Yesterday I had my first day of a two week stretch of training out in the western Virginia woods. On my drive to Blacksburg, Virginia, I stopped in Montebello to do The Priest hike, one of the longest climbs on the entire trail. It was a beautiful cooler day and it’s great to be back out in some shaded woods after training through the winter in the leafless forests of Shenandoah National Park. I met some awesome thru-hikers, Koz from South Carolina hiking for his second attempt, Patterns and her canine companion The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and her other hiking friend Scarecrow. I gladly let them help themselves to the snacks, drinks, and candy I housed in my car and it felt great to have the opportunity to do so. I told them I would be hiking south in a few weeks and may see them again. It certainly would be nice to see a familiar face out there.
Recently I’ve disappeared from the triathlon scene. I know I’ve kind of disappointed some people. With the college degree in hand and the ability to pick the next step, I know a lot of people hoped I would explore my endurance capabilities. I’ve struggled with inspiration in seeing the worth of such an endeavor. However, the mental inhibition from my curiosity has not been the primary reason for my backing away from the endurance community. My lack of training was entirely involuntary, set in stone by an ankle sprain on New Year’s Day. A foolish question of the party of the night would be mistaken. I was trail running with a couple friends, exploring mountain peaks and bushwhacking through mazes of snowy slopes covered in thorny briers. Wearing MICROspikes which gave my feet a little too much traction, my ankle rolled, tearing two ligaments on an already bum leg.
With an appointment scheduled the next day to find a tiny fracture on my patella, the diagnosis was quick. With an ankle the size of a softball, my leg was booted up and I was on crutches for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks though, something was still not right. Continue reading Triathlon hiatus
I’m about to make an argument on a premise that not many people agree with me on. I guess that’s a pretty silly idea but hell, I’m doing it anyways. I wrote a post not long ago encouraging people to be more selfish. You can read it here. But the general gist of it is that selfishness is not synonymous with greed and that if one is truly concerned with oneself, then they will inevitably help everyone more than someone who strives for selflessness. An analogy would be to giving an employee a higher wage so they can come to work without hunger and therefore, be more productive. Sometimes, I understand that this is not the case, that to the employer, the benefit of satiety is minute in comparison to the cost of feeding. But I argue that this is a dynamic stage, not a homeostatic one. I believe from fundamental logic of thermodynamics that an economy can reach equilibrium unless restrained by external interference. Of course there will be unemployment but there will be less than if restricted by regulation.
So here I go. Grant me that initial premise and you may realize this one. Or maybe the combination of two seemingly faulty premises will help with acknowledging that I may not be a quack after all.
Walmart is actually an awesome corporation. There I go; I said it. I know I’m not the first one and I imagine (I hope) I won’t be the last. Why is Walmart awesome despite the overwhelming hatred for it and its customer base to be, shall we say, less than classy and occasionally inbred? Walmart is great exactly because it is as selfish as it can possibly be.
I was nearly done with my long run when I heard the lyrics, “How will you know….if you don’t try?” whispering in my ears. It was the remix of Jetstream by Jacques Lu Cont. “How will you know if you don’t try. How will you know if you don’t try.”
I had promised myself I was going to take this one easy, stay in zone 1-2 like the plan says, not pop it up to zone 4/ threshold. But my legs were rolling underneath me and I never take these long runs easy. Every time I make that promise to myself, stay around 7′s per mile. Don’t push it. Just ease into it and cruise. I hit the halfway point at the absolute lowest point in Blacksburg and took a left turn into some agonizing cramps and uphill. The pace slowed but the effort rose. Before I knew it I was hammering it up the hill, trying to salvage the pace I had kept on the downhill.
“Anything’s possible. It is night on planet earth and I’m alive. And someday, I’ll be dead. Someday I’ll just be bones in a box. But right now, I’m not. And anything is possible…Each moment can just be what it is. There’s no failure. There’s no mistake. I just go there, and live there and whatever happens, happens. And so right now, I’m getting naked and I’m not afraid…” -Suburbia
I was stepping out of my Organic Chemistry eight a.m. lecture and I saw a white flicker in front of my eyes. Then another.
I shouted “Snow!” and I felt free. I had not a care in the world. The specks would continue to fall for the next seven days.
Since I managed to get my license restricted, my mom helped me run some errands today. First we went to Target looking for some 3M strips. Success. Second we went to DMV to get my new license printed with my restrictions. I am allowed to drive to “work”, community service, and school. Well, the court accidentally forgot to check the box saying I could drive to work. Fabulous. I just love DMV so much that I get to go back for a third time in a month. Next up: Blue Ridge Mountain Sports to get my new pack for next year’s adventure. They forgot to order it. One out of three successful. This epic day of failure is deserving of a ginormous set of Chipotle tacos huh? Yep.
I remember Blacksburg. I remember the awful weather. I remember the bitter cold and I certainly remember the mass quantities of precipitation that fall on that place. But, in all honesty I cannot compare it to hell (no matter how hellish it seems). Because, in the midst of all the snot-sicles and frozen toes, water logged shoes and soaked clothes, I remember the occasional break in the clouds. I remember throwing the frisbee on the drillfield with my friends. I remember standing on top of a local hill watching the sun set over the mountains. I remember walks around campus and I remember riding my Schwinn Stingray and my big wheel around campus.
I dream of racing. I dream of winning. Today I thought about growing old. I imagined what it would be like to descend the slopes of aging that lie beyond my prime years. And I thought of how I would feel if I had not attempted to chase my dreams. It sounds so cliche. It makes me cringe seeing it written: “chase my dreams”. Ugh.
But in all honesty it is a truth to life. Eventually, we will all have to consider if following a dream is wise. “Eventually” is not a very fitting word because most of the decisions of whether or not to chase those dreams have already occurred for those of us above the age of ten. Some of those dreams that we have rejected, we may look back on and think, “Whew! I am so glad I didn’t try that!” but what is the feeling when we realized we did not follow a dream. Can that feeling be put into words? Is it sorrow? Is it despair; utter regret of that decision we consider a mistake? Can it be called a mistake or is it simply a decision that was made in the past that led us to something in the future?
Today I rode after the rain had settled in the soil and the cracks on the street. The thin layer of moisture still laying on the road’s surface evaporated beneath me, giving a thick scent and heavy humidity. The air felt thick, my breathing felt labored, and worst of all after a few minutes of easy riding I was already bathed in my own sweat.
But I cruised gently and joyfully with the most ease and comfort I have felt on a bicycle this year. For some reason it was then I realized how I would feel if I did not chase a particular dream I have had since I won my first race. It is of chasing down the leaders of every race. The dream is of competing at an extremely high level, of racing in professional races; of racing against the best, of being the best; of competing in world championships, of being a world champion.
I am curious about how the saying world champion came about. Mostly we do not question it. I ever did until now. It sounds funny: champion of the world. Seems sort of like climbers who claim the “conquered the mountain”.
There is not a day that I do not think about racing professionally. But in this life, dreams don’t just come true. There are sacrifices. And with this dream there are huge sacrifices that I may not want to make. Is all the training and stress on my body, all the traveling, and the absurdity of profiting on racing really worth an attempt at achieving the dream I have?
My brother is setting out on tour with his new band soon. I guess he had the same questions for himself that every band member has. Is all the travel and low key gigs really worth the possibility of one day playing for thousands? There’s no way he could just be doing it for fun. It’s too hard to be good at something and not dream big dreams.
Maybe someday the dream will present itself as reality. Maybe.
Each stone sits there every day as thousands of students walk by. Thirty-two stones. Thirty-two of them. They watch us laugh and run by. They watch us ride our bikes by, totally carefree. They watch as the whole line of Blacksburg transit carries thousands of students by each day. They are stuck. We are free.
I can’t believe this has happened to us. I can’t believe it. It is unimaginable. I remember columbine. I was young. I was dumb. I thought, oh what are a few lives lost in the thousands lost each day? I thought, no big deal.
I saw those balloons rise into the sky. Thirty-two white balloons danced into the heavens. We hokies watched as thirty-two of our own danced away out of our grasp. Thirty-two of them. Too many balloons for me to count before they were gone.
The representative for each stone lined up. I looked and saw thirty-two of them. Thirty-two of them. They all stood there and the number thirty-two came to meaning. There were thirty-two living breathing souls standing there.
No longer was this thirty-two a number written on a running bib, or a collection of stones, or candles. No longer was it just a number. Thirty-two humans died by the hand of one man on April 16, 2007. Thousands of students, alumni, families, and caring people’s lives were forever changed by one man’s rage.
AIDS, cancer, genocide, 9-11, tsunami, hurricane, sniper. Columbine, neVer forgeT.
I’m tired. I’m tired of this. I’m scared and I’m tired. So I stand there, watching thousands of candles being brought above head to symbolize our strength and resilience. I stand there, fighting tears for people I never knew. I stand there wondering, are there others who feel this scared? Are there others who are so uncertain about life right now? Is everyone faking it. Is everyone faking being carefree? Or has everyone else figured something out that I have not. My sharp dress is to cover up my feelings.
I remember the Blacksburg sunset. I remember feeling like the world was a puzzle that was complete. I remember the movie Elf, and Finding Nemo, and It’s a Wonderful Life. I remember everything working out in the end.
But now I feel it’s a big mess and the pieces are scattered everywhere. I remember the thirty-two. And they are gone. And I am still here to interpret what happened.
After a sleepless night two nights ago I managed to sleep from 6:30pm to 10:30am today. Yikes. College knocks sleep schedules all kooky. My parents are coming up today, I am completely not ready for my chemistry exam tomorrow, and I’m moving out!!! It looks nice out today. Weather forecast says nice tomorrow too. That’s been rare here in Bleaksburg. Typically we only get one nice day of weather and then six days of rain. Huh, maybe god’s starting to fancy up to Blacksburg and not hating it as much as he used to. I feel very well rested. Rested and wanting to go play outside. Finally when the weather starts shaping up we all have to sit inside and study. Figures. Screw it. I’m going outside.
My car is packed and ready to roll back to Richmond. Three bikes, two massive boxes-filled with my whole wardrobe and other crap, a set of golf clubs, a tent, sleeping bag, two backpacks, and still room for more! And I will still manage to fill the car my parents are bringing up on Tuesday. Goodness- where did all this stuff come from?!
I watched the sun set over top of a mountain in Pandapas park tonight. It was a beautiful surprise. I rode my original Schwinn Sting-ray to a local hill top, turned around and there was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen. Pink clouds streaked the sky and blue cloud-free sky laid above me. It faded quickly so I headed out quickly. I wish I had stayed to watch the stars appear one by one above me.
Wednesday may be my last exam ever. I fear college may not be right for me. Time will tell.
Tonight I rest, listening to Hand-me-down-tune by the Avett Brothers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFofMqFem8Q
They may not be the most beautiful or most advanced band ever but they make music that I can feel.
Today I missed my workout but I made up for it with two scoops of ice cream 🙂 Both give the same temporary results, just different future result.
“Have I mentioned that I am the preeminent Proust scholar in America?”-Little Miss Sunshine. I love that quote. It shows you that no matter what ‘status’ a person is, or whatever ‘level’ they are, we are all the same. We are all humans trying to figure life out. I am an entry level international competitor for triathlon and even if I was used to winning world championships or could not win my age group in local races the story would be no different. We are all human. We are subject to the same experiences, love, hate, sadness, happiness, and struggle. Its a ride, and I’m not ready for it to end so I’ll just continue on the crazy ups and downs and unexpected switchbacks because a flat, straight roller coaster wouldn’t be much fun.
I fell asleep to “It’s a Wonderful Life” last night. I wonder if I’ll find a girl like Mary. I hope so. “I’m shakin the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world! Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Coliseum….then i’m coming back here and go to college and see what they know…”
First semester I bought myself a Big Wheel. Yes, I bought one of those tricycles that kids ride. I enjoyed the year riding it to and from class, around the drillfield, and sometimes just cruising for chicks. Chicks dig the big wheel. That thing was a chick magnet.
With the weight limit at sixty pounds, it lasted me at 140 a good long time. It recently became too unstable to ride, so I left it unlocked. That I know of, there were four attempts to steal it: one with fire, one with brains, and two with force. All failed. Then, yesterday somebody walked by, saw it was unlocked, and got a Big Wheel for no effort at all. I wonder how those failures of criminals would feel if they knew that.
The campus respected the Big Wheel. Well for the most part. People enjoyed seeing me ride by on a big wheel with my pink and black checkered sunglasses and a Greek fisherman’s cap. I enjoyed it too. I’m glad people accepted it. I guess many people enjoyed the mysteriousness of seeing a big wheel locked up around campus and rarely seeing the actual rider. Some enjoyed it the way I did. It made me feel young and innocent I guess. I fit on it too, and it fit me.
It’s mother’s day today. I wish my mom the absolute best of mother’s days. She’s the best mom. I wish I could have been with her. I’ll admit it, I have the coolest mom ever. No she doesn’t know how to text. No she does not have a facebook profile. No she would not approve if I threw a house party. That’s not what makes a mom cool. My mom doesn’t have to try. She knows exactly what to say and when I actually listen to her recommendations, it turns out she was right. And when I don’t listen, the result is still the same: she was right.
You know, there was no book on how to be a parent. There was no class. There is no way to get experience. There is no practicing. There are no second chances, and kids aren’t too good at forgiving and forgetting the mistakes of their parents. And yet somehow, my mom managed to do a sweet job. She did it right. And yeah she may have messed up sometimes (but the accusations against her were much more plentiful), but the mistakes were few and far apart.
I respect anyone who is willing to throw themselves into a challenge that they have no way of preparing themselves for. My mom and my dad are the best. I cannot imagine tolerating me, my brother, and my sister (especially my sister [girls, ugh]) every day for the past two decades. And not only that, they had to fund us, feed us, house us, and teach us how to stand tall on our own.
However, I am not yet ready to stand tall on my own. I don’t believe anyone ever is.