Post Run Mug Shot
I found myself sitting at the threshold of life with a decision before me; what ought I do with my life?
To pencil it simply, these are what I have found so far:
3,300+ Miles full of joy, pain, elation, frustration, reflection, and just plain hard work. That is what goes on when one bikes across America for a cause. I am not going to talk much about the trip itself here as many of you have read the blogs from that event (in case you haven’t www.bikeamericamission.org). But needless to say I am ready to put the bike down for awhile, at least as a primary means and end to my passions, because after all I did ride my bike to where I am writing this blog. I learned a ubiquitous principle from that long bike ride. “Any great thing is composed from a series of small, sometimes tedious, sometimes enjoyable tasks.” In that sense, biking across America is simply a series of bike rides with a focused direction. In the same sense, is perhaps then a meaningful life found in a series of small tasks with a focused direction toward an intended destination–be it physical, spiritual, emotional, or cognitive?
I found that the joy in the completion of the task–biking America–came only when thought of with the efforts it took to arrive and as I sit here now I joy more over the memory of whichever of those parts come to mind rather than of the whole. Life is in the Verbs, it is in what we are doing, who we are doing it for, and the manner in which we go about getting it done. Maybe you won’t ever take enough bike rides in a particular direction to cross America in that manner, but what will you do?
Personally, I am laying down my bike for the time being. I think I’ll try my hand at the marathon again. It got the better of me last time but now I know this foe a little better. I know what is coming. I know how to prepare. And, you know what, it is through a series of small repetitive efforts called training.
(Once again I am going to seek to raise funds for impoverished children through Compassion International, this time supporting their child survival program which is designed to fight the frightening figure that nine million children don’t make it to their 5th birthday…not if I can help it… a focused direction)
The registration asked me to give the name of my training plan and to list any cross training so checked the box in front of bicycling. Here I am, halfway across America, on a bike, signing up for the second marathon of my life. I imagine I shouldn’t be surprised at myself; throughout this trip I have met people much more intense than myself–in fact, Brett comes to mind, he rode 170 miles on his bike in one day up to a marathon he ran the next day and then rode the 170 miles back the day after the marathon. So to make a long story short, If you are going to be in Portland on October 9th, 2011 I hope we cross paths, though I may be a little tired.
26.2 is a number. By itself it is not especially intimidating or of mention, other than it would be an abnormal number to choose at random but when 26.2 is followed by the statute unit of the mile it becomes something more–namely, a marathon. Marathons hold a certain aura about them. There is a certain honor to being able to say, “I have run a marathon.” Perhaps it harkens back to the soldier Pheidippides and his heralding of the victory from the Battle of Marathon back to Athens by foot. Or perhaps it is the common story it creates among people giving them something in common, some common battle that has been fought and won. In any case, countless marathons are run each year and countless more people toe the starting line of each of these throughout the generations.
There is something to being at the starting of a marathon. Some may call it free energy, others nervousness, or tension but whatever it is you could cut it with a knife at Vernonia that morning. Even my non-running friend said, “man at the starting line, It was so energizing. I though, ‘Hey, I could do this.'” (To which he adds, “but at the finish line I changed my mind”). My training partner calls this character “The Euphoria” and I will follow suite. The Euphoria can drive you to do ridiculous things like going out with the lead pack or running 30 seconds under your intended pace. It feels so easy with the endorphins rushing through your bloodstream. From the gun at Vernonia I proceed to cover the first 5280 feet in a hair under 6 minutes and 8 seconds–I time which in middle school I ran faster than only once for PE. Ask me about it now and I know I was an idiot. At the time for some reason, I thought I wasn’t. I wanted to believe I could run better than a 2:40 marathon on my first try. So Euphoria is the first character here are the rest of his friends…
Euphoria came hand in hand with the next character who goes by the name “The Knowing.” The Knowing is there as an inkling from the beginning steps of the first mile. It is there telling the protagonist, “You know this is too fast. Your heart rate is too high. There is no way you can maintain this.” But for the first miles Euphoria shouted, “You can do this! Keep going, keep going, keep going!” “The knowing” is the wise old uncle who seems to have done everything, always providing sound advice–which you don’t want to listen to. However, not listening is the action which queues the next character to ease onto stage.
“The Pain” is a brutal character, coming on stage in the early double digit miles only to pummel the confidence and strength from the protagonist. He burns, he aches, and he stabs at every weak point. Even worse, the more the protagonist continues to fight the stronger the Pain becomes. Following behind Pain is “Emotions”.
Now, Pain was a slow worker but Emotions is slower and subtler still. As Pain beats up on the outside of our courageous protagonist, Emotions quietly starts to decompose him from the inside. Emotions starts with a few simple words–“you have so far to go” or “this hurts so bad” or “I need to stop”. Soon, Emotions is replacing stalwart stoicism with whimpering disheartenment, confidence of success with fear of failure, and the heart of a warrior with the desires of cowardice. As the marathon continues, Emotions (with Pain’s brutal help) manages draw tears and whimpers from the protagonist at a few intervals.
This continues up until the final mile when old uncle Knowing chimes in, “Hey, you’re going to make it. You chose to do it the hard way but you are going to make it.” Upon hearing this the protagonist is overwhelmed and Emotions continues with a different ploy drawing all the work of Pain, the strain from mental exertion, and the thoughts of being successful–the tears and crying well up.
Then the Finish. At the finish, Emotions lets out one last rush as he admits he’s been beat–if only Pain did the same. The Finish brings gifts for the protagonist in the form of a medal, a silver blanket, and a drink to toast to victory. The battle has been well fought and won…
After you finish a marathon, you have the biggest sugar crash of your life, every muscle in your body wants to cramp, and you feel super cold all over….A warm shower really helps. A word of advise, “Take it easy, you have 26 miles to go.”
Miles to go before we sleep,