Sunday, October 08, 2006

cadence and love songs

something funny happened at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon a couple of weeks ago.

so much of this sport is driven by cadence. swim stroke, pedal rate, stride turnover. all of it driven by cadence counted by the number of repetitions of per minute of perfect form executed in perfect time in perfect repeat of each repetition completed before.

the cadence is determined by a person's heart rate, overall level of physical conditioning, body mass index, aerobic and anaerobic capacity, muscular endurance, and target race goals. it's superficially a complex formula, but in reality is made remarkably simple when treated less as science and more as art.

or at least, it's supposed to be.

determining cadence is one thing. keeping it is another. invariably, with all the distractions on race day, amidst the traffic and rush to the setup, under the physicality of the mass swim starts and navigational intricacies of the bike and run, along the confusion and dangers of course conditions and weather changes, beneath the noise of the crowd and chaos of the aid stations, against the struggle of exhaustion and suffering, keeping steady to a cadence becomes a perilous exercise in concentration. many times, cadence just becomes an afterthought.

people deal with it in different ways. some count. literally. from 1 to infinite, or in an endless loop from 1 to a finite number utterable in a single breath. others recite mantras, prayers, rosaries, poems. some try to focus on the natural rhythm of their heart and pulse rates. a few take to singing songs silently as they roll along the race course.

i've tried all of these things. all with varying degrees of success.

but something funny happened at Nautica.

ordinarily, if you're using a song, the theory goes that you're supposed to have something that keeps you on a target turnover rate. usually, the ideal turnover rate is pretty constant for bike and run, with whatever target cadence you have on the run being the same on the bike. given that the ideal cadence on the bike is around 90 rpm, that means the target cadence for the run is also around 90 rpm. since a turnover is taken as the equivalent of 2 strides (1 turnover=1 step with left leg+1step with right leg), that generally means a cadence of 180 steps per minute. all this means that if you're running to a beat, you're going to want a song with 180 bpm.

if you know anything about music, 180 bpm is pretty steady. it's also pretty frisky. not too slow. but not hyperkinetic either. still, it's moving.

as a result, i'm invariably aiming to get some up-tempo music in my head, and find myself locking in some corresponding songs. hip hop is good. pop music sometimes works. punk also works. whatever it is, it just needs to 1) keep the 180 bpm, and 2) be loud and hard enough to be sustained over race day distractions. simple, direct, energetic, quick.

but something funny happened at Nautica.

it started in the transition area prior to the starter's announcements.

i didn't hear any uptempo music in my head. i didn't hear anything loud and energetic. for sure, i didn't hear anything resembling 180 bpm.

what i heard instead was love songs.

slow ones.

bittersweet ones.

sad ones.

you know the kind. the ones that kind of slow your day down. make you think. give you those pangs of anguish and confusion. the ones that make you wonder about the way things have been going in your life...and the way things have gone with other people...or with one other particular person...

this is what i was hearing:

i could not get them out of my head. the entire race. even through the sound of the starting gun. even through the rushing of the waves. even after i got out of the water and got on the bike and the run. even above the roar of the crowd and the chaos of the race course. the entire race seemed to go silent, with the exception of the solitary songs in my head.

i dunno.

it was maddening.

i like those songs.

and they're helping work through some things.

but on a race day?

that's never happened before.

they say that race day reveals certain truths that are subconsciously left hidden.

maybe this is what happened to me.

oh i know what the songs are about. and i know whom they're about. but i guess the fact that they surfaced and clung to me on a day and an event that i ordinarily would have not recalled them is a sign of just how much things have been bothering me.

but the funny thing is (and this is why it's funny) is that i didn't mind.

in fact, i enjoyed it. it actually seemed to help. it actually seemed to bring my heart rate under control and focus my mind on the race.

almost like thinking about something that's bothering me (more than i care to admit) actually somehow made me feel better.

funny, yeah?

i guess what it was (or is...cuz i'm still hearing those songs even now) is the feeling of release and relief that comes from letting emotions loose that have been kept inside for too long, and the sense of freedom that comes from accepting thoughts as something conscious (even though not real) rather than suppressing them and hoping they'd just go away.

that, and there's also the understanding that comes from the realization that perhaps things are affecting me more than i thought they would, more than i'd care to admit, and more that i had hoped...the understanding that she probably meant that much to me.

she meant enough that thoughts of her bring these songs to my mind at times when they shouldn't. she meant enough that memories of her bring emotions that can only be described by words like bittersweet and sad. she meant enough that the thoughts i think of her, when wrapped in memories and song, actually seem to help me work things out beyond just my relationship with her--like the chaos and complexities of a race day.

i've written about her already, so there's not much point in going over facts and what i've been going through. you can read it at:

but i guess the fact that songs i connect to her stuck with me all the way through a race day shows just how much she affected me...and just how much she affects me still.

and i thought i'd let her go.

sometimes you have to wonder about the absurdity of life. about finding someone who you could actually imagine being with (as in a long time...maybe forever), and then finding out she has a something else, somewhere else, and even a someone else. the paroxysm of confusion and disappointment and frustration and bitterness and absurdity and sorrow and depression and wistfulness and loss and anguish and helplessness and unrequited emotions and uncertainty and insignificance and plaintive songs playing over and over and over and over and over and over even though you are sick of them but really really deep down inside you want to hear them more just like the memories of her...the memories of someone you don't want to remember but you really really want to hold close and dear and never never ever want to forget.

the memories you wish could be real.

something funny happened at Nautica.

the cadence came from love songs.

and it was not the cadence of artifice, a product of production, made by machine or man or otherwise. it was not the cadence of the real, existent in a natural world.

it was the cadence deeper to the human heart, the cadence underlying the world and conscious mind, farther inward than even the subconscious spirit of the human soul. it was the cadence driven by the rhythm of the truth that comes from the emotions and memories of that which we hold most dear. it was the cadence of the only fundamental truth that holds fast in the unending infinite void that extends beyond the unfathomed reaches of this universe and the insignificant confines of human loneliness and loss.

it was the cadence that came from love songs.

it's continuing still.

and i don't want it to stop, because it's all i have.

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