I thought i would post the recent column i wrote for 220Triathlon Magazine about my attempts to speed up by slowing down 🙂
……..I lie face down on the ground, tears of relief, pride and joy dripping onto the carpet, the clock over my head reading 8.18.13. I stand up, wobble, embrace those I care about most, and prepare for the deluge of photographs and interviews. Cameras, microphones and dictaphones, mobile phones and old fashioned notebooks are thrust under my nose, and within seconds the question is asked ‘Chrissie, can you go faster?’ Part of me wants to respond with ‘there are always areas of improvement, so yes, of course!’, but the other half thinks ‘please, just slow down, let’s all sit back and celebrate this particular achievement’.
Time conscious, adrenalin loving, speed (no, not the illegal drug) seeking, yes like many of us, I live my life at 100 miles an hour. I always have done since I was a small child. Why walk when you can run? why chew your food when you can do the ‘snake swallowing a whole rat’ trick? why fold your clothes when you can simply throw them into the cupboard? I was constantly thinking of the future, wondering what it may bring, impatiently planning what I would do next. And, worried that I wasn’t making the most of everything that was on offer I spent my years living in London frantically catapulting myself between work, the theatre, sports events, dinners, concerts and training sessions. And in my rush, I would fall over, break bones, cut my tongue off (that’s another story) and cover myself in unsightly bumps and bruises. I was like the Energizer Bunny Girl – always running – figuratively and literally.
And, despite the passing of the years, not much has changed. I am still like Michael Schumacher on amphetamines. My clothes cupboard still looks like a jumble sale (in fact, I bought most of my clothes from said sales), I still eat my dinner like the presenter of Man V’s Food, shoving as much as I can into my mouth without it even touching my teeth (I make for a delightful dinner guest), I try and finish an ironman distance race in 8.18, and afterwards I can’t even slow down enough to pour the huge vesicle of beer into my mouth – instead sending it cascading over my head (I smelt like a brewery at the press conference, but was as sober as a judge).
So yes, not much has changed – I am still racing through life like a frenzied bargain hunter at a jumble sale – but I am beginning to recognize the need to slow down, take a breath and to savour the moment.
When I sliced my hand with a knife 4 days before Alp D’Huez Long Course 2007 (in a rushed attempt to hack my bike computer zip ties off with a knife) Brett had no sympathy. His words: ‘you think things just happen to you by accident. They don’t. You deserve the misfortune because you are not methodical or calm in your body and mind’. Too true. His words of wisdom ‘learn to hurry – slowly’. And, since then, in my boyfriend Tom, I have seen calmness incarnate. Yes, he is still 7mins faster than me at ironman, but he teaches me every day what it means to be unruffled, patent, orderly and yes, how to fold my clothes.
And so, post Roth, I took a leaf out of his book and used that leaf to really smell the flowers. Literally. Instead of my long run I did a long hike in the mountains around Boulder. I went on my own, with my water bottle and camera for company. The first few hours I spent climbing, rushing up the side of the hills as fast as my legs would carry me (not that fast given post race fatigue), but then I got to the top, and paused taking more than a moment to savour the spectacular view. I carried on, and began to really look at what surrounded me. Not just seeing, but soaking up the landscape and the amazing minutiae of the natural world – in particular, the plethora of flowers that were growing around me. I didn’t know their names, but the varied shapes and rainbow of colours amazed me. And instead of rushing past, I stopped, and photographed as many as I could. I saw butterflies flirting with each other, and being measured, quiet and patient I didn’t scare them off, instead they perched unperturbed on the purple petals, savouring the nectar. And as I descended into the forest I resisted the customary Chrissie urge to run – instead appreciating how the dappled sunlight made beautiful, intricate patterns on the ground beneath me. Ghandi was right, “There is more to life than increasing its speed”.
So, going forwards, I am trying to incorporate a little of this experience into my everyday life. To chew my food; to avoid simultaneously watching tv, surfing the web and talking on the phone; to rest and recover my mind as well as my body; to understand that I cannot do everything and must learn to say no; and to appreciate the moment for what it is, rather than what it is leading to.
Yes, I live my life for racing. But this doesn’t have to mean living my life like it is a race. So, with this new found, flower smelling ability in mind how did I respond to the Roth finish line inquisition?
“This was the race of my life. Let me celebrate this victory, this achievement and this moment…….But can I go faster? Of course, anything is possible!’”