Over the past 33 years, I’ve riding enough miles to go from the earth to more than 2/3 the way to the moon, competed in 7 Ironman Triathlons, run enough miles to circumnavigate the planet twice and swim the equivalent distance from LA California to Hawaii. Believe me when I say I’ve been called “crazy” more than a few times about my commitment (some will call it an obsession) to athletics. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
One of my biggest fears is to be categorized as “normal” by today’s standards. I could provide you with the health risks of being considered part of the majority, or normal, but that’s for another day.
In my last blog post I described the six (6) rules that will increase the quality of your life, and rule #6 was to find your passion and keep it fuelled. I love listening and seeing someone that’s totally passionate about something in their life. Check out this video of my good friend Bob Willet’s son Nolan, doing some basketball drills. This is what passion looks like.
To get to this level of proficiency (he’s now 14 and even better) he has to practice every day until his fingers bleed; push through that pain and then do some more. A normal person without this kind of passion will never understand his level of commitment. If it hasn’t already happened, someday, somewhere, someone will call Nolan “crazy” to dedicate this amount of time and effort to his sport, but what they will never understand is this is Nolan’s passion and the pain associated with the volume of training to become this good is what he considers fun.
Let me illustrate how I’ve fuelled my passion for athletics for over the past 30 years. A passion which honours me the coveted title of being a “nut case”. In my early days of running, when I thought 10km was a pretty good distance, I used to think marathons were reserved for those crazy freaks that were borderline masochists, but after racing a number of them myself, these “crazy freaks” began to look pretty normal....Time to refuel my passion.
When I read about this bike race called the “Race Across America”; whereby the cyclists rode non-stop across the USA taking only brief stops for sleep. I thought to myself, “Now those guys are definitely crazy”. So I decided to ride my bike from Toronto to Ft Lauderdale, Florida, and raised money for Leukemia Research (a disease that took the life of my mother at the age of 56). When co-workers, friends and even family heard what I was planning to do, many called me “crazy”, and I liked the fact that I wasn’t “normal”. But after doing the ride which saw us average over 160km every day for 16 days in a row, it too seemed normal....Time to refuel my passion.
I happened to be turning the channels on my TV in the fall of 1982 a year after my bike trip to Florida when I witnessed Julie Moss crawl across the Ironman Triathlon finish line on ABC Wide World of Sports. I thought to myself, what kind of passion and determination does a person require to force themself to crawl across the finish line when every cell in their body is telling them to stop. Clearly Ms. Moss was a certified “crazy freak”.... and I knew right there I wanted whatever it was that made her go.
After a while, I was curious to learn how crazy someone had to be to train for and race an Ironman. So I taught myself how to swim and placed 10th overall in my first Ironman attempt. I was thought my place as a crazy Ironman was secure. And I did 6 more just to be safe. Now that so many people have done the Ironman, my “crazy” status is once again in jeopardy, not to mention my need for a new goal to refuel my passion.
So after riding my bike across the USA (north to south) two more times in an effort to raise money for cancer survivors, I was once again looking for something to refuel my passion. Last year my stepbrother Gerry Patterson who lives in the south of France, emailed me a link to an event that makes the Ironman look like a warm up (if that’s even possible). It’s called Haute Route (“High Road” in English) and it’s as close as I will ever get to sport’s ultimate sufferfest Nirvana, the Tour de France.
Haute Route is considered the toughest and highest amateur Cyclosportive in the world. It is a seven (7) day bike stage race from Geneva to Nice through the highest roads of the French Alps; the very same roads that have been made famous by the professional cyclists of the Tour de France for the past 100 years. Haute Route covers 780km and the cyclists climb an unthinkable 21,000 meters (or the equivalent of 2.5 times the height of Mt Everest). Talk about refuelling the passion. Doing something like Haute Route is clearly CRAZY, even by my standards, that's why I LOVE IT!
There’s an old saying that, “Pain welcomes company”. Well the kind of pain and suffering being served up by Haute Route welcomes a whole team of crazy people. So my step brother Gerry and I have formed a team of 9 riders that are every bit as crazy as he and I to join us. Follow this link to Gerry’s Blog to meet the other members of our team, who will join 600 other people that have the same passion for the sport of cycling in next year’s race.
The point of this blog is not to encourage you to sign up for next year’s Haute Route, or play basketball like Nolan Willett. No, it’s to encourage you to find your passion like Nolan, or my step brother Gerry, or the other countless number of people that started with a small passion and over time gave it fuel. Never stop seeking that freak within you, while feeding your passion with bigger goals and objectives that makes you feel alive. And when someone asks you why you do it, or calls you crazy, you know you’ve arrived; you’re no longer normal, which means you’ve finally found the “freak” within.
Enjoy the Ride..... Rob