In one of my favorite South Park episodes of all time, Douche and Turd, Stan is confronted with the bad choice of having to cast a vote for either a Giant Douche or a Turd Sandwich as the new mascot of South Park Elementary. Stan disgusted with his choices, chooses to vote for neither. His decision to abstain leads to exile and his exile to adventure and his adventure to a grand return. Upon his return, he discovers that his vote was irrelevant.
What he is supposed to learn, is that for most elections you get to pick between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich and your vote doesn’t matter.
The point is you have crappy choices.
In many ways, this episode is really about my failures. Over the last three years, every significant event has left me wondering could I have done more? And if you are wondering whether you could have done more, the answer is absolute yes.
After my injury, I came to realize that my failure to go all out was all in my head. The problem was that two different daemons had me trapped. The first daemon, Scylla, would tell me when the racing hurt too much that this was proof that I was incapable of finishing and sap me of my will to continue. The second daemon, Charybdis, would tell me if I went too fast I would fail to complete the race disappointing my family and friends and reaffirm my uselessness forcing me to go slow.
Like Odysseus, I must find a path between Scylla and Charybdis by keeping my running pace just so …
Trying to find that pace was mentally exhausting. And impossible. Charybdis would prevent me from going fast. And when the pain inevitably hit Scylla would force me to stop. And then when I stopped, the public humiliation of failure would force me to continue. And the cycle of misery would continue.
Whether it was the Athens Marathon, all three times, or the Napa Valley Marathon or the Hawaii 70.3 there was this point where I was caught between stopping and starting and unable to push through the pain.
And then this race happened. I woke that Sunday morning, took a selfie and realized how miserable I was.
I kept trying to smile and failed.
And as I waited, I noticed that there were these pacers. And I noticed that there was this 5h10 minute pacer, and then noticed that there was this 4:55 pace. And I decided, right then and there, that I had nothing to lose. That there was another choice, I could make…
I could choose to just to try and do a 4h55 minute marathon. My thoughts were, I would start with the 4h55 pace, and then if I could keep pace for the first 10 miles, then I would hold on for the remaining 16 miles.
And I did. Everytime Scylla showed her ugly face; I reminded myself that I was choosing to finish this race at that pace. That yes it hurt, and I would keep going. And every time Charybdis would warn me that this pace would mean that I would fail, I would keep pace.
I suddenly realized that the decision was mine. I could finish at 4h55 or I could quit or I could finish in 6h. Whatever I did, it was my decision. Scylla wasn’t making decisions for me, nor was Charybdis. I was making decisions for me. And my decision was to finish in 4h55 …
For 26 miles, I reminded myself that I didn’t have to choose between my Douche and Turd Sandwich, that I had another choice, I could just do it. That Scylla and Charybdis were just these stupid little constructs that were getting in my way of finishing this race at the pace I wanted.
And so I did finish the race.
In 4h55 …
And this is the face of a happy man…
Who realized that he didn’t have to vote for either a Douche or a Turd Sandwich because he is a free man.