Wednesday, December 30, 2015

That feeling inside

I had a major life twist last year in getting married.  That sort of put my athletics on hold for a while.  I did my usual switch to running which, as usual, ended in failure due to broken boy syndrome.  I didn't really have any goals in mind during my last running stint due mainly to the fact that I just couldn't get to the point where any run I did was respectable.  Plus it's hard to dream of greatness if along with running miserably slow you're suffering just to accomplish those depressingly slow runs.  Not one single run was worth mentioning.  That slow simmer of frustration along with the hours of physical therapy and stretching that were accomplishing nothing....finally drove me back to the bike.

Last night I did a long, easy 5hr ride thinking about all of this.  I started dwelling on the emotion and the feelings I get, different for each sport, when I'm doing well.  I recently had a work accomplishment that gave me the same sort of feeling, so I thought I should dwell on it a bit and digest it. So I put on some music, got inside my own head, and pedaled. 

Running, like every sport I suppose, is a roller coaster of emotion.  The days of anticipation leading up to the competition, the miserable few minutes before the race, the intense few seconds before the gun goes off....then there's this sort of absence of emotion all together.  The task at hand, the application of the plan, takes over and your brain latches on to that and goes through the familiar motions of pressing your body into duty. 

Once you get a bit into the race your brain kicks back into analytics mode.  How is my pace? How do I feel?  How is my competition doing?  Do I think he can keep it up? etc.  Then there's one of two feelings.  The first is a slow apprehension that you are beaten.  That no matter what effort you give that guy is just better than you.  That feeling can generally be rationalized and dealt with.  The other....well, that feeling is totally addictive.  You get to a point in the race where you can literally feel the guy give in to his pain.  When you just know that you've won.  There's something in that feeling that is undescribable.  The remainder of the race you run with your mind in the clouds.  All of the emotion (bigger depending on the importance of the race, time spent focusing on it, etc).  Comes bubbling out and you can barely contain it.  For me this always expressed itself as a smirk.  For others it's arms above their head, pointing at the sky, signaling number 1 to the crowd, screaming.  Whatever the case may be, the feeling is the same...... intoxicating self confidence, achievement, and feeling of invincibility.  Even watching others, for example at the Olympics, achieve that feeling brings chills to my spine associating for a brief second with exactly how the person is feeling.

Racing, however is just an occasional activity.  It's the emotion that comes with training that really has to be there.  I only liked wrestling for the competitions and the crowd.  The infrequency of the competitions made the drudgery of training just too much for me.  There was no emotional lift from training so it just didn't hold me.  It's the emotion of training, the lift, that keeps people in the sport.  Sometimes that feeling fades over time, sometimes the athlete finds a replacement, and sometimes the body just fails to cooperate. 

While dwelling on it I realized that probably for me, cycling was an attempt at a replacement.  I wasn't as into the activity as those around me, I was after the feeling.  I was there to race, and to beat people.  To show myself, one more time, that I could apply my self discipline, athletic talents, and will myself to greatness.  Deep down though....I was still a runner. the song says. 

 I could stick around and get along with you
It doesn't really mean that I'm into you
You're alright but I'm here darling to enjoy the party
I'm just here to say Hello!

After a few years spent cycling, when I try to return to running, I'm chasing the feelings I remember.  Not the feelings I currently have.  So far in my running, I just haven't been able to get them back.  A few times I've had glimpses of them, but to be honest....most of the time running just feels HARD...Really, really hard.  That feeling I used to get while out training.  The anticipation, knowing that the work will lead to greatness...  That's been totally lacking.  So that makes going through the grind that much harder.

About 2 months ago I started training again on the bike.  I was biking a bit last year.  I did ok, but I lacked any sort of base so even when I got in shape it was always entirely likely that I could get dropped if I made any errors, if the ride was too long, or if the hard efforts were back to back.  This year I decided to try to be more consistent and actually train.  So far the rides have been pretty similar to running.  I'm out doing it, but it's hard.  At least while biking I have scenery going by and the range I get to explore is pretty good.  I did a few group rides, got dropped, and suffered home solo.  Of course, those group rides had folks with some pretty impressive resumes.  Still, so far cycling has been pretty equivalent to the embarrassment running brings me.

Last week I finally had a really good ride.  Not just a good section to a ride, but 3hrs of monster output.  One of those rides that starts to make you think of racing.  A ride where you feel a bit invincible.  It seems, that if I can get my base together (which is coming along nicely), I should start planning some sort racing schedule.  We'll see.  One things for sure, I really crushed that ride....and that could mean, possibly, that once I apply some short repeated efforts, TerribleTerry could be found somewhere inside.

When I say TerribleTerry, I mean that guy who some how, some way, finds his way to the front.  Other than the volume I maintained, I never was that guy that wowed everyone in practice.  I just always seemed to rise to the occasion for the big race.  Maybe mentally I'm just too weak to go to the well often, I don't know.  But there's times when I can really go into that well.  I spent a good deal of time dwelling on that during last nights ride.  The emotion that drives me, how to identify it and keep it right there in front of me to keep me going.  What made TerribleTerry and how do I get him back.  Is he gone forever?  Do I no longer have the discipline to do the training that get's me to the bucket?  Once I do the training do I have the ability and desire to lower that bucket and dip into the well? 

I guess we'll see how it all turns out. 

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