Thank you to TriLab for hosting Chris “Macca” McCormack to speak and sig copies of his book, “I’m Here to Win!” in December last year when NBC aired Kona 2011!
Monthly Archives: February 2012
There I was, standing aboard a small, crowded, cable car with a half dozen total strangers, dangling from a cable connecting the canyon walls, hundreds of feet above a tiny creek bed with barely a detectable trickle of water flowing.
‘Yea, that’ll help the landing,’ I remember sarcastically thinking to myself. ‘No! Don’t think that way. There won’t be a landing… Right? Right?!’
Docking at the pod in the center didn’t ease anyone’s uneasiness either. The flooring was made entirely of clear plexiglass and that seemed to be the only thing keeping your stomach from falling through to the abyss, as it perpetually dropped from your abdomen from total and complete lack of composure and intense fear. I was sentenced to second in line since the order ran from heaviest to lightest to minimize the potential for weakening of the line…
‘Weakening? Jon, don’t think about that. This is going to be fun, remember? You paid good money for this and you’re on the complete other side of the world about to experience the most insane 8.5 seconds of your 23-year-old life.’
My heart dropped with the first person to go (I guess my stomach wasn’t around at that point so one of my organs felt obliged to have a severe reaction). Then, my name was called and I carefully stepped across the threshold dividing the plexiglass-covered waiting area and the metal grate flooring of the staging zone. Up onto the chair of last remarks I went and the three interlocking sets of buckles were clasped onto my already mounted chest, waist and ankle/leg harnesses. I’m pretty sure I was numb at this point. As I’m writing this, I’m literally reliving every emotion and feeling that I felt in those last moments and the anticipation I’m experiencing right now in my apartment is insane!
I was helped out of the chair and once standing, encouraged to proceed to the edge. Well, technically, I ‘waddled’ to the edge because my ankles were essentially tied together. So I’m waddling away and think I’m pretty close to the edge and all I’m hearing is voices saying, “Just a little bit closer. A little more. Almost there. Ok, STOP.” I did.
“OK, now on the count of three, you’re going to go. It’s important that you show us your best swan dive because the distance is much farther than at other places. And if you don’t go on three, we’re just going to push you off anyway so you might as well go.
“3 – 2 – 1 – BUNGY!!!”
As I launched myself in an arc out into nothingness with my eyes wide and mouth agape, I experienced the most indescribable rush of adrenaline and excitement I ever have. I hurtled downward, my head leading the way and my arms still flying and my legs and feet above me, and the trickling stream rushing up at me. This was A.J. Hackett’s Nevis BUNGY, 134 meters high, outside of Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand. Queenstown is known as ‘The Adventure Capital of the World’ and it’s not hard to see why. In that same week, I went sky diving at the second most scenic drop zone in the world, hang gliding, glacier hiking, mountain biking and luge-ing. But even skydiving couldn’t come close to matching the rush of bungee jumping. The feeling of solo free fall within that proximity to the ground is unlike any other. The perspective is so severe and extreme and in-your-face that you can’t escape it.
Wow, go BUNGY jumping! NOW!
The following passage is a speech I gave today at the Toastmasters chapter I recently joined at City National Bank where I work in Los Angeles. This chapter was just started a few weeks ago and I’m serving as the VP of Public Relations. This was the first speech I gave and was called the Icebreaker.
Today, I want to share a little bit of my story and give you some insight into what drives me. But for me to do that, I want to invite you to use your imagination and take a walk in my shoes. Are you ready? Alright, let’s begin. Please close your eyes. Now, I’d like for each of you to imagine yourselves just waking up in a hotel room to an alarm that you set the night before. The clock on the alarm reads 3:45 a.m. The purpose of this early morning wakeup call is to give you adequate time to prepare for a day-long experience that will commence in three hours and fifteen minutes at exactly 7:00 a.m. At that time, you will embark on a journey that will altogether inspire you, challenge you, scare you, excite you and cause you to feel every emotion you’ve ever felt before and some that you have never felt.
You’ve been awake in the darkness preparing for the day for over three hours now and the sun is finally beginning to rise. Open your eyes. You haven’t spoken very much, if at all, since awaking, to conserve every potential drop of energy. At this very moment you are wearing a wetsuit and treading water in a lake with over 2,500 other people, male and female, ranging in age from 18 all the way up to 80 years old. There’s a nervous tension in the air as the MC’s voice blares over the loudspeakers. And then, at exactly 7:00 a.m., the cannon fires and the once calm lake turns into a raging river as the thousands of athletes at once begin flailing their arms and legs and swimming in the same direction, starting the journey 140.6 miles. This journey is called the IRONMAN Triathlon.
How many of you know what the Ironman triathlon is? Does anyone know what the distances of the race are?
My opening remarks above actually came from a personal experience. I raced my first Ironman in Arizona this past November and was fortunate to qualify for the Age Group World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. That race is approximately 241 days away. Yes, I’m counting.
The reason I chose to give my Icebreaker speech about Ironman is because triathlons have taught me a lot about life and who I’ve been created to be. I am drawn to Ironman and other extreme feats of endurance for three reasons.
#1: I have a compelling desire to test my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits. Obviously, undertaking a feat like Ironman requires a great deal of physical endurance. The mental component becomes very important once you reach the point when your body wants to shut down–and you WILL reach that point. the emotional and spiritual aspects come into play because you will have to dig deep and look deep inside and ask yourself, “Can I do this? Am I capable of finishing this race?” as the famous runner and Olympian, Steve Prefontaine, once said, “The real reason to run a race isn’t to win the race but to test the limits of the human heart.”
#2: It gives me a platform to speak with people individually and collectively from a place of authenticity. Saying I want to be an Ironman and actually doing an Ironman are entirely different. To paraphrase an old poem I learned recently, “You’re writing a story, a chapter each day, by the deeds that you do and the words that you say. And men read what you write, distorted or true, so what is your story according to you?” Before people will take you seriously, you need to prove by your actions and words that you’re truly living the way that you say you are. Why do we rake people like Billy Graham or Tony Robbins seriously? Because they’ve demonstrated by their actions, by the millions of loves they’ve touched, that they are authentic.
#3: And most importantly, I believe my purpose in life is to inspire people, to lift them out of their current situation and open their eyes to see the unique potential they have. That is why I did Ironman. When I got home after the race and could finally reflect, I was overwhelmed by all of the support I had received via Facebook posts, emails, texts and calls. Tears just started flowing because I was so humbled and blessed when I saw the kind of impact I had made and the people I’d inspired. .
I know that wherever I go, someone is always going to see what I do. I have no idea what they may be going through at the moment when our lives intersect but I do know that my life and my actions have the power to impact them either positively or negatively. At the end of the day, that is why I do my best to live authentically in each and every moment. I don’t always succeed but I give it my best shot. And I truly believe that each of you are impacting lives everywhere you go, whether or not you realize it. So today I want to issue a challenge to you: What is your story according to you? Thank you.
It was one of those days. Yeah, you know the kind that I mean. The kind when you wake up earlier than usual without your alarm, and feel that little scratch in your throat that has the potential to turn into a full blow sore throat if it’s not stymied immediately. And for those of you who work or have worked in the corporate world, fortunately or unfortunately, this next comment will resonate with you, for better or for worse. There is a thought that runs through the mind of every corporate slave, err, umm, *cough* employee (excuse me), and it’s a very specific thought that occurs in a very specific situation. The situation I am referring to is the one just described above and the thought is this one: “Should I or should I not call in sick today?” It truly is a question to end all questions, and, if we’re being completely honest, this thought actually goes through an employee’s head every single morning of every weekday… But that is neither here nor there. Then, the thoughts after that come rapidly: “If I go in, will I be hailed as a hero for rising to the occasion despite my sickness? Or will my boss tell me to go home so I don’t infect anyone else? If I call in sick, will my boss believe that I really am sick?? Will everyone I work with secretly despise me for being sick because they wish they were sick so they would have an excuse to not be at work today? Is there more to life than wishing you were sick so you wouldn’t have to go into work?” In a word, yes. But, surely I digress.
So it was one of those mornings. Because I’d dealt with this kind of thing before, I called in sick and forced myself to fall back to sleep and nip this potential cold in the bud. It worked, and I re-woke up after 10:00 a.m. on that glorious Monday morning to beautiful, cloudless blue skies and a bright, shining sun. After reading this description of the day, you wouldn’t think that it was the middle of winter on January 11, 2010. But it was. Oh, the joys of living in Los Angeles.
Since it was such a beautiful day and I was feeling 100% better than a few hours earlier, I decided to go on a bike ride to the beach. I wasn’t planning on going for long so I threw on some jeans and a T-shirt but neglected my helmet for my casual spin down the strand along the ocean. I packed my journal because it was near the beginning of the new year and I am almost always in a pensive mood then. Plus, in situations like this one, I almost always feel like I’ve been given one of the most valuable gifts of all, which is the gift of time, so I didn’t want to miss out on any great thoughts or ideas that my liberated mind might come up with.
After hanging out at the beach for a couple of hours, I couldn’t resist riding a little bit farther and getting on PCH. So there I was pedaling up the coast highway, shirtless, with my jeans and a baseball cap on backwards. Wow, talk about reinforcing the stereotypes that cyclists have toward triathletes and other non-cyclists! All I would have needed were unshaven legs to make it even worse. Oh wait, I did. Check.
After a little while, a “real” cyclist passed me in a NOW-MS Society jersey and shorts and I sped up to keep pace with him. To give you a little back story, I had seen other riders from this cycling club out on the road before and was always curious to learn more about the team. NOW stands for, “No Opportunity Wasted,” a TV show and movement that promotes what its name implies. The show revolved around giving the contestants on the show the resources to pursue their dreams. The show ran for several seasons in New Zealand, Canada and the U.S. and was created and hosted by Phil Keoghan, current host of the Amazing Race. Phil is the club’s sponsor and very inspiring, to say the least.
When the NOW rider passed me, I tried to keep up with him mainly because I wanted to ask him about the club and what it was all about. I trailed just far enough behind that he wouldn’t get annoyed at me for tailing him, but close enough that I wouldn’t lose him. Finally, I rolled up beside him at a light and we chatted briefly. In hindsight, I’m sure he was holding himself back from saying, “What the heck are you wearing and where is your helmet, you idiot? ” I discovered his name was Johnny V. and he ended up giving me an informal lesson on cycling etiquette and how to draft off of another rider in a group. I told him of my interest in cycling and asked him more about the club. He told me there was a team social coming up that Wednesday at Barney’s Beanery in Santa Monica and invited me to come out to meet more of the guys on the team and learn more about joining.
In conclusion, not only was that one of the best sick days I’ve ever taken, but it was the catalyst that started me down the path to becoming a cyclist, which would prepare me to complete my first 100-mile ride and plant the seed in my mind that racing an Ironman was a real possibility.
So the moral of the story is this: If you wake up and feel like you’re coming down with a sore throat, call in sick and go back to sleep for a few more hours because that day is probably going to be one of the most pivotal days of your life. Everything happens for a reason so make sure you search to find the reason behind everything.
Since I started road cycling competitively in 2010, I’ve always been on a haphazard quest to find my top downhill speed–as, I think, are a lot of cyclists in their early 20’s! Attaining the mid-40MPH range had become pretty standard and I recall having hit 46-47MPH on a few occasions. But 50MPH was elusive, and it seemed that no matter how hard I pedaled, or how tightly and aerodynamically I clung to my bike, I just couldn’t crack 50. I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it, aside from when I was riding, but one’s top downhill speed often comes up when talking with fellow cyclists. One day, I struck up a conversation with a few guys at the time trial stage of the AMGEN Tour of California in Downtown LA. The conversation drifted to top speed and I asked them how fast they’d ever gone downhill. One of the guys nonchalantly said he’d hit 50-60MPH a few times.
“What?! Where!?” I said immediately.
I found out that the hill on which he’d set this speed was the four-mile stretch of Kanan-Dume Road between the closest tunnel to the ocean and PCH. I questioned him because I’d only been able to get myself up to 45-46MPH there due to the strong headwinds that are usually present on the descent. He said, “You have to pedal balls-to-the-wall through the tunnel to get as much speed as possible before the wind hits when you come out the other side.”
‘Ahhh, I see. Interesting,’ I thought as a mental light bulb clicked on and my pulse quickened with anticipation. Try to take a guess where I was riding that next weekend?
As I approached the tunnel from the valley side of Kanan-Dume, I began pedaling–HARD. I blasted out the other side and kept my legs firing as the Pacific Ocean swept into full view and the sea air filled my lungs. Something felt distinctly different this time as I picked up speed at the beginning of the descent. There seemed to be much more latent power present as I wrapped my 6’3″ body as tightly as I could around my Motobecane bicycle, a frame which was aptly named the Vent Noir, French for the “Black Wind.” Today, a black wind was at my back and I was on the brink of breaking my holy grail of 50MPH on a bike.
That was the number I read on my Cat-Eye display with my heart rate racing and adrenaline still pumping through my body at the bottom of the hill on the coast highway. “Oooooohhhhwooooohooooo!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, as a mixture of emotions bombarded me. I’d done it. I’d finally broken 50MPH!
When I tell people about this, I usually get one of two reactions:
(A) “Wow, that’s so awesome! I’ll bet that was such a rush!”
(B) “Do you realize that if you had hit even a small rock and crashed you could have died?! Where you wearing a helmet?? I mean, seriously, a car could have hit you too!”
Question for my readers: Are you (A) or (B)?