October 18, 2006

Lance Armstrong Was Wrong

I'd like to start this off by saying, oh, how the mighty have fallen. But that would be a bad way to start it off because it has absolutely nothing to do with what I'm about to say. I just think it's a cool way to begin a paragraph.

For the past 10 months I've been as slow as a snail in my jogging antics. Each day, it seemed, had me puttering along at a more dawdlingly tortoiselike pace than the day before. I realized that if I kept up this rate of decline, eventually I'd just be standing still and then, ultimately, moving backwards.

As if that's not enough, most of my runs this year were such agonizingly painful experiences, that I actually thought the recent debates over torturing prisoners referred specifically to my jogging attempts. As if the CIA would whisk me off in the dead of night to some miscellaneous bunker in Germany only to force me to go for a run. Noooo, I'd whimper like a pre-billy clubbed seal, please don't make me run. And as they dramatically whip out a pair of running shoes from an unmarked black bag, I'd faint, collapsing flat onto the ground at the mere sight of the shoes eliciting the mere thought of the pain.

Through it all, Catherine's running was improving. Sure she had a little leg tweak here, a foot glitch there. Yet she still managed to run faster and faster, leaving me in the dust. Oftentimes literally.

Well, this week things have changed. This week I went on the best, fastest, least painful run I've had in nearly a year. And then once again, this morning in fact, I had an exhilirating run with not a hint of leg pain. Running, dare I say, is becoming enjoyable again.

Catherine, on the other hand, has turned into me. She went on a hilly 8 mile jaunt on Saturday only to follow it up with a painful 8 mile "recovery" run on Sunday. By Monday she could barely walk. Truth be told, she could barely walk on Sunday too.

So the other day as we strolled down the street to the store, she was limping, moaning and grunting like a broken doll. We bought some groceries and a couple of pumpkins for Halloween carving. As Catherine was carrying one of the pumpkins back up the hill towards home it became a silent onslaught of limping, moaning and grunting. Let me take the pumpkin, honey, I said in hopes of easing her pain.

No, it's alright, she replied continuing her lopsided and seemingly excruciating gait.

A few more blocks brought on a sudden gasp, a buckling leg. I thought she was going to collapse.

Catherine, I said a little more forcefully, please let me carry the pumpkin!

No! she yelled back. It's not about the pumpkin!

And that's about when I started to laugh.

Triathlon training is demanding. Maintaining a consistently high level of athletic intensity drains the body of energy and leaves one a virtual bullseye for pain and injury. But I think Catherine has come up with the key to success and survival.

After careful contemplation, I've reconsidered Lance Armstrong's thoughts. It is, in fact, about the bike.

And though I have no idea what this all means or how any of it can symbolize athletic success, determination and drive, something about what she said keeps me moving forward and smiling. I know deep in my heart that Catherine was right.

It's not about the pumpkin.
Let's never forget.