Tag Archives: identity

thoughts from the bobsled

a couple weeks ago, while on vacation in park city, utah, my family spent the day at the olympic park. it’s the place where all the jumping events (the massive nordic jumps and the smaller flip-7-times-while-cooking-an-omelet kind), as well as the tracks for bobsled, luge and skeleton. these days, it’s both a working training center (we saw little kids on all the jumps, as part of classes — they have nifty ways to use the jumps in the summer), and a tourist attraction. jeannie and i had listened to (and said no to) a timeshare pitch in order to get 4 passes for the two ziplines and the alpine slide. good times.

all four of us in my family also had a certain amount of money to spend on our trip — on souvenirs or goodies or whatever.

i used my allotment to ride the bobsled.

the bobsled run at the utah olympic center is the 2nd fastest bobsled run in the world. and while it’s still used for real athletes, they also take silly tourists with money to blow on runs with a trained driver. it’s $200 in the winter; and in the summer, on a modified sled with wheels, it’s $60 (but i got a $10 discount, so it was $50). i was the last rider of the day, and went down the run with a driver and one other worker (because, they said, it was faster with at least three people). we clocked in at 69.4mph. the olympic athletes, on this course, go about 85 on ice.

it was one of the most intense minutes of my life. i didn’t breathe once.

but the extremely strange thing is that, somewhere about halfway down the run, while rounding a high banked turn and experiencing g-forces that left my stomach queezy for three hours afterward, i had a series of thoughts.

thought 1: this is FAST!

thought 2: that reminds me of that experience i had while driving a waverunner across a lake in texas back in 2006, when i sensed that god was saying something to be about ‘going fast’.

thought 3: this — my life — is so different now.

seriously, i thought that while rounding a turn on the bobsled run.

for so many years, my life was fast, fast, fast. i was afraid of it and proud of it. i nurtured it, pursued it, and knew i had to address it. i fondled my fastness while telling people how i was avoiding an affair with it. in some ways, i feel like i was a broken record, addressing the same thing over and over again, but not really changing anything.

i wrote a blog post about that experience on the lake, in 2006. it starts like this:

while zipping across lake conroe at 45mph, I was asking god what I should notice.


what about it?

you’re going fast.

crap. that’s too obvious. of course i’m going fast. i like fast.

some voice in me speaks, or god’s voice – i’m not sure (at first i dismiss it as a cliché voice – the ‘it’s obvious, stupid’ voice that only knows how to parrot what every other armchair psychologist or armchair god would say): you need to slow down.

i really did know this was a problem. and i really did know it could be my undoing. but it also made me feel important; and people affirmed me for it all the time. i even knew — ugh, this part is ugly — that talking about how i knew my speed was unhealthy, and taking seemingly aggressive steps to address it, made me look good. it was almost like that dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream thing from the movie inception: i was revealing my issues (which were real), but using them to mask an even deeper sickness.

so back to the bobsled.

clearly, my life has changed a good deal in the last year. and merely looking at my travel schedule would not lead the casual observer to believe that i’ve slowed down in the least. i’ve still got my fingers in dozens of projects, and deadlines still press on me; and while i’d assumed i would lose my airlines status this year for lack of flights, that’s looking unlikely at this point.

but… i don’t feel like i’m going fast anymore. at least, i don’t feel like i’m addicted to it anymore, or that it’s part of my identity, or that i need it like i did. others have affirmed this, including my wife and kids.

here’s what i’m thinking: maybe the ‘too fast’ was never about my schedule, but was always more about my motivation.