Thursday, November 13, 2008

They Don't Call It a "Personal Best" for Nothing

It's worth noting that this was essentially a private victory. The world barely notices the Olympic steeplechase champion.... The forty-year-old steeplechase champion of the World Masters Games is slightly more prominent than the employee-of-the-month at the Shop'N'Save. No, his triumpth had nothing to do with fame and everything to do with the fact that down that last stretch he went when he could have eased up. And it is a victory (or a failure) equally available to the less genetically endowed stuck in the middle of the pack. As with writing a book, exactly one person knows if you've given it your best shot, or if you've been satisfied with something less.

Bill McKibben, Long Distance: Testing the Limits of Body and Spirit in a Year of Living Strenuously
Sometimes, when I'm pushing myself like mad to edge up my average speed record for a familiar route by a measly one tenth of a mile per hour, I ask myself, "Who's going to know if I accomplish this? Why does it matter so much?" It's a really good question to use when I want to find out if it's worth it to use up so much of my limited weekly amount of bodily energy -- my wattage account, if you will.

Sometimes, the only thing to do is GO. Other times, I realize I want to spend that energy elsewhere -- either on Saturday's hard ride with my friend, or perhaps on a dinner date with my wife on Friday night. I'm 44, I've been under quite a lot of life stress lately (see recent posts), and this is only the beginning of my second year of sustained endurance training. I only have so much wattage to go around, and I've blown myself up big-time -- out of commission for many weeks at a time, more than once -- acting like I had more in the bank than I do.

Our society places a highly exacting value system on athletes: Those who suffer the most are called "heroes." And those whose busy lives, or limited bodies, demand moderation, get zero air-time or magazine covers. They are -- judging by their absence -- worthless, in the eyes of the media and the public at large.

The point is this: For most of us, not one other soul in the world cares whether we put in that extra interval. So, make sure it's worth it to you.

And if it is, then kill it. And enjoy the suffering all you can. 'Cause there's no-one to impress.

No comments: