning against the bar, quietly surveying his paper and the landscape of tables around him. Warm beer and cheers all around. Accents are in full British bloom, at least they are to me. I feel like I might be on the set of a modern downton abbey, local society holding court with a fair few "bloody hell's".
I find myself day dreaming of one day being an international soccer referee, like a bartender, you're up close to the theatre. I would rather be playing, I'm starting to warm to this beer.
Chile now has sixty two percent of the possession, thirteen shots to three, and it's one nothing Germany.
The cost of lacking precision; the shattering of their preparation myth.
It's an affluent community here at the Crescent Inn. The table next to me is discussing Syria having toured there. They are talking bible passsages but they aren't professing to be religious, rather they discuss the history as knowledgable observers. They are well versed and insightful when it comes to the Middle East, as far as I can tell from my eves dropping. They have been to Jordan and the Valley of Jordan, it sounds extraordinary, with a reverence for the people and the area, they wish they could go back and swim in the Dead Sea "which nips at you, it has a bite". Eventually they moved on to Palmeres, the murals and the smells.
She has a gift for the descriptive, between the soccer in the background, and the Middle East audio tour guide at the table next to me, i am well entertained. A perfect start to my UK excursion.
Jet lag is coming on but this is all a welcome distraction, for my mind is churning.
Sitting pool side here in Leeds watching the best in British Triathlon put in the hard yards. It is fun to be around a squad again, the enthusiasm and commitment to work hard and prepare. The squad is impressive well beyond the Brownlee brothers with multiple Series champions and young up and comers setting the new standard in triathlon. Including a young man. Maybe he's ten. He is in the public lane with his ITU cap on, swimming in the lane beside Alistair and Jonny watching everything they do. Mimicking their stokes he is immersing himself in the atmosphere and loving it. I took a picture of the squad getting in earlier. I am hoping he is there in the background, eyes keenly trained on his idols, imagining himself on the other side of the lane rope. Alistair picked me up yesterday at the Crescent Inn in Ilkley on his way to the center and from there on it was one long discussion on performance decision making. The discussion revolved around the day to day descions one makes when fully engaged in performance optimization, the art of mastery. The overwhelming theme through out being conviction, does one have the conviction in their belief system to overcome all obstacles they come across. At one point Alistair asked me what comes to mind when I think about a critical moment, a defining decision, made early on in my career to which I felt defined by. "Absolute". I felt absolute in my commitment to my vision. The moment Juan Antonio Sameranch announced Sydney as the host city for the 2000 Olympic Games I recalled sitting still in the shadow of the Opera house, while Aussies all around me celebrated, and feeling with absolute conviction that I was committed to expressing my gifts and hearing Oh Canada played at the Opera House. Absolute conviction. Alistair shared this sentiment, his mission to London began years before God Save the Queen, he felt absolute in his intention, and in doing so committed himself to leaving no stone unturned. It was particularly interesting talking about the Rio Olympics. I felt watching the race that somewhere there existed a journal, written in the years before the race, in which Alaister described exactly how the race would play out, down the finest details. In my mind the winner see's in their minds eye every possible scenario, and plays it out in an N+1 manner, one more time then anyone else, they do this by fully intertwining their commitment and this vision into everything they do, it permeates through their entire existence. Alistairs strength and conditioning coach shared with me "as soon as the course was confirmed he told us exactly how the race would play out and then he went ahead and orchestrated it". He confirmed this at dinner when talking about Rio, and we shared a moment of wonder when I asked if when he selected his start position, number 55, did he know it was all about to come together, with a smirk I can recognize in myself, he relived the pontoon selection process; start pontoon position is a difficult variable to account for, where will the others pick, when the far right was still available ten picks in Alistair must have walked back to his brother and said "55, if you pick next to me we are all set". I remember watching the race sitting at home in Victoria, I remembered watching the Brownlees jog out to the start line, on the far right, clear water ahead and to one side, and I remember thinking, this is over before it even begins
"it's like he scripted it" and he did.
We can not orchestrated our future, we can chose the direction in which we will error.
Come with conviction, back it up with work ethic through whole hearted commitment.
Courage is the other word that stands out,. A few years ago I was involved in a panel discussion with Canadian Olympians headed to Rio in the crowd. The COC had listed seven words that they called the characteristics of success, I can't recall them, I was interested in only one, and I used Alistair as the example, "do you have courage" are you willing to step forward and give all of yourself in the pursuit of your vision. To me this is Alistairs defining characteristic. That and he is profoundly aware, which I believe comes down to his love for what he does, enabling him to be fully immersed, reading and distilling everything he can get his hands on, he is always learning, and reflecting on what he has learned. Tucked into our discussion we talked about echo chambers and bunker thinking. Alistair spoke about his triple check philosophy, using
a simple example of how much change he would get when purchasing a tea. He triple checks everything, 3 quid minus is 2.56 is 44, 2.56 plus 44 is 3 quid, change will be 4 10 pence pieces and 4 pennies. It's a mundane example but it speaks volumes, each and every interaction involving a decision is triple checked, in a split second, as a measure of attention to details, and practice. He extended this to say that when reading up on current events he will read an op-ed then reference it, if it's important to him, against two other pieces on the same subject, from different perspectives, making sure he finds representation from all sides of the arguement. He does this to ensure he fully understands issues, and avoid the self perpetuating, "bunkered down" perspectives associated with echo chambers. Again, it speaks to his attention to details and commitment to completely understanding that to which he finds himself engaged.
It was interesting to hear his thoughts on the evolution of his thought process, feeling that he has made a shift from pure 'Newtonian phyics based around self determination and clinical facts' to being open minded to a belief that we interact with each other, and the environment around us, the universe, on a cellular level that we really don't understand, that the membranes at the core of our cell complexes behave in ways we cant quite articulate, let alone see. And yet, they become us. We were venturing towards the "how does this all work" discussion, and I loved it. Eventually we covered a whole range of subjects. Are we simply observers, watching our story unfold "as brains in a jar" or are we active participants, do we have agency over our outcomes. We didn't venture too far although just by acknowledging the subject we began opening a door to another dicsussion further on down the line.
They're wrapping up here at the pool, a quick session based around some fast 100's and technical drills. Again it the attention to details that stands out, the example of closed fist drills being used, does an athlete truly close their hands when they are doing the drill, or do they cheat a bit with more of a claw, enabling them to go "faster" but lacking attention to the finer details. As has been continuesly emphasized.
I had visions of coming to Leeds, taping a few conversations with the Brownlee boys, writing about it, taking some pictures and capturing perfectly the whole experience. That's not what has transpired so far. It's harder to sit and record then i imagined it to be, for the simple reason that it's awkward. Alistair and I have had long conversations about life, sport, decision making, overall strategy and specific tactics. Its come about organically, in the car, over a cuppa and patsy, watching the tour on the couch, in the garage putting bikes together and I'm trigger shy with the audio recorder. I'd rather just shoot the shit and honour the privilege of just talking, without the presence of a recorder, i can't put my finger on exactly why that is, although I'm sure part of it is simply a matter of it being ours, an experience I want to be fully present to, authentic as there's nothing staged or calculated, without a recorder it retains something sacred, as it can never be replayed or relived. The moments exist only in the now, and they are ours. It wont be the last time we sit and compare notes, and who knows, one day we may venture to share, but for now, our conversations will live on only in our memories, and on paper, as recollections reenforced within the constraints of fallible memories. Besides, it's an interesting exercise. I can't help but feel privileged to spend some time in and around his home environment, his status as an athlete was built on his profound intelligence, his decision making capabilities, and ability to see every issue he faces from multiple perspectives.
Mid-day day 3.
i regret now not participating in the swim this morning. I'm not sure what is up with my motivation to get some exercise, i would be better off, and more engaged, i seem to get rutted as soon as i get out of any routine, and this trip has really exposed it, a feeling of bogging down and a bit of meloncoly takes over, it's self perpetuating, and i can see it happening right in front of my eyes, but i seem to get disengaged from exercise and subsequently fall into a well of reflection and borderline despair over my current predicaments; life, relationships, finances, the future, schedules, all of the above all at once. It feels overwhelming, and yet, it's obvious what the solution is, and it's actually never as bad as our inner critic makes it seem, it's our thoughts that make it so.
Onwards and upwards, after some exercise and sleep I feel much better, mood and perspective are deeply intertwined with bio chemistry, sometimes the solution is simply a run and a cold fucking shower. It almost always is.
I have been writing all day. In the digital realm and analog, on paper. I feel a sense of obligation to write having sold myself on the idea that I was coming on this trip to write and walk towards that which I didn't know. That and I love to write. It's a joy. I had a certain vision of how it would all go, a utopic scenario in which I would record the various conversations, having laid it all out perfectly, and gleam from the insights profound wisdom in the form of finally crafted gems. It's certainly been enlightening.
Seeing the Brownlees life up front leaves me with some regret and embarrasment with regards to my decisions in the past. A feeling of blown opportunities, entangled in unnecessary complexity, culminating in the brink of chaos at at times.
I do feel like I need to be careful what I write, a disclaimer or sorts, at least being cognizant that it's simply writing, working trough thoughts on paper, and leaving it there.
Using this once empty space to attempt to understand and let it go.
Eventually we hang ourselves if we tangle too much rope.
Remember "The world stops spinning when we stop spinning it".
Besides, share too much and people keep asking you if you're ok. We all are. And we aren't. It's not a binary thing.
I feel like the image of a glass man, you can't really see him. It's a 'blockhead' line. And it feels appropriate.
the brightish dull hazy vivid flowers
Simon St.Quentin Whitfield (june 2017)
I think it goes something like this. You inhale. As the tasseled magician drifts into your lungs your mind yawns and a field of flowers bloom in the misty haze. For a brief moment you can see the full spectrum, stunning arrangements, and the energy field all around you begins to wobble, the ether behind you bends. As the haze takes over you drift in search of petals now full of much richer fragrances. Depending on the strain you either feel energized to run through the field hands spread out, taking in all that is now around you, or you lay down, and slide away. And then your life sneaks in, the outside world beyond the haze, and it whispers in your ear to come look over here. At times your life is full of promise and the flowers shine through the haze with their intrinsic factorial beauty. Intoxicated by their aroma you are pulled in and bliss takes over. Stay there and you will have not a care in the world, so says the haze. But at times when your life has lost some shine, and the bees of discontent are buzzing about pollenating your thoughts with what could go wrong, in the haze you find yourself stung. Drawn to the darker patch in the field with its tripwire like vines and prickly thorns you shiver as these smallest of daggers begin to pierce your skin. As you stumble across a mind trap, a rabbit hole, and the mistral paranoia casts slivers of speckled refracting light with her gaze, your thoughts begin to wonder down a perilous path, for this mistral, she knows your fear.
(are) my thoughts my thoughts or (are) the(y) haze.