Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heraclitus said there needs always to be change: Change There Shall be, Ever and Always

And so here I am: uninjured at last. I have two thriving Achilles tendons, an increased capacity to cycle and swim in addition to my running legs which are returning to normal. I should be happy. And for those things, I am.

But you know, I've come to find that life-- whether it's an athletic life or any other kind-- is mono-directional. In other words, your path may wander like a stream, but you can never go back to some prior time, or some prior you. Too much has changed in the intervening moments. I will never be the athlete I was; I can only be the athlete I am. 

This topic comes to mind because I was supposed to workout with the Strawberry Canyon Track Club today-- for the second time since I've healed from my injury. It was all set: I would drive from where I live and work in the East Bay and begin the tempo run with the group at 6:00 pm in Berkeley. My coach knew I was coming, and I was excited to try a new chunk of terrain than I'd been covering in recent weeks.

It didn't surprise me that there was traffic. Bay Area + 5:30 pm rarely renders anything but. What did surprise me was what I saw when I arrived at 6:09 pm-- an empty track.

Nine minutes, my coach had left me.

Granted, he said the workout started at 6:00 pm and I had failed to arrive at promptly that time.  But there was something about that-- being left behind-- that stung more than I thought it could. I've had coaches wait on me before (not in some diva-move of showing up late on purpose)....but in my past, I've had buses held, workouts postponed (if with unkind words. But those coaches were there, regardless. They still wanted me to participate, to compete, to train.) This is the first time in my life as an athlete that I'd simply been left behind. 

It was as though I didn't matter.

It crossed my mind that this is probably because I am, right now, not that great of an athlete. I am not particularly strong (though I'm coming back) nor particularly fast. It's not impressive to run 16 miles under 2 hours at 6200' and then cycle 60 miles over mountain passes, averaging 17mph. Most people can do that, I guess. But the point is I couldn't before, and I did that this past Saturday. I'm progressing and I thought that's what sports are all about. But I guess there really are members of teams who just don't matter, no matter how far they have come.

And apparently, I've become one of them-- the invisible ones.

Or not. When I pulled myself together enough so that I could drive home, I realized that maybe this is a good thing. I'm not going back to what I was: I will become something else. Wiser (let's hope, right?) or maybe stronger. Maybe I'll commit to doing that Ironman Triathlon I've been talking about for years. Maybe I will find a coach who likes me and believes in me. Or maybe it's time for me to train myself. Whatever the outcome, it's up to me to turn this challenge into an opportunity-- to change sadness to hope. To keep pushing forward to be the best person I can be. Even if that person is the slowest one in the pack.

Image: Sura Nualpradid /


Carola Conces said...

Rebecca-- PLEASE don't blame this on Carl. He wanted us to wait longer but we all got anxious around 6:05 because we were having a planned team meeting after the workout and the police always come lock up the track around 8 p.m.

Also, this has NOTHING to do with how fast you are. Last week Sean was late and we left without him, and he is the fastest on the team. Part of what makes Carl so great, and what makes the team so great, is that he doesn't give special treatment to the fastest people. He would never change his attitude toward an athlete based on their performance. He cares about all of us whether we are injured, in shape, out of shape, or anywhere in between.

I'm sure it was really frustrating. But really you have to understand that the second- and third-to-last paragraphs here are not true or fair.

R said...

I didn't feel as though I was blaming anyone, really, but myself for not being better-- faster (in all respects, even driving in commute-time traffic. :) It's unfortunate, I guess, what occurred and I understand the reasons why you all wanted to leave. This injury has been really hard-- not to mention isolating-- and so it was just awful to show up and see everyone gone. At the moment, it was validation for all the awful things I've come to believe about myself lately in regards to training (why else would someone get left behind?) Of course, you are absolutely right: time constraints, schedules, etc. Those are all possibilities. I did not mean to make my post sound definitive. It's merely opinion and what I really meant to say was less about any one person's "fault" than that it's time for me to quit feeling awful and depressed and to find some solution that will make running a source of happiness again.

Sean Mac Always said...

Hey Rebecca,

Just wanted to follow up with Carola and reiterate that there was no intention of missing you, but it was a long workout and we had to get it done to try and push through all the agenda items at the officer meeting (with the track closing at 8). It doesn't have anything to do with fitness, it's just how the cookie crumbled and I'm sorry if you took it as a personal affront. I hope it did not create any deep-seated negative feelings, but trust me, we want you out there!

R said...

Thank you Sean-- and Carola as well. Again-- I have no negative feelings toward any one other than myself for failing to perform at my best....