February 06, 2007

I Am. I Was.

The short bus was waiting for me when I woke up this morning. I don't really know why the short bus was waiting there this morning. I had never seen it before. Maybe it was a sign.

It was 7am, I had kissed Catherine goodbye, walked out the door and turned down the walkway towards my car only to be confronted with the half-pint yellow bus waiting at the end of the path. Its doors were splayed open as if it were beckoning me in towards the oh so familiar graffitied vinyl seats and the unforgettable promise of a bumpy ride to some random institute of lower learning.

The short bus, as you probably know, is a special ride for slow people. Which is the perfect lead in to my workout this weekend.

I don't know if it's because of the demanding Ironman training from last year that tired out my legs or the fact that I'm just getting old, but the concept of "speed" is no longer in my exercise lexicon. What was once a fast and spritely runner, able to billy-goat up mountains in a single lung, has turned into a slow-poke wannabe, forever pushing forward into the past. (that last part was an ode to all you F. Scott Fitzgerald fans out there)

I remember the day before Ironman Lake Placid last year. Catherine and I were out on our one last taper ride, checking out a few miles of the course and sharing thoughts and fears about the next day's great adventure.

Don't forget, she said to me. While you are out on the course, remember what you are doing. You are living your dream. Don't forget to experience it. Enjoy it. And be proud of yourself.

I was too anxious to have those words mean much to me when she said it, though I knew she was right. And the next day while I was out there racing the hills of IM USA, those words echoed through my head. And somewhere in there, it happened. I was.

I wasn't thinking about where I had gone or what I still had to do. I was locked in the present. Just me and my body. I was.

For that entire day I lived in the now. I embraced every emotion, every feeling that coursed through my body. The joy, the pain, the pride and anger. I watched it all happen and accepted it all for what it was.

I was.

I wanted to imprint every one of those emotions onto my brain so that years down the road I could remember every single feeling of every single moment of that wonderful experience. I wanted to be able to relive at any time every stroke of the pedal and every step on the pavement. The pain was fine. It was my friend and I never wanted to forget it. I was calm. I was serene. I was.

If there is one miracle about my first Ironman experience, it was that. That I was. I was here. I was now. I was in my body, with myself for the entire day through the entire experience.

Which makes it even more amazing that I had such a crappy time on my wee bitty two hour bike ride this weekend.

I don't want to say it was extremely painful, but there was a definite piercing in my back about one hour into it that didn't seem to go away. More annoyingly, my heart rate was not cooperating. It doesn't really cooperate with me anymore at all. It just skyrockets.

Every little hill that I climbed, the heart rate would ring the proverbial bell. So I'd slow down in a desperate attempt to stay in the elusive "Zone" - those seemingly random numbers that are supposed to turn me into Flash TriGordon. But eventually the heart beats would increase again. So I'd slow down further. And I'd play this little game until I finally got to the point where if I went any slower I'd actually lose balance and fall off my bike, possibly getting run over by the three year old on the tricycle who was drafting me.

I got frustrated and angry and started screaming random things to nobody in particular.
This is bullshit!
Screw this!
Fuck you! (this one I'd scream directly to my heartrate monitor because, after all, it was the monitor's fault)

For two hours I frustrated myself to oblivion. And with that frustration came a blanket of complete annoyance. Every inch of that ride became a battle of wills. I willed it to get better. It didn't. I wanted it to end. It didn't.

As you can guess, eventually the ride ended. But somewhere in there it got me thinking about my Ironman experience. How for that one day I was content with everything. I was satisfied with my performance and accepted life as it came to me.

I tried to capture that feeling this weekend on the ride, but it didn't work. My mind didn't focus. Sure, I was. But that was way back then. Right now I'd like to say I am. But I'm not.

Perhaps I need to meditate a bit more. A few deep breaths may even help out. Either way, I found it a bit funny and a lot odd. For a full day in Lake Placid I was able to calm myself and ease through any obstacle that came in my way. Yet for two hours in Malibu, my mind was anywhere but with me. The difference between the two experiences was like night and day.... where day is very shiny and happy and bright, and night kinda resembles the more gruesome moments of Apocalypse Now.

I know I have to do something. I have to learn to enjoy the riding again and part of that is simply treasuring the experience. After all, this is supposed to be fun, right? And it's supposed to help me feel better about myself rather than worse, isn't it? When it comes right down to it, who cares if I'm going slow. It's all relative anyway.

So maybe next time when I'm out there having a bad ride, I won't look over my shoulder and fume about the past. I will try not to look back - even though I know the short bus is following me wherever I go.


jgirl said...

The power of presence...thanks for reminding us in this post... treasuring the experience. ~j

triathlonmom said...

aren't you being a little hard on yourself?

It was just last week that the grim reaper was looking over your shoulder.

Andra Sue said...

I think we all struggle with staying in the moment. It's a difficult thing to pursue, but very worthwhile. Thanks for the post--and I loved the "short bus" imagery.

j. said...

good point, trimom. it appears that the Grim Reaper is driving the short bus. interesting... you never really stop to think how the grim reaper actually gets around. i guess i uncovered that mystery. suddenly he's not as scary as i thought he was.

Megan said...

Thanks so much for making me recognize the present again... I'm heading out for a swim that I didn't want to do.. but I will live in the present during the next 2 hours.