So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Under The (Needle) Gun

I've recently become a fan of two tattoo-focused programs on cable television; not a surprise to my wife, since I also enjoyed watching the three TLC tattoo-related reality series' "Miami Ink," "L.A. Ink" and N.Y. Ink."  The latest two are "Tattoo Nightmares" and "Ink Master," both of which are on the 40-something year-old, (seemingly-) male-interest-focused cable channel Spike.

My wife, to a lesser degree, also enjoys watching these programs.  She's adamant about the fact she will never get a tattoo, but I'm more than welcome to get another one when I feel compelled to expose my tender self to the ministrations (and needles) of artist and machine.  She likes the really good pieces shown on "Ink Master" and cringes as much as I when she sees the "Tattoo Nightmares" badly in need of some sort of cover-up.  I guess art, even if the skin is the canvas, is never really bad; just varying degrees of beautiful.

Art, tattooing...and have a lot in common, if you take a few minutes (and a beverage of choice) to consider the similarities.

Discomfort or pain is the first quality which immediately comes to my mind.  One need only refer back to the ever-quotable Steve Prefontaine, who once said, "A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding."  Anyone who has raced on the track, road, or trail; has laid out their muscle, heart and sinew as a near-daily, daily, or twice-daily offering to the racing and training gods can quickly say that the day's run or race is a willful exercise in patient suffering, in much the same manner as a client receiving ink.  Ask an artist where they gain their inspiration, and some will refer to either their own or someone else's physical or psychic pain.  Two words to anyone who might doubt this:  Frida Kahlo.

During the other week's "Ink Master" episode, one of the competing tattoo artists, Jamie Davies, was chided by the judging panel for having no tattoos (exposed or not) on his body.  The panel of three tattoo artists and one rock musician, recommended (before removing him from the competition) he receive a few tats of his own, just to know how it feels to expose skin to needle gun.  How many writers prefer to scribble in journals rather than engage in the (sometimes self-glorifying) act of writing web logs, lyricizing, or performing poetry at open microphone nights?  You might doodle in notepads and sketchbooks, or noodle on guitars, but does it mean that everything you do needs to be laid out for public scrutiny?

There are pieces I've seen people get put on their body which, when I asked them the story behind the ink, they had nothing to say.  Marines who get the eagle, globe and anchor are about the only group...okay, Ironman triathlon finishers, too...where no story really need be elicited.  Except, perhaps, that of "Parris Island or San Diego?"  Or "Which course?"  Yeah, you have that one guy who a couple of years ago said anyone who finished the 140.6 miles anywhere but Hawaii did not merit  being called an Ironman, or sitting to receive the "M-Dot" tattoo until they did.  But he's an army of one in that particular war.

A tattoo, especially a nice one, usually leads me to first ask the story behind the tattoo, then the name or location of the tattoo artist.  If the story isn't compelling - and most of the really good pieces I've seen have one (it usually means the person wants to remember or communicate something special to them) - it doesn't matter who inked you.

But I go back to what we might call the "Jamie Davies Syndrome" when it comes to training and/or coaching.  First, and most important to me as a coach, is to ask an athlete who wants to do a particular event, especially if they're on the verge of entering uncharted territory (like an IM70.3 event when they haven't done a lot of long-distance stuff, or attempting a marathon straight-off-the-couch) "is there a compelling reason to do this event?"  They need to understand the degree of pain and discomfort (physical, psychological, social and emotional) involved to make it to completion.  Good-looking multicolored tattoos which take up half a thigh or shoulder and impress the daylights out of the public will have you sitting on the business end of one or more needles for a few hours.  Marathoners look at my "credentials" as a runner, rather than the outcomes of my athletes, and get a little bit cross-eyed.  My failures as a coach have come from the trial-and-error of other plans on myself; not unlike letting someone else run a gun over my flesh.  A good coach is one who knows and understands the pain you're going to go through, and, most importantly, won't let you go too much of the pain in training.

Don't let the regret of a bad training experience get in the way of a potentially good "story."

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