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.

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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.

Back on the good foot

Most sensible people would spend New Year’s morning nursing a well-earned hangover. I was suiting up to run a 5K in the cold. It was the fourth run I’ve done, and the worst one, in terms of the weather (below freezing) and time (a shade over 40 minutes). But the sweatshirt you get for registering was worth it. 

This running thing is becoming a test of will now. Running is not comfortable for me–I can run a mile nonstop, but it can be a struggle, especially in the winter. It can be painful for my knees. It can get boring–there’s no way I can run more than five miles, lest I lose interest. If I were faster, I wouldn’t worry about my attention being held. 

It’s a struggle–getting up, getting dressed, huffing and puffing, wondering why I do this. 

Why I’m doing this, isn’t just for the physical payoff. It seems like the mental challenge is the biggest hill to climb. I told a friend that I want to be an “international man of leisure.” This running is as far away from that as you can get from that. While I like being on my bike, that takes little effort–it’s natural. The running isn’t; it feels like a Rube Goldberg-like process to get out the door. 

And yet…I got out of the bed and out the door this morning. What running is doing is pushing me to be in places in my head that I haven’t been before. Even though my time on New Year’s wasn’t great, the sense of accomplishment was still there. 

There’s always a lesson to be learned, and it’s  to prepare. I wasn’t ready to run the last one (six miles on the bike the week before doesn’t count). So this winter, I’ll be on the treadmill, running twice a week. It’s not much, but it’s a restart. I’ve got runs coming in the spring–I want to run a little better for those.