Monday, January 19, 2009

An athlete's journey into the place of his making - Amazing Essay by Scott Tinley

I've been a Scott Tinley fan for a while. I remember when I first moved to San Diego, when I was biking with Greg Welch, another friend of Scott's - and triathlon's jester. Greg would jokingly introduce himself as Scott Tinley to new triathletes -- and tell them that they should come on in to the Tinley Store to get a free pair of shorts. Whoops. Back then, I had the privilege to run with Scott a few times in Del Mar, and we even shared some moments of reflection while running in the energy lab together during Scott's last Ironman before he retired. I'll never forget that run, watching him ultimately pass me as the sun was setting and we got closer to town. I remember he said "Come on Mitch, stay with me," and I really tried. We were in the middle of the pack on that day - even so, my legs were moving in a slower gear than his, and he pulled away.

This essay introduced below that Scott wrote is brilliant and moving - I think every Ironman or future Ironman should read this. Thanks Scott - for your words - and for pouring your soul into your writings. You're a great writer, teacher...and Ironman.

Haven't We Met
An athlete's journey into the place of his making.

by Scott Tinley

“For long months of days and weeks Ahab and anguish lay stretched together in one hammock rounding in mid-winter that dreary, howling Patagonia cape; then is was that his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Kenny Glah shuffles out onto a particular and straight ribbon of asphalt. The perennial top-twenty finisher has just left the town of Kailua-Kona and is entering mostly alone, a very lonesome road. Never mind the 1799 other triathletes; he knows the Queen Kaahumanu Highway is the same as it ever was—hot pavement threading fields of descendant lava.

The Kilauean pahoehoe extends the land as it reaches the sea, a place where Glah, 48, began this morning. Over time the lava will crumble and crack into older forms of igneous rock. But for now, Glah’s slowly-hardening legs are staying the course.

As he makes the left turn at the top of Palani Road, he can see back to where he began that very morning alongside the Kailua-Kona pier, a place where cattle and European disease were off-loaded from ships in the 1900s, a view part historical trajectory, part tragic history. Glah might be able to see eight hours or eighty years in arrears but not a quarter century ago when he first competed here and finished in the top ten. You see, as he gazes north toward the run course turnaround, the big boxes of Costco and Wal-Mart and Sports Authority have blocked his view of the Pacific horizon, quashing any reflexivity that might empower his next few hours. He might think that Kona is not so much a town without a plan but a town that doesn’t want one, a sleepy place with a high caffeine threshold.

For the moment, this congested paradise is on hold; spectators and tourists corralled into lower seaside streets cluttered with faux T-shirt shops, ABC stores and one microscopic surf shop called Pacific Vibrations. The little store is perhaps the most worthy vestige of authentic aloha left in commercial Kona, a counter cultural closet that transcends time, space and lobster-colored tourists. During Race Day, proprietors Mike and Simi McMichaels aren’t seen passing out decals and 10% off coupons but are busy organizing the volunteer swim safety crew. Kailua Bay is theirs. And no one drowns on their beach.... (to read the full essay click here)

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