Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. Samu is wise – Part two

Whoa. I certainly didn’t expect the responses I’ve received both here and at the various social boards where I am an active member. Thank you for the words of appreciation. They mean a lot but I neither expect them and certainly wouldn’t have asked for them. My blog entry wasn’t meant to create a “I need a group hug” response and quite frankly everyone has given me much more than I’ve provided in return, so there is no lack of mutual respect, admiration and friendship there. I have to humbly bow down to my very good friends at TriScoop who responded with great respect, kindness and support. Most importantly, by responding each in their own way, I continue to grow and develop my view of my surroundings and environment. I’ll try to touch on a few of them in this post. What’s most important at this point is to get specific and tactical about what happens now.

As for IMOO, I’ll say it right now. I plan on participating, but my current condition is beyond difficult. As I mentioned to Jetpack awhile back, I seem to have lost some of the control in my legs and even walking up a flight of stairs wears me out or makes me feel unstable. I’ve done all of the normal stuff I know how to but my physician has suggested that I need a few more tests and more than likely my immune system has simply been beat to hell and needs a good deal of time to recover. Unfortunately, completing an Ironman is not usually part of the prescription. This experience has opened up my eyes to a few prior discussions that I have had with athletes and friends over the years. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a neuromuscular condition for real and I’m hopeful that that is not what is happening here, but I know I’ve often been confused or short of patience when someone has told me that they can’t run faster or they can lift more, or they can’t do another set, interval or whatever it is that I or others have asked of them. Helping people to push past perceived boundaries is a core part of being a successful coach but the last few months have really spun my head around about what it means to physically not be able to accomplish something and it is a real challenge mentally to accept that.

Of course this is where any sane person would look at me and say, “Hey idiot, stop training and stay in bed for awhile. Hang out at Starbucks and help me around the house. How about being home for at least one full weekend out of the 52 you have to choose from you freak’n prima donna.” Oh, a little too much information there.

This weekend is Tupper Lake and I’ll be going up with Rambo, Javier, Phil, Jen and Strouter and a few other TriScoopers and Race with Purpose team members. I have three objectives. The first is to actually get up there in The Basher, my ’91 Ford Explorer that deserves its own blog and is the topic of many conversations here in Scarsdale, NY. Odds are that I will not make it to Albany but I got an oil change and I have faith, a few wire hangers and a fresh roll of duct tape. The second is to complete the half-iron distance race, which I could not do at Black Bear last month. The third is to see if I can physically make it around the IMLP bike course – not fast, but all the way around the course without having to get off my bike or stop and rest. I’ll start with one loop. SimplyStu got to see first-hand how fragile my body is currently when we ran at Rockies as I struggled to maintain a pace that would have shamed me in the past. He was very gracious about it. Rambo saw it on Montauk last weekend where a little hill, hardly comparable to anything in LP, destroyed me and then caused me to shuffle along afterwards at – what was it Tom an 12 min/mile pace with my heart rate at 179? I could only go a few yards without walking. I got caught by a crab – seriously a crab – that was an all-time first.

Strouter reminds me frequently to have conviction over two things as distasteful and useless in one’s life, the first is selfish people and the second is self pity. It is with this in mind that I look forward to the drive up to Tupper Lake this weekend. Now, a few really valuable observations. The first is in response to a post by CindyJo, who quite frankly has always come off as bullet-proof to me. So if my current condition is a surprise to you, please know that we can both laugh at and take comfort in each other’s slightly altered image of our human condition. Please don’t shoot me and put me out of my misery at IMLP this year. I can only think of one reason you won’t be packing and that’s because even ceramic pistols will add unproductive weight to the bike or to you on the run.

Brett, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I take considerable grief for continuing to embrace people that others would have cast aside. I wish there was some more noble reason for doing it except that I cannot know what it is like to walk in their shoes and I try to treat each interaction with the hope that if this is their last, they will have been met with kindness and compassion. Don’t get me wrong, I personally find sarcasm and indifference to be two very touching and emotionally supportive options.

As for the future, I look forward to that watershed moment when I will transcend my current condition and be provided with an opportunity to look back on this time with kind reflection and admiration for having gone through the experience. In the end, I remind myself, that I can wake up, shuffle my way around my neighborhood, go to work, play with my dog and that is a lot more than other people can do, so I continue to be blessed. At the worst, if I can physically complete the IMLP bike course, I know that I can slowly move my way around the course on race day in under 17 hours. And while that will not be a race under most people’s standards, including my own, it will be an accomplishment that I will be proud of, like an old boxer than knows full well what it is like to throw a punch but simply lacks the muscular control to do so with any precision. I will still enjoy every minute that I am out there. But first things first, I need to see if I can physically get around this Half Iron course and ride the IMLP course successfully at any speed. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Things don't go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. Samu is wise – Part one

I’m a coach and an athlete and a human being with all of the successes and failings that go along with each of those. This was supposed to be the year, the season when I was primed to shave 10 years off of my life and return to the level of performance in all three of those categories when times were simpler and bones were stronger. It sure started out that way; all last season I committed to putting in the base training to give my body a fighting chance to compete this year. Aside from still hanging onto a few extra pounds, I was cranking on the bike, improved in the swim and my purest of activities, running, had given me an arguably undeserved second chance with near PR performances in half marathon and 10K distances. I even ran the Knickerbocker 50k to top off the year to complete the over-distance I felt was absolutely necessary to hit 2008 in stride. Big plans were made with registrations at both IMLP and IMOO feeling that I would complete IMLP and compete in IMOO which plays much more to my style and abilities. One last chance at focused athletic performance before the complexities of life take over and demand an altering of priorities.

And then came January 2008 during which I came down sick. Yes, I know everyone gets sick but this consisted of twelve weeks of flu then sinusitis and finally an extended battle with viral pneumonia. Being stubborn, I chose not to take any antibiotics, first because knowing it was viral, I knew they wouldn’t have helped anyway, but also because I felt that all the antibiotics would do is successfully kill off the weakest elements leaving the stronger one’s inside of me waiting to regroup and attack again in a more resilient manner. The affect on my training was astounding – not being able to breath, focus or even walk around the house without falling down in a heap can do that to me. I didn’t lose twelve weeks of training, I lost all of the benefits from last year’s hard work. Gone! Bye-bye! See ya later! Riding to meet JetPack 11 miles away at the White Plains airport left me out of breath and weak as a newborn. At the same time, my work situation became, how does one tactfully put this, tenuous at best, and all of my efforts went into redefining myself into a new role amidst declining company revenue growth and significant lay-offs. Throughout this time, I was being attacked by friends who seem to have adopted this heightened sense of entitlement and loss of gratitude, no, not not even gratitude but a complete lack of acknowledgment or appreciation for the efforts I have put in on their behalf to improve their own experiences. I’ve unfairly written this off as a New York thing because in my over 40 years of life, I’ve never experienced this with people from California, Texas or Ohio, the three other geographies where I have the greatest interactions both professionally and personally. I know that all New York people are not like this but I have come to the conclusion that whatever is in the water that makes great bagels may also contribute to heightened insecurities or self deprecation that leads to less constructive behaviors. By the way, it isn’t just me, I’ve witnessed how these same people have taken other so-called friends’ efforts for granted and treated them as basically refuse to be disposed when it is no longer convenient to have them around.

Lastly, we lost our beloved family member Wally under horrific circumstances and too many of our friends around us began to drop lies flies, or experienced tragedies of their own creating the very odd situation of attending more funerals than dinner parities. In short, it’s been difficult and challenging and every other hackneyed adjective that goes along with life’s sarcasm. As my good friend Rambonie reminds us “Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.” OK so he quoted from Samuel Johnson but often we need a reminder of the basics if nothing else to remind us of our blessings and to give us some sense of clarity or hope in the darkest of times, and let’s be clear as dark as it may seem, it’s a brilliant basket of God’s gifts to people who have so much less.

To be continued…