Sometimes, It Really Is That One Thing…

(I needed to take 10 minutes for myself during this insanely busy week to forget the stress and go into a creative bubble – so I turned to my blog.  And here….we…..go.)


I don’t know about you, but I am a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin.  The West Wing was a fantastic series, and the dialogue was eloquent and artistic.  That series won a ton of awards during its seven seasons on the air…but that was not the series that truly made me a fan of this creative Jedi.  Instead, it was a series that he created for HBO after the West Wing finished its run: The Newsroom.  It was deep, timely, fast-paced, detailed, controversial…and for three seasons it told a story that drew the audience in and did not let go.  My absolute favorite moments on this show were monologues that Jeff Daniels (the main male protagonist) delivered that drove home concepts that rang true in my ears.  If you don’t believe me, just throw on the pilot episode and wait about three minutes…and you’ll see what I mean.


No seriously – go do it.  I’ll wait.


See what I mean?  Three minutes in to the pilot episode, Jeff Daniels gives a monologue about America that makes you shake your head and possibly even make you a bit pissed off (because he makes valid points about our country and they suck to hear).  As eloquent as that speech was, it is not my favorite from the series.


OK – so at this point you must be wondering: what in the name of Zues’rear-end does Aaron Sorkin have to do with running?  I’m getting to my point – I just like taking the scenic route sometimes.  (Besides, I needed a short break from my stressful day and I am going to milk this for all its worth.)


My favorite monologue that the main protagonist delivers occurs toward the end of season two.  At this point in the story, some people have screwed up a major news story and the entire staff of the TV station – Atlantis Cable News – is in the process of putting out the political flames that their error caused.  Jeff Daniels delivers what some people have referred to as the “Sometimes It’s Just That One Thing”speech.  It’s a fantastic speech broken up into three specific segments over an eight minute piece of the episode – but what he says is true in life…and in running.  Sometimes, it’s just simply that one small thing that makes all the difference in a larger outcome.


So picture this: Jeff Daniels is sitting in a conference room.  On the other side of the table are three attorneys that will represent the network in legal proceedings.  They are in the process of going through the timeline of the mistakes that were made and why no one on the team caught the errors along the way, when Jeff Daniels asks the question “who is Giuseppe Zangara?”  The attorneys all stare at him, slightly confused.  Daniels goes on the explain that Zangara got off 5 shots in 1933 that killed the mayor of Chicago (Anton Cermak).  Zangara was not very tall – so in order to get off the shots from the middle of the crowd, he stood on a rickety old chair.  The chair wobbled as the shots rang out.  The mayor was not the target that Zangara was aiming for; instead, it was the man that the mayor was shaking hands with at the time – our newly-elected President, Franklin Roosevelt.  If Zangara’s chair is not wobbly – if his arm was steady or if Mayor Cermak was standing in a different spot at that moment, maybe Zangara hits his mark and FDR would have been the fatality.  If Zangara’s chair remained motionless and FDR was struck by those bullets, The President’s running mate – John Nance Garner – would have been sworn into office.  Garner didn’t agree with FDR’s new package of legislation in the process of being implemented…which, to this day, is known as The New Deal.  In all likelihood, Garner would have reversed course on FDR’s legislation….and The U.S. may not have survived The Great Depression.  So, sometimes it’s just that one small thing that makes the difference in a much larger arena.


I think about that story a lot lately.  Sometimes it’s just one thing that makes the difference.


  • If I stuck to my training plan, if I got that long run in while it poured rain instead of rolling back under the covers that Saturday morning, maybe I would have been a pound lighter on race day.  Maybe I would have been 4 steps quicker.  Then I would have set a personal record for my marathon time, or my 5k time, etc.
  • If I stuck to my race diet, and stayed away from stuff that tastes delicious but brings with it too many calories, maybe I would have been a pound of two (or many more) lighter.  Maybe I would have been 8 steps quicker.  Hello personal record.
  • If I stuck to my cross-training schedule, and I hit the weight room 4 times a week consistently, maybe my arms and shoulders would have been a little bit stronger on race day.  Maybe I would have been 12 steps quicker.  Damn I love the sound of New Personal Record.
  • If I stuck to my scheduled rest days and didn’t burn myself out through over-training….
  • If I fueled properly before and during the race….
  • If I stuck to my hydration plan…


…I think you get the point.  Sometimes, it really is that one thing that makes the difference.

ironman vineman 230x120 1

My next big goal – the goal that I am just now beginning to train for – is the 2016 Ironman in Sonoma, California (lovingly referred to as The Vineman) on July 30th.  The first leg is a 2.4 mile swim that must be completed within two hours and twenty minutes.  If I don’t get enough laps in…if I blow off too many swim sessions…if I don’t stick to my rather detailed and demanding training plan…maybe I exit the water in two hours twenty minutes and two seconds – at which point I will be greeted by the words “I’m sorry, but your day is over”.  The second leg of the race is a 112 mile bike ride.  All athletes must be transitioning off of the bike by no later than 5:30pm.  If I don’t train hard enough…if I don’t put in the miles often enough on the bike…if I don’t learn how to repair a tire…maybe I arrive at Transition Point 2 (simply referred to as “T2”) at 5:31pm, and I am told “I’m sorry, but your day is over”.  The final stage of the Ironman is a marathon.  In order to hear those words “Joe Kolinsky, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”screamed over the loudspeaker, I need to cross the finish line no later than midnight.  If I don’t stick to my training plan…if I don’t get my long runs in…if I don’t rest on scheduled days in order to let myself heal…if I don’t fuel properly throughout the entire day up to this point, maybe I don’t hear those words screamed over the loudspeaker.  Maybe I don’t earn the title of Ironman.  Maybe I don’t accomplish what I set out to accomplish.  I’m going to use a highly technical term here: THAT WOULD SUCK.


The cloud of possible failure looms large over your head when achieving your goal means as much to you as earning an Ironman designation does to me.  So I use that fear of failure as motivation NOT to slack off.  I use it to ensure that I stick to my training plan.  I use it to say no to Oreos. (ummmm…….ok that last one was poppycock) (great Caesar’s ghost!  I just got to use the word poppycock for the first time in writing! I am feeling pretty jacked about that)


There’s always the possibility that one thing that keeps you from attaining your goal is something that is purely out of your control.  An injury.  Technical issues due to faulty equipment.  Weather.  But these are the things that we can accept as individuals.  Mr. Murphy has that stupid law.  At the end of the day, you need to be able to say to yourself that you have done everything you possibly can to achieve your goal.  There was nothing else you could have done to better prepare yourself for the task at hand.  If you can say that to yourself on race day, you have nothing to regret.


For some people, the one thing is fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of success (that one is odd-sounding, but still true).  Fear of the pain involved with getting from where you are to where you want to go.  Fear of embarrassment (what happens if I do everything I can to prepare myself for race day, and I turn out to be the bug – not the windshield?).  So what happens when the one thing is fear?  The person may be able to overcome the fear and achieve what he/ she set to achieve.  Or – maybe the person starts making excuses to him/herself: “hey, it doesn’t matter if I get this workout in.  It’s only one workout.  Who cares?  And besides – no one will know I blew the workout off.  It’s a promise I made to ME – no one else.”


As Les Brown says: “ladies and gentleman, EVERYTHING matters.  And YOU know.”


Sometimes, it’s just that one thing.  Some things we cannot control – so we roll with it and keep moving forward.  Other things we can control – so we continue to grind every day until we get where we want to go.


OK – back to work.  It’s gonna be a looooooong night.








Author: backofthepacker

A slow running, wine slurping, Disney-loving, bourbon swilling triathlete that is simply looking to go from ordinary to extraordinary...and hopefully motivate others along the way.

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