The first time I wrote for lululemon, my poem on happiness was scribbled in the store window.
(I never did get a photo. But the best moments are like fresh snowfall…. they vanish fast and are better lived than overly documented.)
More recently, a fast-talking idea-zinging uber-talented-writer-type friend of mine, who’s currently at the helm of the lululemon blog, asked if I could profile a couple of their ambassadors who are about to compete for the second time in the World Championships Ultraman in Hawaii. Here’s the bit that got me hooked:
More people have gone into space than have done this race. Actual fact.
So, I interviewed Kevin and Kat Calder-Becker, a pair of 50 year olds who have raised an apparently well-adjusted daughter (I interviewed her too), work full-time jobs, and train an additional 26 hours a week (leaving me to wonder what the frack I do with my time and if I really needed to inhale that entire peppermint Ritter Sports bar to sustain my typing.)
Check out the profile, here.
I was prepared to hate them. I was looking for the mental chink in the armour – the streak of narcissism, OCD, whatever – that would make their superhuman achievements (or my underachievements) make sense.
And here’s what I found.
A pretty simple recipe for how to be awesome. Love, whole foods and a bit (okay, probably quite a bit) of tenacity.
Don’t ever let not knowing how to do something hold you back.
Their journey to Ultraman started with Kevin quitting the fags and packing on the pounds.
Says Kat, “For us, this was a fearful journey to begin. We were not athletes. I was an artist. I went to art school. I didn’t know how to run.” Kevin had to learn to swim laps without stopping.
It’s not about crazy. It’s about commitment.
“For us, it’s about commitment,” said Kat. “We’re committed to our jobs, our sports, our run club and we don’t start anything and not follow it through. We try and support other people and help them… And the sense of accomplishment was so profound for both of us. Facing fear and turning that fear into courage. Setting a goal. Crossing the finish line. We were in love with the sport and the lifestyle, so I signed us up for two the next year.”
There aren’t shortcuts or supplements to get your there.
I read this in Outside magazine a while ago – a round up of fitness trends. They’d combed the most influential sports science journals for the top-cited articles over the past 5 years, and that revealed that, in general, we’re obsessed with shortcuts. Beet juice. Hydrolysate. Everyone’s looking for a fitness shortcut.
“No weird supplements. We found out what we needed. We knew it was whole food. Supplements basically provide what you can get in whole food. We don’t take multivtamins. We use a Vitamix for smoothies. I wish they’d make whole foods a little more accessible to everyone. A head of lettuce for 99cents and 2 L of Coke up to $4.”
He doesn’t even use gadgets.
“I don’t have a placebo or a gadget. I race on feel. Everything has to go on feeling. If I’m tired, I stop. I raced Ironman with no watch. It’s how I feel. I like racing like that, without constantly looking at your time, what’s my pace. I look around. Oh look, the ocean, what temperature is that water I wonder. There’s no magic talisman. Just me and my mind.”
Why do they seem indefatigable? Well, there is the fact that 18 years in, they still believe they’re one another’s soul mates. More. Twin flames. So they literally energize each other. Don’t bicker. Don’t wear each other down.
Kat: “When we race, we race. But when we train, we have fun. We’re never gotten mad at each other in training, I’m always trying to hold on to his back wheel and in swimming, I try and put the hurt on him and it makes us better. We’re really in alignment in our objectives.
Overcome fear one step at a time.
Kat: “These things are scary. When I look at the start of a race, it’s a fear of the unknown. A lot will come up and I’m going to have to make a lot of decisions on the fly, that will result in success or failure, and it’s completely on your shoulders if you fail. But for me…it’s been a great therapy. If you can face the ocean for 10km or run across the Grand Canyon which we did in April (15 hours of straight running, one of the hardest things we’ve ever done), and turn that fear into courage… I used to be afraid of walking into a room of people.”
Kev: “How do I overcome the fear? I live in the moment. So until it happens, I won’t react. I try not to think about it. I’m on the task at hand. When I’m swimming, I’m just swimming. In 20 minutes my paddlers going to feed me. Is my stroke good? Am I moving forward? I’m not thinking about what’s in the water. One square meter. That’s all you can control. One stroke at a time.”
Ultraman is underway this weekend with updates on twitter at #ultramanlive.