May 22, 2015

The Why

After racing twice last week (10 km run on Sunday, Sprint triathlon the following Saturday), I did what anyone would do the day afterward. I got up early, and met my uncle for a 70 km hill ride in the Gatineau Park. Wait -- what? Oh, there's more. I managed to forget my cycling shoes and gloves after packing my bike into the car. So I did the entire ride in my running shoes. Balanced gingerly atop my Keo clip pedals. Wearing my uncle's way-too-big gloves, to avoid a repeat of the "I can't feel my hands" scenario of the previous day. Because nothing says "safety first" like a fast descent where 4 out of 5 contact points to your bike are... suboptimal.

Why go? Why not just pack it in and save it for another day. Because it's today... it's right now. Maybe I'll be fine with my running shoes on the clip pedals. There's only one way to find out. Today, the sun shines and the road is closed to traffic. I've got great company and a bottle of Skratch Labs. This day is the only one we have the power to grasp, now. 

Seriously... why?

The following day, I decided to hit le Nordik, our local nordic spa. The strain evaporated slowly from my muscles as I soaked, rested, and sat through an aufguss steam-and-aromatherapy session. And I thought, why? Why race and push to the point where your muscles are set alight in fiery protest? To keep going when it would be easier to stop? Like the nordic spa (wait -- am I about to compare teeth-gritting racing to a day at the spa?) there is something purifying in it. Some have said it's in the pain. I think though, the cathartic epicenter is at the edge. The thin edge of what we think we're capable of -- which, inevitably, is different from what we are actually capable of. There is ritual in it too. In the morning runs, the noon swims, the weekly spin and strength class. Even in its challenges, the rhythm of it is reassuring. Finally, the Why is in the connection. In the community of friends, the kind support of strangers, in the mixing of people of all ages and abilities on the same course to pursue their goals. It's in your body streaming through cold water under your own power. In the wind rushing by on the bike. In the percussive metronome of your feet on the pavement, connecting you to what is real and making you feel alive.

I've come to know many who use this sport to help others -- more often than not while fighting demons of their own. That last part is pretty quiet in the grand chorus, but it makes the fight less hopeless to know you're not alone.

The next time someone sees you limping around post-race with a big grin on your face and asks "Why the hell would you ever do that?" -- may your Why come easily. And may it fulfill you.

Geordie McConnell, founder of OTC

Come on, the gear is cool too -- in a geeky sort of way

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