The passion of the run (and the bike)

Out at dinner one night, a good friend told me it was gratifying to see that I had such a passion for all the running and cycling I’ve been doing this year. I told her I’m more amazed than anything else. From where this all started to where I am, the journey has been enlightening. And it’s been some of the hardest stuff I’ve ever done–early mornings, heat, cold, cramps, and questioning whether or not this is the smartest thing to do.

On OkCupid, there’s a question on what’s more important in a relationship, passion or dedication. I answered dedication. It doesn’t sound terribly romantic, but for a relationship to work, you have to put the work in. Flying on the autopilot of lust, desire and attachment will only get you so far. Once that fades, then what?

The initial rush of that first run or bike is great–I’m out on the road! I can feel the breeze! This is wonderful! The flow, then ebbs. Dragging yourself out of a warm bed to pull on your running togs and face a cold, hard dawn, is a…drag. The question of why the hell am I doing this is a constant. You tell yourself, there’s a payoff…somewhere. When you’re not running, you’re still preparing–passing up that doughnut for a banana. Parking the car a little farther from the store.

Soon, it becomes natural. You make the time to run in the morning. You take a pass on happy hour because you want to be right for the early ride. You judge the weather on how good a run day it would be. When you don’t run, or bike, you miss it. You don’t just run for the 5k shirt, or bike for the medal or water bottle you’ll get–you do it because you want to.

That’s love.

I think.

The question on OkCupid (like many of the questions there) is too damn binary. It’s both–the passion gets you in the door. The dedication keeps you there, and helps ride out the bumps that will come.

TFTD

I can’t think of a less worthwhile pursuit than sitting at a restaurant assessing each other’s suitability.

–Seen on an eHarmony profile

I don’t think it’s cynicism at play here, it’s cutting through the pretension of dating, the kabuki dance, the game-playing we all do. But hey, that’s the socially acceptable thing to do–and it helps keep restaurants in business.

Over the hill

Never mind how the race went Sunday. I ran my first duathlon–left the transition with the wrong shoes on, and cramped up twice on the bike. Never mind that. It’s what happening, or is seeming to happen. The experience seems to be transformative. There’s an energy now that wasn’t quite there before. Maybe it’s from the accomplishment of having put in months of work towards a goal, and having it pay off (despite having finished last in my category). The world seems a little different. It looks the same as it always has, but perhaps it’s a little more open now.

There’s a Sojourner Truth quote I saw just after I finished the race…

It is the mind that makes the body.

No question…I could have thrown in the towel from the cramping. But I persevered, walked up the hills with the bike, got back on, and completed the ride. That was huge–and transformative.

TFTD

Haven’t done one of these in a while. Seen on a friend’s blog…

“A beggar had been sitting by the side of a road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by. “Spare some change?” mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. “I have nothing to give you,” said the stranger. Then he asked: “What’s that you are sitting on?” “Nothing,” replied the beggar. “Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.” “Ever looked inside?” asked the stranger. “No,” said the beggar. “What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.” “Have a look inside,” insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.
I am that stranger who has nothing to give you and who is telling you to look inside. Not inside any box, as in the parable, but somewhere even closer inside yourself.”

– Eckhart Tolle

Seasons of change

They’re both gone.

My dad’s mom had a heart attack on Mother’s Day, and died that afternoon.

My mom’s mom had a stroke a few weeks later. She passed away just before Father’s Day.

One grandmother I didn’t know well; the other, raised me when I was little. On my refrigerator, there’s a picture of my mom’s mom and me on the edge of her bed, her with a smile, and me sucking my thumb. Why, I’ll never know. 

There are scenes from that week at home after my granny died. The wheelchair ramp that was over the stairs, now in pieces in the yard. The steady stream of family and friends visiting, with food in hand. The visitation at the funeral home, with my grandmother lying there in her casket, finally at rest from a life well-lived. The prayer circle in her yard the morning of her funeral.  The heat of that day. Seeing family I hadn’t see in ages. The crying. The moment in the church when they closed the casket, the last time we would see her face.

The deaths made me look at some things differently. My job, my life, my friends, my family. What’s important now? What’s not? It re-enforced the notion that nothing is permanent. Everything changes and evolves. We can’t fight that, as frightening as it is. If we fight change, we suffer. We have to roll with the tides of change…

*******

My mom’s mom was quiet, determined, independent and caring. Those are things that she gave me. And I hope that I can keep cultivating them. 

Back on the good foot

Yep, it’s been a while, so it’s time to get back at. 
 
I feel guilty about not doing it (like I do now). It continues to occupy my head in a way that, frankly shocks me. I don’t thing I’ve ever done anything that hurts so much while I’m doing it, and feels so good after I’m done.
 
I’m still running. As much as it can hurt, I’m still on the treadmill and the road. All winter, I ran at least twice a week, prepping for a stretch of runs in the spring and hoping that I could improve on the slack-ass run I had on New Year’s Day. A 5k, an 8k and a 5k later, I’d say it’s mission accomplished. The first run, on a cold and damp day, saw me finish about a minute faster than my very first run last summer. Given that I hate running in that stuff (it’s chilly, and cold weather make strenuous activity that much harder for me), I was pleasantly surprised. 
 
Next up was the 8k, a distance I’d only completed in practice runs–a couple of weeks before. Race weather was a little bit of a shock–nippy 50s at the start, but 60s at the finish. And this was the best race I’ve been so far–6,000 or so at the start. With these runs, I try to run the first mile completely, then run-walk the rest of the way. Imagine my surprise when I felt fresh enough to go almost a mile and a half without stopping. Don’t knock it–I was still moving. 
 
I was slogging toward the finish as the two top finishers in the half-marathon blew past me (I know one of those guys). As cresting the hill toward the line, I could hear the crowd, and that gave me a little boost to make it. I have to say, it felt great to hear my name from the MC as I crossed the finish–in under an hour. As with many of these runs, you get a medal. It makes me glad to have run the 8 and not the half–the 8K medal was a helluva lot better.
 
On to the next run, this time, in my hometown. It felt wonderful to walk back in to my hometown school, see folks I hadn’t seen in decades, and run a 5k for the school’s bands. The one advantage I had over the other races was that I grew up in this place and knew the roads and streets. 
 
The morning was sunny and warmer that I thought–I didn’t need the running tights I had on. The run started, and I slogged to the first mile. It was a small field (lots of little kids, though), so the runners were strung out a bit, a little more alone on the course than I’ve been used to. But rounding a corner and hitting one of the main streets, the energy came back. My strategy was to run two blocks and walk one. And it worked–I hit a PR. Home cooking tastes good.
 
And so, this Sunday, on a bit of a lark, I’m running another 5k. The races help me train toward a goal–like being part of a triathlon relay team in mid-July. Running feels like jazz felt when I was in my early 20s–something I can do and keep up with for a very long time. I’ll have about two months between races, so I have to–sorry, want to–keep training, eventually hitting a duathlon and then, by this time next year…a half-marathon. That’s my moonshot–that’s the one I want to complete.