Tuesday, June 24, 2008

This is Why

Because I've been still in the hallways of Monona Terrace, one among thousands, with my wetsuit propped up behind me as a pillow, trying to find a quiet corner of my mind to spend these last sacred seconds. We are thousands, but we are a murmur. A low thrumming, like a heartbeat. We are quiet, like in church. And the metaphor should not be lost.

Once, about 20 miles into a ride, the sky ruptured and fell down. The kind of rain where, if I were driving, I'd have pulled over under an overpass and waited it out because the wipers would have been useless. Instead I made it another mile to some woods, pulled over and found what shelter I could. The ground looked like it was exploding - a weird illusion from the hard droplets colliding with asphalt. I never once considered what the hell am I doing out here? because I was laughing too hard.

In 2005 I just barely outran a snowstorm in March, and when I got home after 12 miles I had to crawl up the stairs. I got into the shower with my running clothes still on, and turned up the heat, and tried to thaw out.

Because you wind your way around 3 levels of the Terrace, and seemingly endless checkpoints, but then you come onto the last room, where you sit down with some anonymous volunteer who wraps a wristband around you. And then, just then, it is real. It's no longer talk. And the endless lonely miles at sunset, the beer you didn't drink, the sleep you needed but couldn't get, the countless local races that each time taught something else about who you might be - they suddenly came down to a slice of plastic around your wrist. And there is power in it. Like everything you ever wanted is captured inside it somehow. So you hug the volunteer lady, because your winding road has led you finally to her, and she's your last outpost.

Because the first time I swam 25 yards I thought probably that would be about it. Until I could swim 50. Then 100.

Last weekend I got on my bike at 4:45am. Clear dawn was rising on the left side of my road, and the end of a sinister thunderstorm was looming on the right side of the road. Between them, inviting me to ride into it, was a rainbow. I thought, who else sees this now? People who choose to ride a bicycle at 4:45am, they've lost a bit of their minds. But it's only when you lose your mind that you see some of the best the world is.

Those who hear not the music think the dancer mad.

Quick: when was the last time you high-fived your Grandpa? Your mother? Your wife? Not a hug, not an encouraging squeeze. A high-five. Containing a language all its own.

When bobbing around the water, waiting for the world to turn, with the music blaring and the crowds gathering and the mass of swimcaps all around - we are each of us a tiny universe. With a story, a purpose. We each of us have somebody up there who's breath won't return until they see us safely out of the water. We each answer to something other than ourselves in answering why we are here. It is never a simple thing. And when you toe that line, in the instant before you step into the water to Take Your Mark, you are their ambassador. You represent everybody who believed, or doubted. Who showed up because of, or in spite of. You cross for everybody who hasn't crossed yet, who will one day, and who never would. And you can either pull that weight, or let it pull you.

Because if you know not suffering, or anger, or defeat; if you've never felt like you are more than who you are; if you've never asked yourself what you are truly made of - what absolutes live inside you, and resolved to discover what...well then, of course you'd never be interested in the first place. It is a thing we all have in common out there - a determination, a requirement, to be Who We Are Instead.

Yes, it is. It is that big of a deal. It is that hard. It really is. That's sort of the point.

The rest are just details. The rest figures itself out. There's never a "good time". It's never going to ideally suit your universe. You'll never think to yourself, "Geez, you know what I'm in the mood for? Madness." It will always be hard, you will always have to work to find the balance, it will never make sense to everybody, often not even yourself. And that, too, is part of the journey, and part of the forging. If you have to talk yourself into it, then wait until your time comes. Until you're drawn in. Until the current takes you. But if you're just making excuses...well then. Life is short. Get in already.


richvans said...

Wow! I'm almost embarrassed by my posting related to the more social aspects of these events. I clearly have a ways to go before I'll be able to discuss the more spiritual and emotional aspects in such an eloquent manner. Nicely stated!

xt4 said...

Well Rich, I think the social stuff is pretty important too. But, at least for me, that importance is kind of self-evident through all the fun posts, blogosphere connections, and obvious fun we're having. Today I was just compelled to dig a little deeper is all, into the stuff that's maybe more in the fine print.

Jason said...

Damn man....btw, swam my first mile last week. 25 yards to 1 mile in a month!!!


xt4 said...

Woot!!!! Kickass Jason!!!!

marathon2tri said...

You had to post this today, of all days. Now. Today.
On a day when I had finally decided not to register for IMLP next year, effectively suspending Becoming for another year, I read this. I have thought about waiting another year for the last few months as I train for my second HIM (Timberman). I had all the usual reasons to wait (too injured, too tired, too busy, this just too crazy) worked out in my head, thank you very much.

But then, I have to read this. Ug. I would have much prefered to read more about the demonic nature of Heed. Because what happened today? I read
"But if you're just making excuses...well then. Life is short. Get in already"

and perhaps saw myself. I have just one thing to say.


Game back on.

Karl McCracken said...

That's just fantastic stuff. I mean, really - probably one of the best posts I've read for a very long time.

Suddenly it all makes sense! Thank you for posting - this is probably one of the very many small things that'll tip the balance for me on 12th July when registration for Ironman Switzerland '09 opens . . . .

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice post! I don't think I've ever high-fived my grandpa...

See you this weekend!!

IronMin said...

Incredible post - seriously, I had tears in my eyes. You captured so much of the emotion behind the wild ride of Ironman.

RunBubbaRun said...

NIcely said, "to be Who We Are Instead", bring on the Madness as well..

Have fun at WIBA, not in the schedule this year for me. See ya in a couple of weeks at Racine.

KodaFit said...

There's not really much I can say about that, other than a deep excitement about the personal journey I am on.

I think I've read through that post 5 or 6 times now, and it gets better with each time though.


Anonymous said...

This kind of post is why your blog is my very favorite. Thanks very much for taking the time once in a while to examine the "inner game". You've done some great posts like that (especially the one about your Granfather and Daughter's birth). I also really love your youtube Ironman 10 part spectacular, which is how I first found your blog. Good luck in Racine!!

PS - it's cool you and your brother took your grandfather to the baseball game.

TrainingtoTri said...

Wow I just came across your blog from a shout out on Chasing Iron's blog. What a great post, just beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle said...

Very well said. I am hearing the music too now!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

~Jess~ said...


Nice post.. had tears.. I am 46 days out from IMKY..


If you don't mind I will give you the credit on my blog!