Its 5am – 15 minutes before the alarm is set to pierce the peaceful calm of morning. I’m ready to get up though – anxious to hit the road before it gets too hot. Heat is a runner’s best aggravation. I’ve been told pulling on my running gear is similar to a warrior putting on his armor. It’s a pretty good analogy. The music in my earphones is basically fight music and regardless of how tired or sore, every run is at risk of being run too fast. Up ahead of me is another lone runner. Without thinking about it, I chase him down. Not a sprint but a quiet, ruthless attack on his pace. It’s not about winning really – just about being better. I don’t think I’m that different. There must be dozens of athletes that know exactly what I’m feeling. They’re doing the very same thing out there somewhere this very morning.
It has been said the best runners are the ones that can endure the most pain. Cycling has got to be harder than running. I studied it for a year and a half before adding a few rides a week in for cross training. Cyclists are a different breed. Arrogant, a little too self assured – like they know something the rest of us don’t. But then I remember the first time I attempted a ride the boys at the local bike shop told me about. After 1200 feet of elevation gain, they sprint up the last (steepest) hill in a race against each other to the top. On the first attempt, I thought my lungs would explode and the tires on my bike may as well have been square. I gained a newfound respect for cycling that day. I’ve since succeeded at riding up that mountain and a few others and catch myself with a tinge of that cycling arrogance because I too have conquered.
So I daydream sometimes about being the number one runner…. crossing the finish line first – not in my age group but first. If I won the Tour de France I would throw up my arms just like I’ve seen Armstrong do over and over. If they stripped me of those titles I would look at the yellow jerseys hanging in my family room and say out loud, “I won those seven races.”
I train harder than anyone I know. People think I’m just a fitness fanatic but I revel in the hard work knowing it makes me better than most. It’s as much the training as winning the races. The heat and the cold, the diet, and the nights I don’t have that glass of wine I really want. It’s the speed work, the crunches and pushups, a long run that was harder than it should have been; the occasional injury and the recovery that has to be rushed because there’s no time before the next race. I research sports nutrition and study race strategies, take supplements and Chinese herbs striving to achieve that perfect balance of muscle mass, VO2 max and pace supported by tendons as tough as steel. A study showed that runners who meditate enjoy a higher lactic acid threshold so now I make time to meditate every day.
Under the surface of day to day life runs a passion as thick as molten lava – a force that drives me and urges me to train longer and smarter. It’s a way of life that hardens you and makes you feel stronger than others….the same confidence you see in Tiger’s face when he chooses his own club and pulls it out of the bag himself, the way Michael Jordan grins, how cyclists throw their hands up through the finish, the way the black belts in my Kung Fu class tie their sash. It’s an assurance in themselves that’s unmistakable – not just cocky, but driven to be the best they can be….to truly believe you can train your body to accomplish anything your mind can dream of regardless of age or physical impairments.
We can’t condone the bullying or the doping – they were both wrong. But there are some of us, maybe a lot of us that understand the passion that leads you down a path toward choices.
The takeaway is different for everybody and maybe all too obvious to some. For me, I had to think about it for awhile. When Michael Phelps went through a setback, I wanted him to remember he is a role model for so many kids. If Lance had been a role model for his teammates and to the millions that adored him, maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Because of his natural talent, leadership and experiences he could have been the impetus for a monumental change in the sport of cycling.
People watch us more than we realize – at home, work, church, in government and on the playground. Whether that turns out good or bad is up to us.
It’s the Monday morning sales meeting. I’ve put on a blue suit and my favorite pair of high heels; a uniform too but not my favorite one. My colleagues see this skinny little girl that is maybe just a bit too confident. Some of them hate me because I eat all the time and never seem to gain a pound. My mind wanders back to my long Sunday run reviewing every mile the way a golfer or tennis player re-lives every shot. Where was I strong, when did I start feeling tired, what should I focus on this week. The race date looms and although that will be the finish to this particular training cycle, it’s only the demonstration of a journey I’ve made for some 18 odd weeks for years now. It’s the journey to the starting line that I’m most proud of – what sets me apart from the others. Done right, the training is more grueling than the race….and I love it.
Originally posted on TheWalkOn.org