On Saturday morning our city hosted a simple little 5K. The loop on which it was run is quite familiar to me. I first ran on it back in 1982 when it opened. The visionary guy whose idea it was to convert our riverside railroad beds into fitness trails just passed away. Philip Elfstrom, who saw the potential in converting rails into trails. That’s where all the races take place in our area. The loop that goes from Batavia up to a bridge across the Fox River in Fabyan Forest Preserve and back is 3.1 miles. I’ve certainly no idea how many times I’ve run or walked on trails in that loop. Probably 100 times a year at least for the last 20 years. Do the math. That’s 2000 times.
So I raced and it was like time out of mind. It was a small enough race, just 185 people. There were not even mile markers set out. Yet the distances are so familiar that I knew I my time was well under 7:00 pace the first two miles. I wanted to run three miles in under 21:00 and kick. But I likely ran a 6:40 and perhaps a 6:50 next mile, and finished the race in 21:10, or 6:50 per mile. Good for 10th overall. My head was clear and calm. there was never a stage where the legs felt like crumpling or my head wanted to give up. I was running the race I wanted. No Woulda Coulda Shoulda. No slumming it, in other words. I knew where I was. What I wanted to do. And like Nike says, Just Did It.
The next day Sue and I rode in an event called the Udder Century. Our entries were gifted to us by friends that had signed up months ago only to move to Beaverton, Oregon where our friend Anne de Traglia has started a new job for the Nike corporation.
Her husband Sal gets to keep his job from back here in Illinois. Now they’re learning to dress in layers and act like they’re from Oregon, whatever that means.
But it was still funny to stand at the registration table pretending to be Sal and Anne de Traglia. The guy looked up at me quizzically and said, “Sal?” I almost burst out laughing. I am perhaps the most un-Sal looking guy in the world. See, Sal is genuinely Italian, and I’m English with a touch of Scottish thrown in. But for Saturday, I would be known as Sal and Sue would be known as Anne. We were the Udder Sal and Anne I guess. And slumming it on the entry fees. Free is good, they say.
Slumming it on her wheel
And when it comes to riding, Sue is in damned fine shape right now. She’s riding like a maniac. Her bike is a Specialized Shiv tri-bike. I ride a Specialized Venge Expert aero road bike. Nothing slum about either bike.
But there are times when I’m at an aerodynamic disadvantage because Sue typically rides in full Aero Tuck position and I’m left to slum it on her back wheel. I reason that’s the tradeoff in riding with her. She doesn’t want me to pull anyway. That doesn’t help her become a stronger rider for Ironman. So I slum it in the draft. And even then it’s hard to keep up sometimes.
Perhaps I should have ridden the whole way with the guy who showed up in the disturbingly profane cow outfit. Certainly I could have kept up with him. As it was, I was disturbed by the furry appearance of my own legs most of the way. It is definitely time to give the gams a go with the razor. Being hairy makes me feel slow, old and un-bikerly. That has to go.
When the temps rose into the nineties, Sue still felt strong so I let her go ahead. She wound up averaging close to 19mph for the entire trip which was 77% of her FTP. I was closer to 18 mph and my FTP is an unknown number somewhere between 150 and 200. So by the time we were at the rest station at 36 miles, fifty miles seemed like enough for the day.
Monday morning swim
Then came Monday Morning after the previous evening’s encounter with the movie Slumdog Millionaire. I’d seen it before, but forgotten how it worked. You likely know the plot. Two low-caste Indian kids with a terrifically tough childhoods wend their way through a long series of experiences bordering on death. These prepare the one kid to answer questions that lead him to win a million dollars.
I’m not so sure the movie had a moral so much as it demonstrated that morality is sometimes all that’s left after someone is stripped and beaten of everything else in their lives. Ask Jesus.
This morning as we reached the pool I glanced around to notice that all around me was cool blue water emanating chlorine and cleanliness. I could not help thinking about a scene in Slumdog Millionaire when one of the kids jumps down into a pit of pure human shit in order to get out of the wooden toilet where his brother locked him in for costing him a paying customer.
So he jumped feet first into a deep hole filled with human waste still holding the picture aloft that he wants to have signed by a famous Bollywood star. Now that’s commitment. And he does get his picture signed by waltzing through the crowd in literal shit condition. And you think you’ve had bad days?
Things get worse. The Slumdog kid loses his family when their entire village within Mumbai is wiped out by gangs of vicious people bent on killing Muslims. Stuff like that makes me disgusted religions and the zealots that inevitably emerge from every faith.
It also made me think how stupid and narrow-minded Americans sound when bitching about Muslim terrorists around the world. Here in America we not long ago committed outright genocide on millions of Native Americans. Those we didn’t kill were forced into camps or indoctrinated through Christian schools. The American regime did everything it could to wipe out Native American religion. Our version of Indians were not perfect. They were flawed human beings just like us. But they tried to negotiate honestly and were dumped in the shit time and again.
So stop with the preachy bullshit about how Christians never persecuted or killed anyone. The same dynamic ran through our Civil War as so-called Christians tried to defend slavery as biblical. And that only evolved into the KKK, the American terrorist group that exists to this day. Nothing’s changed. We have our own caste system here in America. Only liars deny it.
Drowning in it
There so much ignorance and denial. We’re almost drowning in it. Up to our necks in it even when it isn’t our shit we’re dealing with. And sometimes, out of sheer desperation or motivation, we must dive all the way and hold the picture of our desires aloft. That may be Jesus or our favorite Hollywood star. Whatever keeps you from sinking all the way into the shit, keep your arm up and your fingers pinched tightly together. And raise yourself above that shit however you can.
Swimming whether it is in a pool of water or through the complexities of theology, politics and culture is nothing more not allowing yourself to drown. Sure, we keep track of how fast we can do it, but the fact remains, everyone is drowning in one way or another. Our only hope is to keep swimming.
So I spent the entire middle portion of the swim session working on my ‘catch’ and trying to manage the right angle of hand entry. This set off a chain reaction. Suddenly I was swimming faster or at least drowning much slower, or less. Or whatever.
Even my breathing changed and my stroke smoothed out. I was rotating my body in the water and kicking with real force. I could feel that someday I would actually be able to swim in a respectable fashion. It’s still a ways away, but I could feel it. There was no confetti. No million dollar reward for my efforts.
But at least I was no longer slumming it.