This weekend featured lots of training and suffering and with that came bonus recovery time on the couch, during which I happened to catch two documentaries about life as an athlete worth sharing. The first is "Crash Reel", the story of former professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce. It chronicles his rise to snowboarding fame leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics and battles with Shaun White as they redefine the limits of the half-pipe. It goes on to capture his 2009 crash just weeks before the Vancouver Olympics, resulting traumatic brain injury and the day-to-day of how he copes with those life-altering changes. I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry through a good portion of the movie. It's not online but I think HBO may be re-airing soon. I'd keep your eye on for this one—definitely worth watching. Plus, the soundtrack is killer and the cinematography reminiscent of a Warren Miller video.
The faint of heart should be careful in the final few moments though, as the director takes you through a super-cut of essentially the worst crashes in extreme sports history, questioning the fuzzy limits of extreme sports—and what are we risking by trying to expand those boundaries? Having suffered enough flashbacks of my own bike crash, I actually closed my eyes through most of this, after cringing through the first few shots. Don't worry though, the preview is (mostly) safe:
The second is the story of Dirk Bockel leading up to last year's Kona race. Excellent storytelling, killer soundtrack as well. Similar to the KP documentary, it shows how consuming a life-long goal can be for certain athletes. For Kevin, it was the Vancouver Olympics. For Dirk, it was Kona.
Maybe I was tainted from watching the KP documentary but I found the contrast between the two athletes and how they approached the task at hand to be intriguing. Most noticeably, just months after being in a coma and dealing with TBI, Kevin was itching to get back onto the board and back into professional snowboarding—despite the grief of his family, including (in a particularly poignant moment) his older brother who has Down Syndrome who begs him not to re-attempt the trick that nearly killed him. For Dirk, slipping off the podium at the Abu Dhabi triathlon during the run or dealing with a broken hand at last year's Kona was an almost a welcome 'excuse' for him to take the gas off the pedal. Both (somewhat) misguided, but fascinating nonetheless.
Both documentaries feature the intertwined ideas of passion and suffering and how these athletes think, train and live. Overall, these two documentaries provide interesting insight into the troubled minds of two high caliber athletes as they attempt to out-train, outperform and out-innovate their competitors.
As Shaun White describes in "Crash Reel",
“I don’t sometimes like what I’m doing. I do it because I need the satisfaction and the fulfillment to make me feel better about myself, like I’ve achieved some new level that I never dreamed of. We make cars faster. We make trains faster. We innovate. We do that. It’s just what we do.”