January 11, 2009

The History Of Thinking

The last thing I remember is Ironman Arizona.

April 13th, 2008.
8:41 pm.

It was mile 140. It was my best mile of the day – the most effortless, the most free. By mile 140 I had transcended. I had risen above the day’s mental destruction; I had conquered my defeat. Like a baby chick finally breaking from the confines of its egg to bathe in the glory of life, I was free. Pushed out of the nest, I flew.

It’s like my feet didn’t touch the ground. I kept running faster and faster as if the quicker I went, the easier it got.

The lights of the finishers chute burned a memory in my brain. As if in that instant there was a flash of a camera that forever burned the image into my memory. I see the faces of every single spectator. I feel the sounds of every single cheer. I hear Mike Reilly calling my name. I am screaming. I am on the verge of tears. I am free. I am there.

And then it all stopped.

In the blink of an eye, life passes you by. You grow so accustomed to the monotony of minutiae that defines Ironman training. The thousands of endless pedal strokes on yet another five hour training ride. The lap upon lap in the pool. The step after step after step on another run on another day on the same roads as before and before and before that. Every movement different but excruciatingly the same.

And when all of that suddenly disappears, when there is no more “next race” to prepare for, you are left with a gaping hole in your life. It is a hole of both freedom and emptiness.

I, like most triathletes, am used to filling holes. That emptiness from lack of training, quickly got filled with the freedom of all those things I’d missed. The little things. Books and movies and work and eating. And one day bled into another until here I am, nine months later severely out of shape.

In my mind, being in Ironman shape seems like just yesterday. Over nine months my body has transformed. My endurance and strength are nine months weaker. I can barely run for 15 minutes. A 1000 yard swim is overwhelming.

My body can barely even stretch but in my mind I am still in Ironman shape. The clock of mind is still stuck on April 13th.

This is the problem with thinking. Our ability to think let’s us ponder a past and a future at the expense of the present. It let’s us obsess over the “what was” and the “what might be” and makes it too easy to forget the “what is”.

I watch the runners on Sunday mornings as they float down the street with such ease. I look at them and can’t wait to go out and feel that myself. But its not the same. My run lasts 5 minutes. Maybe 10. I do not float, I lumber. It is not effortless but laborious.

I just started training again. New coach, new season, new goals. I have only one race on the books for this year: SOS (Survival of the Shawangunks). 30 miles of biking, 19 miles of running, 2 miles of swimming.

In my mind I am swimming like Phelps, biking like Armstrong and running like… me. Like the person in my mind in the history of my thinking.

Time to get back in shape and make history a reality.
Here we go again.


gman said...

i know one thing that you didnt fill the gaping hole with... blogging! where have you been?

j. said...

so true, gman. it's actually killing me. i want to blog a lot more - i really enjoy writing, it's my release. but work has been so incredibly busy. 13-15 hour days, working 7 days a week. i'm trying to make an effort to squeeze a bit more blogging in. it's like a child that i've neglected. it's time to see if i can reconcile with the child.

thanks for caring.

fingers meet keyboard. keyboard...fingers.

Anonymous said...

Be careful with those long hours, j. You won't look back and remember them with the fondness with which you will remember the ironman and family.

ChrisM said...

welcome back :)

Laura from NY said...

Hi Bro, Sounds like I hear a new year's resolution. But I'm not buying that you're only doing 1 race this year. Just doesn't sound like you.

Kim said...

hm - my first post had an error message - anyway, found your blog - and love this post, i was nodding in agreement. good stuff.