First Lust Remix at ‘The Escape’
If running is my first sweet love, then triathlon would be my first hearty lust, and after a painfully long hiatus from either type of racing I jumped in a triathlon this past Sunday for a pure dose of—unabashed satisfaction. It turned into the kind of really rich pleasure one only gains access to when years have offered perspective and the body’s been around long enough to sag a bit.
After a 13 year hiatus from completing a triathlon I, along with 2000 others, boarded the Hornblower Ferry in San Francisco for the 30th Anniversary of the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon. As a 10 year pro triathlete happily extending my endurance endeavors into getting dirty with adventure racing, ultra running and mountaineering, I hadn’t planned to toe the ferry’s edge of this iconic event. But a special invitation for being a past winner (’90), combined with a year long injury rehab made the Escape appear … enticing. Kinda like the super cool old boyfriend who resurfaces when you haven’t had any action for a while. Might be fun to take him for another spin? The current Escape course doesn’t include the exquisitely brutal 18 mile trail run we completed in ’90 two weeks after racing in record wicked weather at the Kona Ironman, but it would be a challenging event. Surely it would provide me with the racing fix I sought? Lust satisfied? We’ll find out.
I’ve never stopped loving triathlons (or all the old boyfriends) for the richness they offered me as a maturing woman, but if my current body had cooperated with my tougher than ever mind I’d be running across a desert or doing a trail 100 miler in some remote part of the planet right now. As we mature sometimes we outgrow those old relationships. Perhaps they don’t support our desire for higher access to our personal development. If triathlon is increasingly about going around in circles, gear bling and designing itself for the masses, ultra trail races and remote adventures are a lesson in getting away from all that is socially contrived. As a pro I’ve done bling and high profile for many years. Events I seek these days feel more soulful, integrated in nature, dirty. But my body likes cross training best. And I was touched and honored by The Escapes’ invitation. The old lust came knocking and was looking pretty good in a dry spell, while I was desirous of a little racing satisfaction after a WAY too long injury rehab.
To jump randomly like a lemming from a cliff, into the frigid waters and strong currents of the SF bay a fair ways from shore suits me just fine, but in truth I wouldn’t have noticed if it were comfortable, or, arctic. In the fling of my lust for racing the gun went off and an innate switch was thrown in my brain. GAME ON! If my desire as an endurance athlete is to master the chess game of executing an optimal race while fine tuning the dials on my love relationship with pain and discomfort, I was psyched that all the ingredients I needed were immediately in focus at race start. These types of tests are as pure as I’ve experienced in this lifetime—a means to gain access to at least one truth of me—that ball of internal fire we call passion for movement. And though the years roll on and the bod changes up, the purity of our connection to the urgency of racing is always there. It never left. Lucky me to be tossed into the washing machine of the Pacific to further tap into—that special bit of something.
An endurance race is an expression of our relationship with self with a clear view of how our brain operates under duress. In short, it’s a test of our ability to intelligently suffer. In that type of game on Sunday my internal dialog looked like this; Can I go faster? Hold pace then hang it out on the downhill. Breathe. Really tough 8 miler coming up, can I push harder on this hill on the bike? Open. Relax to open. Open deeper. Be here now. There’s more to give.
I move from the hearty frenzy of this unique swim to the finesse of sandwiching a strong bike performance between two other events while feeling a bit rusty in the saddle. I’m then privileged with the presence of my first love—the run—and am in the excruciating throws of endurance bliss. Immediately I notice the top end speed that is missing with middle age but I look to highlight what’s still there. The joy of the push. The perusal for more stride in that nebulous dance with what we desire our experience to be, and what we could so easily force over the edge into failure. I try to pull a bit more out—but my seasoned mind has access to more than my body can offer today. So I dial the speed back. Keep fueling the machine. Then open to test for power again.
I have been diligently practicing sitting meditation and most times I struggle as I did as a very young girl learning to run. I sense promise in my sitting practice but I am a long ways from mastering it like the instinctive ease I feel in the hard forward push. So many years of movement allow me to tap in naturally. The release from knowing spot on that I am hitting the perfect pace—for this moment, with this body, at this time in my life is—pure freedom. I feel a much richer joy than I would have experienced 15 years back because my literal speed is no matter now. It’s the knowing that I am being what I can be, at this age, as this person, with this wisdom—that satisfies the current lust.
It’s human to compare oneself to what was. It is enticing—and it’s futile. And though I have struggled with failures of my strong body over and over again, I have never wished to go back in time. My experiences as a world class racer are an honor to own. But in recent years I’ve sought to appreciate the unique challenge required of figuring out the new rules of this new (older) body synced with my increasingly wise mind.
In youth, most embrace the beauty which society affirms. As the lines show deeper in our skin perhaps the texture of experiences we seek exemplify an authenticity that wasn’t available for us to see when our body was lithe and our mind green. As older athletes we can know that the interpretations we place on our racing experiences are our choice. We then work with our newfound maturity to accept what is, now.
We can still throw down big in a race. The time it takes to get to the finish line to appreciate our effort just might be a tad longer than it was in years past. Whether first or last, satisfaction is what endurance athletes seek. Satisfaction in playing out our race well and being present as it unfolds. There is no age limit on that type of pleasure—the only limitation comes when our mind seeks something that isn’t real now or maybe never was.
Lust satisfied? For now, most definitely. But then, maybe I’ll still look up one of those old boyfriends just to stoke the fire a bit .
May 7th, 2010
May 7th, 2010
May 7th, 2010
May 7th, 2010