It's one month to go before Ironman South Africa. Queue soundtrack to Eminem's 8 Mile....
Battle plans should be in their final stages and thoughts are on battle preparation. Does my trisuit match my bike? Back and chest shave? Should I resurrect The Hawk? Do I mark the space between my cheeks and eyes with black or camouflage? How much vaseline is sensible, how much is fetish? Oh what to wear?!
I've always been intrigued by Enlightened Man's attempt to replace war (and ensuing sadness, burials and dysentery) with sports day (and coloured vests, dressage and ra-ra-ra's).
Whereas Baron de Coubertin was more interested in declarations of peace than of war, there are a handful of ex-soldiers who retire to their tobacco pipes and memoir writing, setting out in explicit detail the ins and outs of war. Now I'm a peaceful man without any qualms against my fellow man (or fellow woman for that matter), and although I have an aversion to lists which aid the tactical elimination of enemies with greater efficiency and less cost to the State, I do like to juxtapose the words of ancient warriors alongside my racing plans.
Sun Tzu defined 13 principles in The Art of War. The Romans set out strategic documents of how to wear the enemy down and assure victory. Napoleon, experienced by years of conflict, listed 115 maxims of how to wage campaigns. Some tacticians, albeit at the wrong end of the victory, like American Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest kept it simple with only one strategy: "get there first with the most men." Sometimes it's best not to overcomplicate things.
I think ultra racing in whatever form is similar to the words coined by the Prussian military analyst, Carl von Clausewitz (born 1780 - died 1831):
"War is an area of uncertainty; three quarters of the things on which all action in War is based on are lying in a fog of uncertainty to a greater or lesser extent. The first thing (needed) here is a fine, piercing mind, to feel the truth with the measure of its judgment. The great uncertainty of all data in war is ...exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance. This lack of comprehension can stem from many factors, individually or in combination, such as poor reconnaissance; inaccurate intelligence; or faulty communication."
"Fog of war" is rather apt to what it feels like after 7 hours of racing when you're 10k's into the Ironman run and your plan is unravelling before your plodding feet as the pain sets in. Uncertainty plagues actions and mists your own capability, your surroundings, your actions and the campaign itself. Strategy therefore needs to accommodate for The Fog of War and plan the mind and body accordingly. One should not expect sunflower fields of perfectly laid plans, but rather the inevitable mist and difficulties associated with the labour of pushing and conquering limits.
Sun Tzu, in my mind, said it best just over 2,400 years ago:
"Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions."
Till I collapse,