Monday, January 12, 2009

Scene from Ironman

I was at the bike shop yesterday, in a calculated attempt to ward off winter's misery and pretend, at least, that one day, someday, the snow and cold will abate. I walked out the doors of the shop, which is situated on the shore of Lake Monona, and on a whim put my packages in the car and walked down the adjacent running trail a little ways until I reached a landing which allowed me to walk onto the lake.

It was cold - bitter cold with the wind - but I didn't mind, and I pulled my collar up to do my best against it. I walked a bit further, following the shoreline, until I reached the ramp where one September day I entered the water with 2500 others. This day, it was all jagged and alien-terrained with huge shards of ice shoved up against the rocks there, and it was only because I know it by heart that I knew it was there at all.

A little ways off an ice-fisherman stood, maybe not half-way between the shore and where the ski ramp goes. If you know what I'm talking about, then you know what I'm talking about.

Behind me was a bright orange fence, posted there to indicate a warm-water spring that signs warn "may cause unstable ice in this area". Farther away still was a tiny village of ice-houses, for the people that sit inside them drinking beers or smoking cigars and bob fishing hooks into the ice. I turned slowly and took in the expanse of the entire lake, feeling the icy wind against my face, my toes growing cold inside the running shoes I wore. It was a colorless scene, all gray and white and stark. The Terrace hung over the lake like a tired old house, lifeless and bored.

I took my glove off - I'm not sure why, but it felt important to have contact - and dug through the snow in search of the lake beneath. The powder gave way to harder, icier stuff that hurt my freezing fingers to claw away at, but I finally scratched away just enough to see the frozen water underneath, it too gray and sleeping like the world around it. At least, I thought, it's real.

I gave one more look up to the Terrace as I put my glove on, and glanced at the helix, maybe listening for echoes of my team on that day a few years ago that changed everything. I heard only the empty wind, though, and wet traffic on John Nolen. I turned away and started walking back to my car, past the ramp where no triumphant inflatable gateways announce The Ironman, where nobody from Gatorade is stationed to watch my stuff if I wanted to head out for a warm-up swim. The snow crunched beneath me and my frozen breath vaporized on the wind as I tugged my collar up once more, then stuffed my gloved hands deeper into my pockets as I made my way back to my car. Time to go to work.


Anonymous said...

You are back.

Weird to think that in just 7.5 months - that same lake will be open and inviting you in to swim 2.4 miles :)

Enjoy the miles in the pool for now.

Maria said...

Hey! You're back! I look forward to reading about your training adventures this year!

Curly Su said...

wow, awesome post. great writing.

Erin said...

Such great observations. I look out at the lake every day at work, and never fail to think of how crazy it is that something so barren-looking will, in only a handful of months, be the training ground for so many. Amazing to think about.

marathon2 tri said...

Glad to see you are back. I was getting worried that you took up golf.