Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lance Armstrong: Still inspirational after the doping scandal

“I grew up a boyhood fan of Lance Armstrong. My first encounter with the man was on July 26th, 1999, the day after he won his first Tour de France. It didn’t mean much to me at the time as I was only 13, but the image of him with his arms pumped in the air on the front page of the Press & Sun Bulletin, my local newspaper, made a lasting impression on me. At the time I was just starting to get into running - the sport I would eventually compete in for the next 10 years of my life - and I was in search of meaning. It took a few more years to dig up why I fell in love with running, but a key tenant of my passion came from following Lance Armstrong. Nobody bikes over 2,000 miles in a three week span through the hills of France without a purpose. After reading his autobiography, “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life,” written with Sally Jenkins, I realized the truth behind this man’s story. He grew up in a single family household adopting the “man of the house” role early on. As a triathlete during his high school years he would bike 20 miles to a morning swim practice, go to school, have an afternoon swim practice, and then bike 20 miles home. After shocking the fields of major triathlons at only fifteen years old, Lance turned to cycling. He climbed the ladder fast and at age 21 won the world championship in Oslo, screaming as he made his high powered attacks and showboating as he crossed the line. But, the real trial of his life came when Lance was diagnosed with the highest degree of testicular cancer, which spread through his lungs and into his brain. He devoted his entire life at that point to researching and conquering the cancer with knowledge and a positive attitude. Lance suffered through more pain than most of us could ever imagine as the toxins of the chemotherapy ate away at his body. But he never gave up, he never lost hope, and he fought with everything he had - mind and body. After a long year of treatment he defeated the cancer. Lance fought his cancer with the same passion he has competed with. He has a heart that never gives up and this has lead him to win an all time cycling record, seven (7) Tour de France races in a row, before retiring. We can learn much about how to live life by observing and appreciating an individual like Lance Armstrong who continues to live his own life with such passion.” -Joseph Norman

UPDATE: Fresh video after the doping (performance enhancing drugs) scandal. Lance Armstrong is still inspirational in my eyes. Comment, thumbs up, & subscribe to the YouTube channel for current videos!

This article also appears on my new blog here:

The following are some excerpts from his book, “It’s Not About the Bike:”

“Then Nichols stunned me: he said that he would like to tailor my treatment to get me back on the bike. That was the one thing no doctor besides Scott Wolff had said to me. Not one. I was so taken aback that at first I didn’t trust what he was saying. The trip to Houston had so deflated me, particularly the description of the rigors of treatment and the extreme measures it would take to save me. My highest priority was survival. “Just help me live,” I said.” (104)

“Maybe I needed to tell myself I was still a rider, not just a cancer patient, no matter how weak I had become. If nothing else, it was my way of countering the disease and regaining the control it had stripped from me. I can still do this, I told myself. I might not be able to do it like I used to, but I can still do it.” (144)

“I had never embraced my life. I had made something of it, and fought for it, but I had never particularly enjoyed it. “You have this gift,” Kik (Armstrong’s first wife) said. “You can teach me how to really love life, because you’ve been on the brink, and you saw the other side. So you can show me that.” But she showed me. She wanted to see everything, and I was the guy who for to show it to her, and in showing it to her, I saw it for myself.” (169)

“The truth is, if you asked me to choose between winning the Tour de France and cancer, I would choose cancer. Odd as it sounds, I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour, because of what it has done for me as a human being, a man, a husband, a son, and a father.” (259)

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with? Facing up to that question, and finding a way to go on, is the real reward, better than any trophy.

By now you’ve figured out I’m into pain. Why? Because it’s self-revelatory, that’s why. There is a point in every race when a rider encounters his real opponent and understands that it’s himself. In my most painful moments on the bike, I am at my most curious, and I wonder each and every time how I will respond. Will I discover my innermost weakness, or will I seek out my innermost strength? It’s an open-ended question whether or not I will be able to finish the race. You might say pain is my chosen way of exploring the human heart.” (269-270)

P.S. Here's a link to that video above!