On the patio, away from the sight of others, my mom comforted me. I didn’t race poorly. I had won my age group and the title of Junior Mid-Atlantic Regional Champion. What upset me was that I didn’t have fun, I didn’t want to be there, and it hurt way more than it should have. I had suffered for the last hour and twenty minutes and after I crossed the finish line, I cracked. I had pushed my body to its limits physically, but more importantly, I was not emotionally capable of handling five races in one week.
Two days ago I laid in my bed with thoughts of pain and suffering swarming me. I wanted to be free of it all. I wanted to take the weekend off from racing. Racing is like burning a fuse and mine was merely a nub before the race even began. My attitude is usually that pain is life and should be embraced but the middle road is looking really enticing right now.
By the start of the bike, the lactic acid burning my thighs uncovered my negativity from the lies of optimism surrounding it. Towards the end of the ride, a typically unthinkable thought swarmed me. I wanted to drop out and return home to comfort and peace. But the shame of quitting still outweighed the overwhelming agony.
I raced on and still fourteen hours later, comfort has not returned to me. I have napped. I have eaten ice cream and pizza and let carbonation of soft drinks settle my stomach. I have bathed, watched movies, and wrapped my withered body in cozy blankets. But none of this has brought a feeling of comfort to me. My fuse burned its way all the way to an explosion of sadness, and I am still trying to return the flavor to my life.
I am ready to train hard but another race lies a ways in the distance. That is comforting but not quite enough to restore my usual full throttle drive. Maybe I need a hug.
At this point I wish I had not raced and I am not sure if it was macroscopically beneficial for me to have stuck it out today. I am now the junior regional champion but what good does that do if the champ did not have fun?
Sometimes I pump up my old basketball, move the cars out of the driveway, and goof around on the court or I go to the local public golf course and lose a few balls. And sometimes I head to a baseball field with a bucket of balls and a bat. I feel at peace when I do those things. There is no pressure and I can just mess around for however much time I want to. The other day I made eighteen out of twenty free throws. I practiced none but there was no pressure. I just goofed around and ended up impressing myself.
Maybe if I raced with no pressure then I could do the equivalent of my free throw shooting. If I just relaxed and had no expectations maybe I could exceed my high goals. I’ll save that idea for next time. Today I try to restore the damage done from last time. What is being a champion without the feeling to match it?