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Lithia Springs Road

9/1/2004

SHOW ME WHERE THIS IS

Athletic Endeavor

 

            I learned a couple things one evening a few years ago about athletic training.  I know, I know, I think too much.  Maybe someday I can put all this information to use and write a book or something.  I learned it while biking, but I believe it has a broader application.  It just goes to show, the more you know (or think you do), the more is exposed that you don’t know. 

 

            Earlier that summer, when I was learning to bike the long, steep hills of Lithia Springs Road, I found that it was a mistake to think about the tough climb ahead of me.  It was too much of a deterrent.   I dreaded it and the chore seemed impossible.  It was better focus my attention on something smaller, maybe my front tire rolling on the pavement, like a yoga mantra.  Or, even better, to let my mind wander to something distant in time and space, like planning a camping trip, and forget about my current stressful situation. 

 

I also found that my legs gave out before my lungs did.   They got so tired that I had to stop and rest long before I got out of breath.  To get a good cardio-vascular workout I had to take up some other sport, like running. 

 

Well, that evening, I biked the same route, but started late –about 7:30 p.m.  We were still in the remnants of hurricane Francis.  It got dark early, windy, rainy and foggy.  Before I was through even a third of the trip, day light was gone.  I brought no flashlight.  Getting home safely became a concern.

 

This time, thinking about the tough climb ahead of me became a stimulant rather than a deterrent.  It gave me something to focus on…to attack.   Then, feeling my legs giving out, I figured there must be some way to get the rest of my body more involved. 

 

About the same time, my scuba diving instructor had told me that I was breathing too shallowly.  Sometimes, that is a sign of being nervous or excess bodily tension.  In scuba, shallow breathing wastes tank air, something in very short supply at the bottom of the ocean!  On land or sea, it prevents full oxygenization of the muscles.  So, he said, “Quit It!” 

 

This evening, I tried to get my upper body more involved.  I pulled with my arms, pumped with my stomach and breathed more slowly and deeply.  Sure enough, I was able to stay better in breath and develop a stronger cardio-vascular workout.  Then – a miracle!  All that upper body activity sent more oxygenated blood to my leg muscles.  I was able to produce more speed and endurance from my legs.  Things were getting better in balance! 

 

On the upper third of the route, I ran into a fog bank.  It got totally dark.  I could only stay on the road by following the white painted side line.  I had to stop pedaling by visual clues.  If it got steeper, I geared down.  If it got shallower, I geared up.  My feet felt solid in the pedal straps.  My hands felt solid on the handle bars.  Occasionally the reflected light from a distant house made a sheen on my sweaty arm.  I could see the drops of water trickle down my tan skin.  I could see the tight muscles outlined by pumped blood vessels.  I felt solid.

 

I could not tell where I was on the route; nor did I need to know.  I let the mountain come to me.  This was quite contrary to my usual modus operandi of needing to see all the facts, have an itinerary and know where I am in the process.   Eventually, my progress became less about doing… and more about being…and finally I just …became…the totally present (no past and no future) essence of pedaling up the mountain.  It was so peacefully Zen….yet so solidly productive.

 

When I topped out on Brushy Mountain Road, it was one of my very few non-stop workouts.  I was quite the flyer, racing for home at top speed in a somewhat euphoric state.  Several places the road is steeply sloped to the left or right.  My tires, which are more worn in the middle, have fresher knobs of rubber sticking out on the sides.  As the tires ran at an angle on the sloped curves in the road they made a satisfying humming sound, a reassurance of fast progress down the dark and nearly invisible road. 

 

Rarely in my life have I felt so embracing of – and so embraced by – a situation.  This trip was physical, mental and emotional therapy.  I wonder if the situation was not just about athletic training.  Maybe some part of my subconscious has been working on my recent tension, frustration and anger at the world due to my negative domesticate situation.  Maybe my mind and my body took the opportunity to give me a little lesson.

 

An even bigger insight seems to be, that I have these smaller insights at times when I am putting forth the most intense, sustained effort.  I am sure that my accomplishments -  mental, physical, emotional, creative or any other kind - have never been taxed to anywhere near my total capability, because I have not chosen to push myself enough.


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