Thursday, September 13, 2007

playlist: the joy of race day morning

it always gets me how people react to race day.

the tension is usually so thick you can cut it out of the air and have it on a plate for breakfast.

you see it in people's eyes, from the moment they blink in response to the morning alarm, to the time they show up wide-eyed at check-in, to the interlude standing awestruck just before the start. you hear it as a murmuring of whispers, a low hum beginning with the grumbling rise from bed, pitching into low voices tracking equipment and supplies, rising into unison with others as everyone makes their way for the climaxing sound of the starting gun. you feel it in the chill of the early morning, struggling in the darkness into uniform and gear, fumbling in grogginess with straps and laces and fasteners and closures, mumbling stiffly to review last-minute checklists, and stumbling into transition to shiver with all the others as everyone awaits to begin the en masse launch out the starting line.

the emotions are best described with words like uncertainty and mystery, urgency and impatience, anxiety and fear, acceptance and resignation.

it's so odd, because these aren't things you'd associate with a voluntary activity, particularly one which participants took upon themselves to pursue. if anything, these are things indicative of activities people try to avoid--the kind usually associated with words like...stressful. painful. tortuous. agonizing.

of course, the witty among us would argue that this pretty much summarizes race day. for triathlon in general, and for Ironman in particular.

but i often wonder if it has to be this way.

sometimes i just get sick of it all. the tension. the trepidation. the nerves. the dread.

what happened to things just being fun?

yeah, fun. you know, fun. as in: the opposite of all the words i just wrote above. as in: the kind of thing that is not dread, or nerves, or trepidation, or tension. as in: the kind of thing that makes you want to do what ever it is that you are looking to go 140.6 miles in less than a single day.

yeah, fun. the kind of thing most people in this sport seem to have forgotten. or, at least, seem to have suppressed.

i remember fun. i remember it from when i was a kid. back when everything was all brand new, and the world was a big wide open place, and time seemed to move with all the magic of a crystal-clear morning unburdened by care or responsibility, and each moment came with all the freedom of a radiant blue sky aglow with all the untold promise of a beaming sun dawning gracefully in the caress of a child's wondrous eyes.

i remember fun.

it began something like this:

sesame street:

and on days when things really got going, i also started with this:

electric company:

i have to admit, every day was like this because i was too young to know any better. i was too young to have accumulated any of the cares and weights and fears and burdens of adulthood. too young to understand the wounds and scars that come with age. too young to know the realities that underlay each day.

but you know, i think that's the beauty of being a child. it's the time in your when you can live free of the terror of adulthood, or the hurt that comes with age, or the dangers that darken each day. it's the time in your life when you can live the way we were perhaps meant to live--and more importantly, gain the memory that we were once able to do so.

it's important, because i think that's where we learn the aspirations of what is possible: aspirations towards ideals, aspirations about hope, aspirations of faith...aspirations that come to sustain us through the onslaught of later years in the long race that is the journey of our lives.

high hopes:

the ugly duckling:

not that childhood was about living in a fantasy world.

on the contrary, it think it's when we actually learn to deal with reality, and in a way that's so much better than as adults.

as adults, we seem to be constantly taught, reminded, cajoled, coerced, seduced, fooled into believing that life must be lived in certain ways: that there are rules, restrictions, limits in terms of what can be done, in terms of what might be done, in terms of what should be done. it's a life without imagination, without dreams, without possibilities; a life of the unfeasible, the impossible; a life of futility.

as children, we are told, shown, encouraged, presented, offered, given something else: freedom. freedom to believe--and then live--in imagination, dreams, possibilities, with the only prerequisite being the work of our limbs and the diligence of our minds and the faith of our hearts, by which all our lives shall be made a reality in fulfillment of our best aspirations.

hi ho:

bare necessities:

this is what i'm really getting at by bringing up fun.

the sense of unconstrained, unbridled, unfettered life. living. in a way that brings out the best in what we are blessed to have of it. the way we tended to have in the early days of our youth.

just kids, running around not knowing any better, thinking they honestly could do anything if they believed and tried hard enough.

following the leader:

you can fly!:

this is the kind of thing i often don't see on many race day mornings. too often, what i see (and admittedly, sometimes feel myself) instead is tension, trepidation, nerves, dread--from adults who in their adulthood have been taught, reminded, cajoled, coerced, seduced, fooled into thinking so.

for me, what i often see brings up just too many of the negatives of rules, restrictions, limits, unfeasible, impossible, futility.

this is not what i want to be thinking about when i'm looking at 140.6 miles of Ironman.

what i want to be thinking on race day morning is freedom, so that i can believe--and then live--imagination, dreams, possibilities, to which i can apply the work of my limbs and the diligence of my mind and the faith of my heart, and make of my life a reality in fulfillment of my best aspirations.

and the way for me to do that is remember the time in my life when i was able to do so, so that the memories can sustain me through the onslaught of the long race that is the journey of my life. this way, i can live the way i was meant to live.

race day should be like any day, and any day--every day--should be like life: joy.

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