That Guy

July 11, 2015 Recovery  2 comments

Lately, I’ve been needing to explain a lot of things… first “What happened?” then “How are you doing?”

Typically I’m fine. I have especially come to enjoy sleeping. During these past four weeks it’s the time I get to walk, even run. However, last night was the first night I actually needed crutches for dream walking. It’s these subtle and not so subtle things that tend to affect my mood and has me taking account of who I am, what’s truly important and the changes I need to make.

Before I became a triathlete I was an observer. It began by watching the Ironman race on television and finding myself in awe of men and women who could swim, bike and run ridiculous distances and overcome self-inflicted, physical punishment with sheer mental toughness and emotional will… deep down I wanted to be… that guy.

I knew people who were marathoners, folks who spent their Saturday mornings riding bikes for hours, I watched my daughter’s classmate, who was such a fast and smooth swimmer, you would swear gills were somewhere underneath that flock of red/brown curls falling past her shoulders. Being good at one sport is impressive but being really good at all three? Dreams inspire… and yes, I wanted to become that guy.

When I found myself unexpectedly in the midst of dozens of talented runners and triathletes at the memorial service for Tom, I was welcomed into a community where possibilities are assumed and obstacles a temptation. When one of them had the audacity to mention to me I could be that guy, outwardly I laughed, inwardly I hoped it true but it would be years before I really did something about it.

At my first race, a sprint triathlon at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California, I remember being about two miles into the bike segment of the race and realizing I had, in fact, become that guy and yet, not before but now, all I wanted to do was get better and go farther.

And farther I went.

Now 14 years past that first race in May 2001, although it may sound arrogant, there have been plenty of people who observed my racing and later became a triathlete because they thought if that guy can do it, so can I. It’s not bravado, it’s a responsibility. Our lives are a gift and if curated for the way we were created should inspire others to a more rewarding path. Whether to be inspired or to inspire, I believe with deepest conviction that we are all meant to be… that guy.

Now, hobbling along on crutches with a broken hip, looking at a minimum of six months recovery and an uncertain future as to my ability to run let alone race I never, for a moment, imagined I would be that guy.  With nothing but time and the slow progression of each unbalanced step I’ve come to realize it’s only a small leap into what I call the “black hole.” With very little effort you can find yourself here and quickly begin a slide into an abyss of self-deprecation and shame. I’ve determined as soon as I recognize the darkness closing in I claw myself back into the light. Sometimes it honestly seems easier to just go there. In an odd way, it feels humane to lose oneself in a mire of pity where people no longer can look on the has-been and shake their head in wonder.  I’ve known a few people who have chosen that end… Me? I don’t want to be that guy.

Today, we arrived in Windsor, California. We’re staying just a mile away from the finish line of the Vineman 70.3 race. This is the race I was training for that ended in a trip to the Emergency Room a long four weeks ago; the race I was thinking about during most of that ride. When we arrived it was clear triathlete were here although, the skies were cloudy, things were turning grey. Oh, the abyss is looking so attractive. We check in… as I look around there’re plenty of Mdots and compression socks on fortysomethings to push me out of that hole. I recognize instantly the emotional rollercoaster ride has just begun and the serious ups and downs are yet to come. However, I have a plan.

When the voice inside my head starts to bark, “This was supposed to be your race!” I’m going to find a person with that “overwhelmed” look and see how I can encourage them in their race. As the ache inside my gut starts to grow the longer the race goes into the fourth, fifth and sixth hour, I’ll show appreciation to those spectators around me whose feet ache for standing hours on end. If I’m tempted to gripe about how hard it is to get around on crutches, I’ll politely accept offers of help and patiently explain what happened. Finally, because I have so many memories of this race, it’ll be easy to imagine where I’d be, how I’d feel and who I’d be competing against at any given moment but instead I’m just going to enjoy where I am, how I feel and who I’m with because being in the Sonoma wine country is a pretty nice place to be, especially when my health and fitness is what’s keeping me strong and because of the amazing community of athletes, many who are friends and especially knowing I’m with a woman who is taking care of me without a single complaint.

Therefore, as I think back, reflect in this moment and imagine what will be, if someone is going to offer encouragement, appreciation, patience and gratitude; then more than anything else… I want to be that guy.


2 comments to That Guy

  • Rich Frazer says:

    Wow. Great reminders of crawling out and keeping out of that abyss. Thanks, Pastor Dan. Grace to you and peace in your complete recovery.

    • Dan says:

      Thank you Rich. I hope I can continue to be reminded.

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