What is this? It's a connection point. A tiny letter. A dispatch from the field. It is what it is.
I’ve broken it up into sections, Life, Distillations, Readings, Excursions, Interactions, Profiles, Pursuits and a meandering paragraph, for no particular reason, other then I suppose it's more manageable, and I gravitated towards it.
the first dispatch.
* LIFE “live into your values”
There’s a story I know in which a man, in his early 40’s is looking for a seat in a busy cafe to read his book before heading off for a walk with his partner, to share perspectives on relationships. As he waits for his coffee an older man offers him a seat at his booth, a gesture providing reprieve from the crowd. This mans demeanour is full with spirit, in his presence one has a sense of depth in character. As the older man digests the paper the younger reads a short story; “the paper menagerie” by Ken Lui, it’s a story about a young man, who fails to honour his mother during her life, nor in her passing, and as he sits in his childhood home, he feels ashamed of himself for behaving as such. The man in the booth sits considering how he would have acted, and ponders the choices he is now making. Does he honour his mother and father or is his life just too busy, to important, will he push it to another day; yet another day. As he gets up to leave the older man remarks “is your name Simon?” to which he replies “not if Im in trouble, or owe money”. “You may not recognize me but we met many years ago, you came to my house for dinner with your friend Jasper and his mother Pippa” referring to the young mans daughters namesake. They exchanged hello’s and talked about the years past, mutual friends, places they have been until the man dropped his coffee, spilling it on the floor. “My left hand doesn’t work anymore” he says, doing his best to conceal any embarrassment “since my stroke my left hand is always cold and my right hand is always hot. I can’t hold anything with my left hand, it just doesn’t work… can I tell you something? I’m sixty nine years old, I don’t have any children, every year another friend passes away. When I was a young man I had great dexterity, I was as steady as a rock, my body would do as I told it to, with great efficiency. I had tremendous coordination. Now I am old, and my body is failing me, I can’t even hold a coffee cup. When you’re old and your body is slowly winding down, and you don’t have any children, and the twilight of your life feels like a fading light, you ask yourself, who am I, what am I doing and what is important. Simon, do you know what is important, your values, your values are all that you have and all that you will ever have. Live into your values“.
They sat in silence, the young mans eyes now slightly blurry, tinged with red, it felt like eternity before the chatter of the cafe slowly returned.
We shook hands, I gave him my book and wondered off, more aware, and alive.
There are stand out moments in your life where the universe seems to harmonize, to synchronize, profound encounters, perfectly timed. This was one of them.
“Live into your values”
As is I think I am
I am Humble
I am Patient
I am Content
I am Delight
To cherish others is to cherish ourselves
I am Kind
I am Honest
I am Generous
I am Right speech
How do I coincide with we?
I am Respectful
I am Forgiving
I am Grateful
I am Loyal
Where do I find meaning.
I am aspirational
I am principled
I am in service to others
And therefor, I am courageous.
16 guidelines (www.16guidelines.org)
“I am Me, myself and us. As are you”.
* Distillations : Currently I am reading and listening to “stealing fire” by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal “exploring altered states of consciousness and how they can ignite passion, fuel creativity and accelerate problem solving, … ultimately Stealing Fire is a book about profound possibility - about what is actually possible for ourselves and our species when we unlock the full potential of the human mind.” “the ecstatic is a language without words that we all speak”. ‘Stealing fire ‘dissects Ecstasies - transient hypo frontality, our ability to turn off our prefrontal cortex, our advanced cognition centre, where we think about thinking, reasoning, and we pay with the cost of exposing ourselves to the nattering chorus of our “self”, a peanut gallery beset with worry, depression and anxiety, all of which take us out of the “now” disengaging us from the moment, lost mindfulness. According to Kotler and Wheal in Ecstasies we enter a state of “selflessness, effortlessness, timelessness and richness” often described as a state of flow, Deep Now or perpetual presence. We can all relate; “where did the time go”. It’s a fascinating book, thoroughly researched and well written, it illustrates, supported by case studies and science, the profound capabilities we all have when we are able to enter a state of Ecstasies. If you venture on to www.timelapseexplorers.com you'll see their themes and ideas run through out, in fact they take up prominent space. I've read some very impactful books over the last couple years, three body problem, the art of learning, the paper managerie and other short stories to name a few, "Stealing Fire" describes in great detail my experience with peak performance and galvanized me to weave their concepts into timelapse explorers, there were too many underlying unifying symmetries to ignore, it felt like the thread that pulled it all together.
* Readings : [on paper, glorious, paper] I can’t put down Cormac McCarthy, first it was “All the pretty horses” then “Blood Meridian” now it’s “Suttree”. A master of prose, at times I find myself reading out loud, as if Hargate or The Judge might wander over to listen in, drawn in by eloquence as Cormac paints inside your imagination.
* favourite passages (trying reading out loud, as if sharing a gift) : “they rode out on the round dais of the earth which alone was dark and no light to it and which carried their figures and bore them up into the swarming stars so that they rode not under but among them and they rode at once jaunty and circumspect, like thieves newly loosed into that dark electric, like young thieves in a glowing orchard, loosely jacketed against the cold and ten thousand worlds for the choosing.” Cormac McCarthy ‘all the pretty horses’
* excursions - together : Originally I was going to write about a “downwinder” (link) gone wrong resulting in a walk back “up” to get the car, sloshing about in my booties, quietly wanting to tell passers by, that my drysuit was simply a raincoat, and pants, heavy ones.
Instead, with too many years in between, the first excursions is “Together”: a mtb ride, at 6500ft, with two wonderful old friends, Greg and Laura Bennett. We have known each other for 20years, raced and trained together, been through the full spectrum of the professional athlete experience, our first ride together in 8 years felt like riding across the pages between two chapters, our sporting careers, during and now for all three of us, the after. I didn’t take many photos, preferring to just be there fully engaged, but I did capture a few moments, doing our thing, together.
During my formative years in triathlon there was no single individual outside of my family who influenced my triathlon career more then Greg Bennett. His willingness to share his experience and passion for the sport helped propel me from a very enthusiast aspiring young whipper snapper athlete to Olympic Champion in 2000. Greg’s focus, determination and commitment were second to none but it’s Greg’s willingness to be vulnerable and acute sense of self that defines him. He is one of the greatest characters I have ever known, it’s a privilege to have shared so much of our journeys together. When Laura joined our squad in 2000 we had all of the ingredients we needed to venture forth and pursue athletic and personal excellence. Laura’s attention to details, calm approach and her ability to find the right people and ask the right questions, always seeking out best practices, brought us together as a formidable team with all of the characteristics we needed to succeed at the highest level. We shared a joy and passion for our sport which meant we were happiest when fully absorbed in our work, we gained deep satisfaction from when engrossed in this pursuit. And yet we were never satisfied, always maintaining a “hungry heart” to which we applied ourselves by expecting the most of ourselves and those around us. It wasn’t always a straight forward path, it certainly has had, and will continue, to have challenges but as with anything Greg and Laura do they see obstacles as opportunities to learn from and overcome. They thrive powered by a shared sense of belief and common enterprise. Greg and Laura have helped define me as a person and as an athlete, I am truly honoured to call them friends and colleagues. To finally make it to Boulder Colorado and see their stunning home nestled in the foothills of the rockies; I not only understood, yet again, why they have been as successful as they imagined themselves to be but I was able to truly appreciated the spectacular setting in which they call home. The variety of options for biking and running are endless, the backdrop astounding and the infrastructure they have so meticulously laid out unprecedented, as typical of Greg and Laura, they left no stone unturned in their relentless pursuit.
* intersections : I’ve had an interesting email exchange with a young student athlete attending the same boarding school I did in Australia, Mitch W. appears to be breaking many of my old school records in his pursuit of his Olympic dream. I thought I might share the answers.
What age did you get into triathlon and racing competitively? I discovered triathlon at age eleven, the Kids of steal series in Sharbot Lake Ontario, it was more of an excuse to have a picnic with friends and family, I loved the atmosphere and adventure. I started racing competitively that summer, and began dreaming all things triathlon pretty much right away. Whilst at Knox and growing up here which races did you compete in? I remember Knox Grammar School fondly. I competed at track and field, the 800 and 1500, where, according to the head master Dr. Paterson I was expected to win the city championships and break the school records. This was first real experience with outside pressure and expectation, it was a defining moment for me. I did play soccer at Knox but my focus was swimming, I started in the slowest lane and slowly made my way up a couple lanes over, I was never able to bridge the gap to the boys my age but I certainly put in the work, 5:15am in the water, waking early by setting myself a “ten second” rule, if I counted to ten I had to get out of bed, I would get to 7 or 8 and say out loud, “is today really the day you finally break the ten second rule” it worked like a charm. I would get up early, write a quick journal entry, which usually finished with “off for an extra nugget bar” (the cafeteria staff loved that we got up as early as they did and always gave us an extra nugget bar and OJ). Knox had high expectations for the swim team, it was an honour to be a small part of it, as an alternate to the alternate on the slowest relay. In 2009, 16 years later when I lead out of the water at the World Cup in Kitzbuhel Austria I remember thinking as I ran to my bike, this is it, I’ve made it, Coach Chuck would be proud.
Did you ever do your training at Knox? (I do my swimming and running with the squads there, and ride around here. Ever ride bobbin head, West head, McCarrs creek?) You’re giving me flash backs, riding out through Warringah and Hornsby before descending Bobbins Head, out through Kuringi National Park, McCarrs creek, up the Narrabeen parkway and back home, my favourite loop. Galston Gorge and the old pacific highway. I used to leave the boarding house right after school and get out on my bike to explore every inch of the northern suburbs of Sydney. During the second year I was at Knox I met Greg Bennett at the Port Macquarie triathlon and snagged a lift home (having gotten lost in the dark riding on a flat tire from the train station to the hotel and almost missing the race the next day..). I joined the Balmoral triathlon club that year, met the other “pro” triathlete in the club, a certain Craig Alexander and we just trained and trained and trained. Centennial park loops, riding across the bridge at 5 o’clock in the morning, down through Cronulla and the southern shires, through the national forest and back to Balmoral for a swim in the harbour, a run around Mosman and bit of tip footy at the beach. Nothing like it.
What age did you receive your first sponsorship? (I'm currently an ambassador for Park Bikes, who are based in Sydney Olympic park) I can’t quite remember, I think I was sponsored by AllSport energy drinks and SlingShot bikes, imagine, a tension cable instead of a downtube, apparently it stored your energy and propelled you forward, today I’m skeptical, back in the day, I was convinced. Besides, Benno rode one, so how couldn’t it be fast./
Do you remember what times you were swimming/ running at this age? (I just turned 15, I swim a 4:30 400 free, and a low 9min 3km): I think I was at a similar level, I remember running 4:01.40 for 1500m at age 16 and being disappointed to not break 4mins. I swam at a similar level.
Some more technical ones;
What would you recommend doing to improve running strength off the bike? I've got the running speed needed however, I can't access all of that speed right now during my races. The older boys I'm racing seem to do this well. Will this need a restructure of strength program or what do you think? I wouldn’t worry so much about the specifics of running off the bike aside from making a fairly regular habit of doing a short run off the bike a couple times a week, finish at a grass field, get a 5-10mins in without focusing on much outside of your form and the transition. Remember Speed kills, those who don’t have it. Work on your speed, strength endurance comes with age and hrs, compared to speed it’s free. Movement patterns, daily diagnostics, skill acquisition and developing kinaesthetic awareness are key. Think of yourself as an avatar, a character from a role playing game, develop your character focusing on four areas, Spiritual health: your sense of self and belonging, relationships and your values. Physical health; your body, how it works, how to maintain it, to honour it. Sport specific skills, training capacity, bio mechanics, tactics, etc. and Community; giving onto others.
In order to develop as an ITU draft legal triathlete what areas should I be targeting right now? keeping long term success as the goal. Develop your own sense of self, of belonging through discipline as ritual. Self regulation. From the moment you get up, until you go to bed, think mastery, be a disciple unto yourself. Focus on this and the rest will take care of itself.
* profiles : Rachel Sadava. I’ve never met anyone like Rachel who has to put up with me saying it quite often, "you impress me".
Rachel is profoundly insightful, compassionate, generous and kind. As the founder of the Yoga Den Rachel has provided a safe, quite (unless it's kirtan night) and welcoming space for anyone who chooses to pass the first test, and find the front door! (hint, it's around the side) The den is a special place, built around an incredible group of teachers, each unique with their own style, brought together to express their gifts, and give others an opportunity to pause, to breath, to share, and to be still. Rachel is a remarkable teacher, from my very first class I was struck by her calm centred approach, her wealth of knowledge and acute feel for the room. She knew exactly what she needed to convey to make us all feel welcome, Yoga, "the science of realization". Rachel's Yin practice has had a tremendous impact on me, i’ve cried more tears, sat still longer, and subsequently breathed deeper then I could have ever imagined. The mat will meet you where you’re at, making it a hard place to attend at times, something I certainly struggle with, Rachel’s commitment to her own daily practice, and stead fast dedication to others inspires me, I fell like so many others, at ease in her presence. I am proud to know Rachel.
"everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart" - Rumi
* Pursuits :
The Relentless Pursuit portfolio has had a heady launch to 2017. ePACT Network launched a partnership with Telus, first community to benefit from this new union is Tofino. Our wearable tech company, TritonWear provided some incredible analysis during the NCAA championships in March. Check out one of the most exciting races - 100M Fly Analysis. And Wiivv just broke its own Kickstarter record. They launched a new product, a 3D printed custom fit sandal, and blew their own fundraising target out of the water. Relentless Pursuit Partners.
“Live into your values”.
The idea for a dispatch came about after I jettisoned myself from social media, apparently it took a long time to execute. I had a Kaizer Soze moment of sorts, an Irish good bye. In August of 2016 I took an impromptu (an abrupt) hiatus from social media of any kind. As the Rio Olympics began I decided I just wanted to watch, no need to comment. I was tired of it. Social media began to feel like manufactured spontaneity. Calculated to be captured moments of prosperity, commentary, and explanation points. Life on display, partially scripted; more and more scripted. And I began to question, what is authentic anymore. Is this social media a way to connect, or a disturbing and unspoken competition, surely we all struggle with it, and wonder, why am I on this, is this a look at me game, I’m doing as well, or better, then you. Clever Hashtag, trending hashtag, humblebrag. Over the summer I cancelled my cell plan, ghosted my number, got a flip phone and told myself I was keeping my little black mirror as a mini computer and camera. I felt like retracting, disappearing, never to be heard of again. If you were curious where I was, I was with my family, or out paddling, in the space in between. I felt free from the commentary, the illusion of people thinking they knew who I was, free from judgement, and no longer afraid of ridicule.
I won’t be owned by my phone, these little black mirrors.
Recently I thought about posting, and looking, again, there’s a draw to it, a pull of sorts, I posted a couple photo’s with my family, a sort of “we’re still here”, and “I love this crew”, followed by some commercial silliness, mumbo jumbo. Hashtag contractually obligated. And I started looking at Instagram again, to which I decided, it’s social, it can be quite interesting, and funny, and it’s nice to see people doing well, enjoying life, connecting. Collaborating. Creating.
I suppose like a yoga mat, social media will meet you where you are at.
So why a tiny letter? because it’s more personal, more thorough and more intentional. A tiny letter as a smoke signal, from my journal to a blog, analog to digital, reaching out to say that I, just like you, am still here. Carrying on, as best I can, as I know you are too. With good days, and great days, and not so great days, and sad days, the ones with angst, and sorrow, and shame, and guilt, and loneliness, all of the ingredients that make up a life well lived, a full life, a fulling life.
We are not here to be happy, we are here to be aware. To connect, to create, to feel and to belong.
I spend the past few years retracing my steps, looking back, and I didn’t always like what I saw. "The truth is a bully we all pretend to love". And yet, I have realized, that’s life, experiences. Wisdom is gained through reflection, through imitation, through experience.
So, what am I up too? Im with family and I’m paddling, a lot, I love it, it’s cycling with out the cars, mountain biking where the ground moves, and forgives. It’s dancing, on the ocean, in the space in between. I cherish my time on the ocean. And I call it “ocean maths” because i love doing “ocean maths in the space in between”. Beyond paddling. I’m working, plugging away, learning, and learning, and loving it. I read, and I read and I read. During my athletic career I listened, and I listened. I listened to coaches, and I listened to Audio books, thirty five of them in 2012. From fiction to current affairs, from James Ellroy and his quirky punchy prose to Edward Rutherford, and Robert Gifford, with their meandering and vibrant retelling of history. Stephen King, Lee Child (the narrator over the story content..), James Lee Burke, "wayfaring stranger", Phillip Meyer “the son” and “American Rust”, I might just listen to these again. Recently I’ve come back to reading, from the book. I love my audiobooks but to see the words, “three body problem” and “the dark forest” by Cixin Lui “all the pretty horses” and “blood meridian”, “the crossing” and “sutree” by Cormac McCarthy. If I had a dime for every time I stopped and reread Cormac.
Beyond books, I work, yes, I work. At one point I thought I would be the next Jim Traveling, a franchise king, with fingers in many pots. And then I learned, “do ONE thing” and do it well. Dabbling is for hobbies, in business, it’s for bankruptcy, whatever you do, have the courage to commit, and be thorough. After a few years of dabbling, and getting my fingers burned, those pots, they get hot, I began to focus again. I rediscovered my sense of being, of intention, the joy of mastery, and we built relentless pursuit partners. I found a business partner, who lived into her values, and knew what she was doing, and worked, worked hard. And we began investigating, committed to due diligence, we got thorough.
I built www.timelapseexplorers.com to give myself and hopefully others a place to express ourselves, to share and learn, to explore “the spaces in between”.
two quotes I pondered recently:
“very complex sets of things are happening” Donald Trump. Yes Donald, I think that’s part of the job. Lets start with being humble, compasionate, patient, content and kind.
“it is only a matter of time” Telus agent when asked how long it would be until our internet was back on. Yes it is, it all is, a matter of time. I laughed, out loud. Thank you Telus man.
and a scribble,
“Aeiou Wei felt refreshed, recharged. Salted. The ocean still clinging to his matted hair now hidden beneath a billabong cap. A shabby beard, once referred to as a pod, a patch of dirt, peppered with salt, and caked with ocean encrusted snot. For Aeiou there's nothing quite like an offshore mid day escape, beyond the reach of days. Out riding bumps, paddling amongst ocean spray, gasping deep breaths, nourishing and dancing in the space in between.” Simon Whitfield post paddle scribble on an ever present pad of paper.