Or Frame of Reference is Important
Went swimming at lunch today. Which is great, right?
Or at least it would be, ‘cept I ran into my buddy T., who was heading into the locker room as I was heading out.
“Hey, how are you?” sez me.
He sez – “Can’t talk right now – gotta take a pee break – I’m at 4500 on my way to 3K for the day”
Well, crap. Right about then, my jammers seemed to get a whole lot roomier in the crotch. 4,500 yards and he’s not completely spent?
I’ve got to throw in a little perspective. T’s one of those great guys who everyone seems to know who actually do walk on water. He’s supremely competent in everything he’s approached, one of the nicest guys on the planet, great wife, cute kids, and an absolute animal in the pool, on the bike, or running. He’s awesome to ride with – knows every road in southeastern New England, does a great job regardless of skill level, and never, ever, ever hesitates to say “Sure” when you want to ride. And, he’s spent the last 10 months recovering from a pretty serious crash, but is back to being able to tear my legs off at will.
I’m a hack. I’ve been 20-30 pounds overweight for my entire adult life, and while I’ve developed endurance, I’ve never, ever been able to get my weight down to the point where I can develop speed. Anyone who has ever tried developing speed without dropping weight can tell you where that leads (straight to PF, ITB problems, or something that requires PT and ibuprofen).
So, I popped on the headphones, pulled down the goggles, and started cranking. And y’know what? About 300 yards into it, I realized that while I’ll probably never approach Tracy’s level, I’m doing all right. My resting heartrate is down in the 50’s, I’ve still got all my hair, I’ve got the time and disposable income to have pretty much any gear that I’d like and at least one or two chances to get out each week. All in all, I’m doing all right.
I’ve spent the last 15 years chasing (almost literally) the myth of Lance Armstrong. My enthusiasm for fitness really did start with a bike similar to the one pictured above. Was reading about Armstrong’s ’99 tour, and watching the OLN coverage on basic cable. I needed to get back into shape, had some time on my hands with a new job, so figured “Why not?” Started watching the want ads in the newspaper, found someone selling the Trek second hand for cheap, and picked it up.
And rode it, and rode it, and rode it, all the while hearing Phil and Paul in my ears.
My lovely wife and I didn’t have kids at the time, so Saturday mornings were mine. The Trek shifted Saturday Mornings from fishing to cycling, but I wasn’t riding for me – I was riding with racing in mind, despite being in my mid-20’s, 30 pounds overweight, and miles away from any organized racing scene.
Media didn’t help. I still look forward to each new issue of Bicycling, Triathlete, Runner’s World, whatever. Still love watching racing despite having my former heroes brought to earth over the last year. But I’m never going to run a 2:30 marathon, or do a 5 hour Half Iron, or drop the peloton heading up L’Alpe.
I reached down to the bottom of the pool, tucked my chin into my chest, pulled my legs into my chest, blew air out through my nose, planted my feet on the wall upside down, pushed off, stretched tall in good Pilates stance, and glided out to the first line of flags. While my head surfaced to take the first breath of that lap, I blew out jealousy, disappointment, and false expectations, and pulled in a lungful of wet, chlorinated air.
There’s a lot of folks not in the pool today, I thought, and pushed out another 500 with a smug sense of superiority over the couch potatoes who were just then sitting with a plate of fries. (MMmmm, fries) Even if I won’t ever be in the same league as the pros, at least I’m a step above the slackers, right?
But while I caught my breath waiting for my last set, I realized that standing on a pedestal above the lazy was going to be as healthy as trying to reach an elite level while juggling work, family, and some semblance of making a difference in my community.
Perspective. It’s about focusing on what’s actually changeable (controlling cravings for french fries for one). Focusing on actual flaws (Blowing off workouts for sitting on the couch) instead of perceived flaws (Bike weighing in at 19.5 lbs as opposed to under the UCI minimum). Focusing on awesomeness, like skiing a loop with my awesome sons, running River Road with my longsuffering wife, or the connections I’ve made in the larger running community.
Perspective. Another thing that T. has to teach me. And has been trying to in his own quiet way every awesome loop we’ve done of Newport Island.
B@$+dR@. (Still not there yet with the whole perspective thing)