I'm sitting here on a Tuesday morning, and my legs are throbbing. I took yesterday off, but still…my body, maybe my mind, needs a rest.
I have a few more weeks of physically building before I start to taper, but there is such a tremendous sensation of guilt that builds along side the exercising. There is more, always more, one could do…another mile, another swim, another hour here or there. And that is what is so interesting about training for something so intense: you can't do it right….but you can do it wrong.
Over the past two weeks, I have swum over 10 miles, biked over 300, and run over 50…but at a certain point, those just become numbers. Why do these things?
I was about ten miles into my Sunday long run. In about a mile, I was going to turn around and cruise into the final three miles back to the car. Almost time for a large glass of recovery chocolate milk.
It was hot, my legs were swollen and overly filled with lactic acid because I stupidly sat during my seven-mile refueling point. Running on stiff legs if just terrible.
I was at the bottom of a small hill, maybe just a 1% decline…starting to prepare to run up the other side. 1% inclines on late Sunday afternoons might as well be Mt. Everest.
I look at the ground and I see an exploded water balloon. Inches from my feet.
I met some interesting people during all this mileage the past few weeks. Some nice people. Some mean people. When you are in the pool for hours or on the road for a few more, you are bound to run into others doing "their thing" for "their reasons."
One gentleman -- who I literally swam into -- was a 300+ lb. man in the pool at the YMCA. He was clearly new to pool etiquette and for some reason swam into me instead of sharing the lane. When I queried about why he was in my lane instead of on his side, he retorted, I always look where I'm going. Don't you?
No, I responded. I'm usually looking down. I don't look where I'm going.
I was running in La Jolla, so when I looked up to see where the water balloon came from, I was staring into multi-million dollar mansions. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw what must have been a sixteen-year-old-ish kid running for cover.
I see you, jackass! I yelled out.
Real fucking funny! I scream again. He just hides…and I imagine him giggling behind his fountains and cast-iron gate.
I click stop on my watch and I wait. Legs throbbing more now. Skin boiling, I don't know if from the heat or out of frustration. And I stare. Waiting for him to make the next move.
I was about half-way done with a 100-mile San Diego to Long Beach ride a few days ago. I was stopped at a light, and a professional or semi-professional triathlete rides up next to me. You can always tell when they do it for a living. It's not just the bike or the outfit or the lack of body fat that give professional triathletes away; it's the sound. I can always hear them coming; there is just some special way they ride their bike that just sounds so different. They sound like something I cannot do.
This triathlete comes up next to me and comments about my Ironman New Zealand shorts. He asks me about New Zealand, and says it is his dream to do that race; the one he has always wanted to do. And I feel like such a poser because I don't do races like he does…and I don't have the heart to tell him I signed up for IMNZ the year they cancelled and changed it to a 70.3 because of inclement weather. I just tell him, It was very windy. And it was hard.
Yeah. He giggles. No matter how perfect the weather, they are all hard, man. Giggle.
And he cycled off much faster than I could ever go…and he is out of my eye line in a matter of minutes.
I kept waiting for that water balloon kid to come out. I yelled. I taunted. But he didn't budge. Maybe he ran inside. I hit start on my watch, and I continued on with the final mile of my run until I hit my turnaround point.
I fumed while I ran and thought about all these things I could have done…no…WOULD have done…if he had just come out. I started thinking about aspects of work and school...all the parts of my life that annoyed me or didn't go my way. Things I could do differently…no…WOULD do differently if only. If only.
My watch beeped…and I only had two miles to go.
Then I heard the ocean, just to the west of me. And I felt the throbbing in my legs and back…and I thought about how I had to put my head down, because when I get tired, my form gets bad and I run with my head up and start to lean back. I had to focus.
And I thought about T- waiting for me…in just a few more miles…I would see her again…and get to tell her about my day, and she would try to understand the words if not the experience. And I realized that I wasn't angry anymore because none of that mattered. All I wanted was some chocolate milk.
And I finished. And I jumped in the ocean. And I let the cool, cool waves wash over me as I sunk my head into the salty water.
It burned my eyes.
And I could hear the seagulls…and I really saw them...they were flying and gliding on the wind. Doing what seagulls were meant to do.