Endurance athletes are typically accustomed to thinking about workouts in terms of accumulated miles. Strava and Garmin add them up for us in neat piles of data to be picked apart ad infinitum.
Athletic performance becomes all-consuming that way. “You’re only as good as your last performance,” the hardline theory goes.
It’s easy to become obsessed with that self-measurement data, to the point where we judge ourselves first and only grow to accept our efforts later. There’s also a problem in viewing athletic endeavors as our primary purpose. A few years back I read a hilarious takedown of a high-quality yet self-absorbed cyclist who wrote to a pro columnist named Phil Gaimon about a problem he had at home. “I don’t want to mow the lawn and tire out my legs for riding,” the cyclist complained. “My wife doesn’t understand me!”
Gaimon wrote back and chided the guy for being a petulant jerk. “Unless you’re a pro, your first job is not cycling,” he counseled. “Mow the law.”
I confess to having a touch of Golden Leg Syndrome back in my competitive years, but I wasn’t so obsessive that I wouldn’t mow the lawn or take care of business around the house. At that time I had few obligations anyway. I lived on my own. My only concern was not getting stuck at some party where we stood around for hours the night before a race.
These days I enjoy the feeling of getting things done. This weekend we ordered seven yards of high-quality mulch. It was satisfying to move that stuff from the big steaming pile on the driveway out to the beds around the property. My wife also removed a weedy tree that was overgrown and dominating some pretty bushes in one of the beds, and the new mulch improved the new space even further.
Seven yards of mulch is a healthy amount. That’s about as much as shown in the picture I stole off the Internet at the head of this blog. One key takeaway: I probably would have been smart to wear a mask while moving all that much. The dust swirled around and gathered in my throat over time. With my history of strange infections and weird afflictions, I got a bit nervous about the possibility of getting Mulch Lung or something odd affliction like that.
Halfway through, my stepson borrowed a mulch shovel from work that made the job easier. From there it was an incremental job of hauling wheelbarrow loads out to each bed and spreading them by hand. I became quite adept at spreading the right amount across the crusty mulch beneath that was compressed by the deep snows of winter.
When all was done the satisfaction was equivalent to the completion of a good race. The mulch-moving process also offered plenty of time for deep thought. I didn’t even listen to music, just moved at the pace necessary to get the job done while singing songs or thinking about things on my own.
When it was all over, I received the greatest compliment any man can get after doing something needed around the house. “Nice job, honey,” my wife told me as we sat outside on the back patio having dinner and sipping a quiet Memorial Day drink. As far as I’m concerned, that encouragement from her makes me a winner this weekend.