Saturday, May 31, 2014

Seven Days until [half]Ironman Boise

It's probably redundant and not very interesting to begin a blog with the lines: "I can't believe it" and "where has the time gone?" Time does only one thing (progress) and training for an event you didn't think (quite) you could do has the expected outcome of proving yourself resoundingly wrong merely by finishing (hey, look I didn't die!) or resoundingly right (I guess I know myself better than most people.)

When I signed up for Boise last winter, I was in a bad place. Or, more accurately, a sad place. Broken-up, broken-hearted and just plain broke.  Not only had I my seven-year relationship ended, I'd lost the LOA (Letter of Appointment for those of you who are curious) position at the university-- I had no job and really, nothing to keep me from the street. I cried into my cat's fur at night with the thought that I was unable to support myself-- to support them (creatures that need little more than water, food that is like hard-tack for sailors and a box to shit in) -- and what did that say about me? And it was about that time of the winter solstice when I decided to ask my parents to sponsor me for this race-- because, really, what else did I have to be proud of, to look forward to, in a time like that? (And they did, because it was my birthday and because I had asked in a really, really desperate way and they probably felt sorry for me.)

And now I'm a week away and it isn't what I thought, exactly.

It is more and it is less.

I thought this race would help me pick up the broken pieces and parts of my life; that the miles and yards and hours and days would sift out all the broken stuff and make "me" whole again. I thought, at first, I'd "win" him back (back when that was what I wanted). I thought I would be thin and lithe like a feather. I would have thick skin which would be impenetrable, like iron (without rusting, of course.) In other words, I thought I would regain what I'd lost: become who I had been, once, years ago.

That is not what happened.

I did not "become" some older self.  In training for this event, I've literally become someone else, physiologically, mentally and emotionally. I did not "win" him  back. This person-- this body which can swim and ride and run-- didn't need to, in the end.  What the the training brought me to was not a resolution, but a starting point: here I am and I am enough, the miles and yards and hours say. And my athlete-brain is ready to believe them.

Give me a distance and I will cover it.
Give me a time, and I will meet it.
Give me your hand, and I will take that, too-- (this journey has been unexpectedly focused on relationships.)

And maybe that's why I wanted to write this blog today. It isn't about me or even the  Boise Half Ironman.

Instead, I am able to do this one because of the people I have met along the way. The people who have changed my life-- changed me, in fact--- the people to whom I owe not only this race, but quite probably my life.

People like Steve Gehrke-- such an accomplished scholar, writer and poet-- who has taken the time to read my work, to help me through the revision and submission process and who listens to my battle-stories from the road. Who listens and reads. Who knows the dark writer-moments. And despite knowing all that, who loves me, inexplicably.

To Rich of Great Basin Bicycles-- my sponsor- who's (literally) taught me how to ride a bike. To ride a bike in aerobars. To ride to the point of puking and crying and laughing and jumping up and down. To ride knowing someone has your back and that, in life, a person is never completely alone or lost or helpless. There is always hope. There is, I guess, always a bike.

To Tanna of the UNR Tri Club. The kind of athlete I wish I was! Dedicated-- but always smiling. Every run and ride and swim is better with Tanna there. Whether she's singing the part of a song I'll get stuck in my head or saying the thing I want to say but don't (someone else smells or really sucks) she's there, saying it. We rode 200 miles together in the Davis Double and I couldn't have chosen a better teammate to stick with me through the miles. Someone to be there. To care if I was there. Someone to talk me through the tough spots.

And maybe that's what is so surprising at the (near) end of this journey. It wasn't about me, at all. I am who I am (I guess that hasn't changed!) and I can't say that I have firm grasp on life. What I have now, however, are friends-- the kind who want to stick around a while (come way may); the kind who've only offered me encouraging advice for Boise.

The kind who look beyond Boise to the rides, the runs, the swims and years to come. No matter what I do: no matter how the light narrows in a swim, how focused I become or how far I am from first place-- I've found the people who accept me just as I am.

People I love dearly.

And maybe that's what I will find at that finish line: that none of this time or distance is about me, exactly. It's about becoming. Or, being. It's about all that matters and all that doesn't. It is the fear of not-knowing but doing anyway.

It's about faith and life and love.

And all those little details like breathing, drinking water and eating now and then.

But mostly I think it's about love.

And cats (my two monsters told me I had to mention them.)

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