Thursday, January 25, 2007

In a Sky Full of People

5 miles yesterday, 3 the day before and 3 more the day before that. All outside, and while it's been cold, it hasn't been insanely cold, so it's not been too miserable (that all changes today - cripes, look how cold it is). Still, sometimes it honestly takes me longer to get out the door with all the layers a guy has to wear than it does to actually do the workout. I am so looking forward to the days of spring.

Could be the extra effort of trudging over not-totally-plowed sidewalks or slushy streets, or breathing the really cold air, but I sure do feel out of shape. I haven't turned that elusive corner, where in the difference between this run and that run suddenly things feel easier. My pace is pretty slow for how hard I'm working (5 Miles at 10:00 miles yesterday, slowing down the whole damn time, and definitely feeling the effort). I know how things go now into my 4th year of this - time, discipline, and patience will put all the pieces into place, and soon enough I'll be feeling like I should. But for now - well, it's a little discouraging.

And I do miss that romantic spectre that is The Ironman. I miss, in the course of my workouts, preparing for so many countless unknowns, or envisioning the Finish Line of something so massive and important. I have a lot planned for this season, and I know I'll have fun and work hard. But Ironman is... Well. You know.

There is something amusing, and not unenjoyable, of (I imagine) being thought of as a crazy person in this world. Let me explain, see if you relate - there's something captivating for me when I'm this guy, all bundled up, running along as the streetlights come on and the cars are passing by, taking their warm passengers home. I imagine the drivers all thinking as they see me, What the hell? It's too cold out here for that. It's not malicious I don't suppose - I just think of that dude, smoking a cigarette while listening to Bon Jovi with his heat up, and he sees me run by and for an instant gives me a moment's thought, Oh, hell no., and then he goes on with his life and I go on with mine. I run sometimes by the KFC down the road from my house, and it smells rich and fast-foody and tasty and bad for you. And I enjoy that the polar opposite of sitting down to some fried chicken is to run right past the joint. I enjoy that most of the world doesn't do that sort of thing. Not because I think I'm in any way better than those people, or mean to demean anybody who is sitting in there and enjoying a #5 with a Pepsi, but just because, for me, it helps me feel like part of the solution, and not part of the problem. When my shadowy form emerges into the glow of the streetlight painted on the wet, wintery road only to disappear again a moment later, I feel that Nike commercial thing that makes a person think, Is there a better way to spend this moment, right here, right now? I don't precisely know how those in my universe see this part of me, but I think they see it for what it is - they're mostly always encouraging, supportive, and totally participating. But - especially for those in my more peripheral orbit, who maybe aren't there for the weeks and months of it - when their eyes get big at the distances of my long workouts (and, incidentally, I think people's eyes get big because they immediately consider themselves running 18 miles, or riding a bike for 100 miles, and they do that without considering the months or years it takes to get to the point where distances like that are possible, so of course it seems more outrageous than preparations have really made it), and behind some of that expression are words like Why? and Honestly, now...well, I guess there are worse things than being thought of as a little off-kilter because this is what you do.

All of which goes back a bit to that romance of Ironman, which I suppose is really just a manifestation of the greater mysteries in this whole thing. It's why we run. It's why we compete. It's why, for any of us, our Finish Line is self defined. I think of Chris Legh, who's body went to hell during the '97 World Championship, where he almost died. How this machine of a man, optimized for all speed, had to start again with a simple, painful, slow walk around the block. I was thinking of May, that first triathlon of the year, how it feels to get on the bike, breathless from transition, and settle in after a few miles into a pace, the spring wind chilly on the skin. It's not a means to an end, any of this. It's not always a battle. There aren't always obstacles to overcome. Sometimes, it's as simple as a love for the game. Or the smell of rain on an 8 miler. Or seeing something through. Or doing that thing that only we know we must do, whyever we must do it. It's just about the doing. The being. The Becoming. It's why those around us that do get it, this thing that we don't even know how to describe, are so important, so essential, so included in it all. And really, I think most people, even the casual stranger, does get it, in whatever ways they can. But for those that don't,'s okay. There's no helping them anyway.

Here's to the crazy ones.


TJ said...

i can totally relate. i often wonder what people think as they pass by me in their cars when i'm out training in crappy weather.

another thing along the same lines...i nod and encourage when someone comes up and tells me, "i worked out three times this week".
i don't want to see the look on their faces when i tell them "i worked out three times yesterday".

Pharmie said...

I've actually been meaning to write a post about this for a while. You beat me to it! I love being the crazy one. There was one day a couple of years ago, though, when a guy coming out of a Walgreens actually started yelling at me and how it was 30 degrees below zero (he was right, but I'm a Minnesotan).

Robin said...

Beautifully said. I too am missing having that lovely big IM goal hanging out there in front of me this year. I know I will push hard in my races, but there's something appealing about testing yourself against the unknown, the ultimate challenges that life can offer.

Life on the edges of the extremes can be so intoxicating, it's hard to walk back into the normal sometimes.

Triteacher said...

Chills from the You Tube. Woof. And not just cuz I'm sitting here reading/watching with an ice pack on my piriformis.

You make me take pride in being one of the crazies - put's a whole different spin on the 3 incredulous "Woah, you're still riding your bike to school in this weather" comments I got today.

RunBubbaRun said...

I to like people calling me crazy. Always want to prove them wrong. I think the people who are wasting there lives not doing anything are the crazy ones.

But I must admit I still can't go near a KFC without stopping.