My poor performance during the Self Transcendence Marathon really left a bad taste in my mouth. The injury wasn’t what got my knickers in a twist; instead, it was the way my race was going prior to twisting my ankle that frustrated me. My head wasn’t in it. I wasn’t prepared. I just expected to show up, flip the switch and go. I didn’t eat right. I didn’t hydrate correctly. I didn’t get enough rest. I’m just lucky I remembered my pair of Brooks that day.
If I really prepared well and then the wheels came off, I could have made my peace with the performance. But knowing that I wasn’t ready to race – that was inexcusable. I need to address this issue, because it’s becoming an ongoing theme as the year rolls on. In order to address any problems that I experience in my life, I normally begin by doing two things…
First, I research the issue. Like I’ve said more than a few times within this blog – Google is your buddy, so I first cracked open my laptop and hopped on the electronic superhighway. I opened Internet Explorer, pulled up Google.com, and searched on the following terms for guidance:
- “Tips For Getting Your Head Out Of Your Butt”
- “How To Stop Being A Schmuck”
- “Running For Dummies”
- Keeping Up With The Kardashians (because the first three google searches failed to provide the necessary wisdom to correct my issues)
If studying / researching an issue fails to rectify the situation (and let’s face it – google wasn’t much of a pal), I simply go Old School. WWMGD. What Would My Grandparents Do. Thinking this way normally gets me closer to issue resolution. So I spent some time alone, and I thought about my childhood.
You may not believe this, but I can recall a lot of my early years. Sometimes in great detail. The summer of 1977 was one I’ll never forget – the Yankees were referred to as The Bronx Zoo by the New York press, Craig Nettles was my idol…and my parents got divorced. Now hearing the way that last sentence ended, you might think that the ability to recall many specifics about one’s childhood brings with it a mixed bag of blessings and curses. Well, for me, that’s not really the case. My Mom (a.k.a, My Hero – which is a heck of a lot bigger than any idol) handled things amazingly well, where I began to realize that it would me and her against the world. And backing her up were my grandparents – both of which I quote A LOT while I write. For two people that never spent a day inside of a college classroom, they both had Ph.D’s in LIFE.
I remember one evening during that summer very fondly. I took the #12 Bus from City Island to Pelham Bay Station after school, and my grandfather met me at the bus stop. We went into a cigar store on the corner (that’s what’s now known as a “bodega”, for all of you playing the home version), where my grandfather purchased my daily pack of Topps baseball cards. We’d open the pack of cards as we continued on to our usual second stop on the walk home – OTB (that’s Off Track Betting) – and place a bet on a couple of racing going on at Belmont, Saratoga, or any of those other locations. My grandfather would lean over, show me the racing sheet, and say “who do ya like?” We never played the odds – we played the names. He would read me the list of names running in a race, and whichever one made me laugh was the one we bet on. $1 to win.
On this one afternoon he asked me who I liked, and then began to read off the names. He stopped when we read aloud “The Wee Iceman”. I chuckled. He smiled…and that was one of the only times I ever recall that huge Dutchman cracking a grin. “Perfect. Good choice. I’ll tell you about the Iceman later. Let’s place the bet”. We went to the window, and he’d let me hand the $1 bill over to the cashier and hold on to the ticket stub. Sure enough – The Wee Iceman actually won! My grandfather and I cleared $8, and cleared a chocolate ice cream cone.
We found a park bench in Wilkinson Park, just a few blocks from the apartment, and I went to work on my ice cream. As we sat on the bench and I began to drip chocolate on my school slacks, my grandfather told me the story of the Wee Ice Mon.
“Joey, I’m glad that you picked that horse, The Wee Ice Mon. Do you know you the Wee Ice Mon was?”
“He play on the Yanks?”
“Nope. The Wee Ice Mon was the nickname of one of the greatest professional golfers ever – Ben Hogan. Hogan was known to be one of the hardest working golfers – he’d be constantly practicing. He had a real work ethic, and people respected him for that. The other neat thing about Hogan was that when he played the game, he blocked out everything around him. He went into a zone where the only things that existed were the ball and the course. There were times where he didn’t even know his own score or where he stood in the standings; several times he only found out that he won a tournament when he arrived at the 18th green – the last hole of the match. While in Scotland, the Scots saw this work ethic and pure dedication to the game…and they embraced it. During the British Open one year, his caddy was quoted as saying “the man plays without fear. It’s like he has ice in his veins.” From then on, Hogan was called the Wee Ice Mon.”
I’m paraphrasing, of course – I cannot recall the entire conversation, but that was the gist of it. What I do remember, however, was what he did afterward. My grandfather stood up, hovered over my seated frame, looked down at me and said “Joey, remember something: if you wanna be good at something – I mean REALLY good at something – then you gotta work hard. If you wanna be the best though – you gotta outwork everyone else. Work hard, just like school. Every day. And when it’s game time, get focused. If you make a mistake – if ya have a bad day – shake it off. Be like the Wee Ice Mon. Focus on what you’re going and the score will take care of itself. Got it?”
“Yup. Got it. We gotta go Grandpa, Grandma is going to wonder where we are.”
He grabbed my chocolate-stained hand and we headed home. But as we got to the front door he looked down at me and said “Now Joey – did we bet on a horse?” To which I responded “What horse?” He grinned and said “…asta my boy”.
WWMGD? What Would My Grandparents Do? They would tell me that I need to work harder. They would tell me that I have lost my focus and that I’m letting a poor performance affect my training attitude. I need to act more like the Wee Ice Mon – I need to train harder and immediately forget the workouts or races that didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped.
I need to get to work.
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