What is “Strong”?

The recent story concerning my beloved Miami Dolphins is both shocking and embarrassing  One of the perks about being a Dolphins fan these last 40 years is that our team was always a class organization. From the 70’s with Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, the No Name Defense, and into the 80’s with the Killer B’s, John Offerdahl, Dan Marino, and even into the 90’s with Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor, the Dolphins were always a team of discipline and character. The common denominator in all these teams? Don Shula.
What the hell happened??? 
First Jimmy Johnson sneaks into the team by publicly stating he wants the job, and thereby alienating Don Shula and Dan Marino, then skulking off after getting blown out by the Jacksonville Jaguars (the JAGUARS???) 62-7 in the playoffs, replacing himself with Dave Wannestedt (sp?) who produces an 11-5 season before going in the tank (much like he did in Chicago). Then we get Cam Cameron who promptly goes 1-15 in his one season before getting fired and replaced by Nick Saban, who uses the team as his springboard to Alabama. 
Sigh 
I had high hope when Philbin was hired. He ran a great system in Green Bay, and Green Bay is a high character team. He showed character his first season by releasing those players he saw as problems. We had hopes that finally we had found a coach to bring the Dolphins back to national prominence. It seemed to be working. 
Until now … 
It’s not like Richie Ingognito was an unknown entity  These issues have been following him since college. He was kicked of Nebraska for not following team rules. He then went to Oregon and was kicked off there as well. Did this alter his career? Nope. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams and lasted there a few years before being released for, you guessed it, too many personal fouls. He was then signed by the Raiders and got into such a heated argument that a coach, a COACH, punched him in the face on the sidelines during a game. He was, of course, released and then signed by the Dolphins. 
Incognito is a tough football player, which is why he keeps getting work. He is the type of player you want on the field with you … he doesn’t back down … he scraps with defensive lineman … he gives 100% on every play. To be honest, when we signed him I was happy, because I thought the Dolphins were missing that “nasty streak”. 
But this has gone too far … and he needs to not just be suspended … he needs to go. Now. 
This got me thinking about the notion of “strong”. Plenty of talking heads are out there now speaking about how Incognito is STRONG and Jonathan Martin is WEAK, which made him an easy target for someone with a bullying mentality. But Martin was a second round pick. He anchored an offensive line at Stanford that allowed Andrew Luck to be the first overall draft pick in the same draft class. He won a starting job in his first year. The man can play football. 
The notion of “strong” vs. “weak” comes up a lot in triathlon as well. Much of the training you do is not only to build muscle and endurance, but to build mental toughness. To learn how to stay on a bike for 112 miles when your ass hurts, you start feeling chaffing, your back seizes up, and every cell in your body wants to quit. To push through that wall on the marathon when your legs feel like cinder blocks. To get your wits about you when you hit that swim and full on panic sets in where you cannot breathe. It’s all a process, and we all go through it. Some are better suited to adversity, some even thrive in it (Chrissie Wellington comes to mind), but the truth is most of us struggle with some, if not all, of those roadblocks.
So what makes you strong? If you hit that wall on the run and cannot go further, does it mean you are weak if you pull out of the race? 
There are some out there, especially the trolls on Slowtwitch, that think exactly that way. 
The truth is that sometimes pulling out of a race is the stronger thing to do. I am hard headed and will keep going until they pull me off. But has that always been the right decision? After straining my Achilles during a camp before the HITS Ocala race in March, I still did the 70.3 three weeks later and had to walk the entire 13.1 mile run leg. It also affected my bike leg. I fought that injury the entire season, so the question nowin hindsight is would I have been better off bagging that race in order to heal for the remaining season? It’s a point of some pride I have that I have never DNF’ed a race. I have finished last a number of times, but I have always finished, so that mindset kept creeping in my head while hobbling through. Thinking on it now I should have pulled out … but that’s a hard decision. I know my peer group, my coach, and Jennifer would not have thought of me as weak if I had pulled out, but I would have seen myself that way, so I pushed through, to my own eventual detriment  The injury curtailed all of my running through the whole season, so I did not perform well in any races run leg. My swim got stronger. My Bike got stronger. But my run stayed the same or worsened. 
I think of people who HAVE pulled out of races or DNF’ed a race. Megan’s Miami 70.3. KC’s marathon. Did I think of them as weak? Hells Naw. These two are a couple of the toughest people I know. The word “weak” never even entered my head when I saw these results (my first instinct was “concern”). I also then think of professionals who have pulled out of Kona (I think it was last year’s race when a pro pulled out on the bike because he knew he didn’t have “it” that day). Is that pro weak? 
So, I will be training my ass off for the next 329 days until Ironman: Chattanooga. I will put in the miles and the time. I will toe the line and I will race. 
But if I don’t make it …

%d bloggers like this: