Thursday, September 18, 2008

The see-through triathlete

It isn't about life. It isn't about death. It is something for which I'm trying hard to bypass melodrama and it's definitely not bad enough to seek out book rights.

It's this simple: An entrapped nerve in my back = no Longhorn 1/2 Ironman.

Coach asked me why I do triathlon. And not in a rhetorical sense. He means, "What do I get out of it? What are my reasons?"

My first thoughts are what they always are: Triathlon is the polar opposite of where I was in 1991. And this is true.

Why else?

Here's where the possibility of melodrama presents itself but disregard that sentence and give me this.

Unless I'm in the middle of a workout it's impossible to put this reason into words.

I disappear. But not in a bad, psychologist's dream-client kind of way.

My whole life disappearing has been my superhero talent. I don't literally disappear (that would be a psychologist's dream client) but I can be silent beyond silent and be so still that it's a long time before anybody sees me and then they jump. "Oh! You scared me! I didn't see you there!"

I used to escape parental punishment this way. Not forever. I knew it would come but it would come on my terms, when I was ready. Sometimes they were so surprised to see me standing right behind them that the punishment was forgetten. And yet, they looked under the bed, in the closet against a wall but they didn't see me. I was an Olympic champ at hide and seek.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that this is a major reason I race. I like that I can wrap myself around where I am inside and I race on my terms. Whether anyone can physcially see me isn't the point. I can see them. I look into their eyes as I pass them on my bike, even though they didn't realize I was there.

That's the obvious part. The part that's not so obvious is that whatever I'm doing, in the water or on land, my thoughts and actions are not visible but so apparent to me. It's a private place. The same place I went to under my bed or curled up behind the tree. And I like it there.

"Oh, it must be a 'runner's high'." No. How to categorize a feeling this personal without falling into the trap of that overused phrase? I could have all the journalism degrees that I want but still not be able to spell it out.

My goal while I'm racing is to stay there. When I hurt and I'm aware of it, when I'm breathing hard and feeling sorry for myself, I'm not invisible anymore. My goal is to get back to where I'm comfortable and stay there until about 50 feet from the finish line when that glorious, deafening cheering and hand slapping show me that I can pass the torch to my everyday, visible side.

And the rush. Oh, the rush.

Nothing does this to me beside triathlon. It's why I won't give up.

I cried like a little girl yesterday when I found out. I cried for a long time. But now it's over. It's a fact now. When the cannon goes off for Longhorn in two weeks, I will not be in the water.

My mom is taking me to New York the week after the race. I thought about going to her house early but I won't. That would be defeat. I want to be here. This is acceptance.

As for the future, well, I will still be the polar opposite of where I was in 1991. This is not the last race of my life. My back will be better, even if I have to have surgery. I learned to walk. I learned to talk. I did not accept defeat even though I was told I was going to have to. I will not accept it now.

There's more reasons but I've used enough space for now. Bring me Kona.


Bob Mitera said...

You will be back.

Eat right. Count your calories. RECOVER...and then we train.

tamirra said...

There's only so many people that I actually listen to and you're one of them, coach.