Watching your 36 year old boyfriend fly around a circuit-race course 13 times.
Knowing that he has lost 30 pounds since you met him and will have lost 40-45 total by the time that racing season is truly in full swing.
Sam is a machine and his legs are waking up. He’s always been an able cyclist, willing to suffer and pay dues, but he is just starting to come into his own. He has not trained like this in almost 10 years and he is starting to rediscover that his legs are stronger than he thinks, his lungs larger and more efficient. He is 36 years old and in arguably the best shape of his life.
I have my beef with road racing. I could produce a long list of stuff that irks me about the sport: the wildly expensive gear, prima donna attitudes, and grisly crashes that leave riders laid up and wickedly damaged for months. But over the past 8 years I have come to see the beauty in it also. And if this is what gets Sam out of bed in the morning and motivates him to drop 45 pounds then so be it. I’m in.
His fitness is reaching incredible levels right now. Although we’ve been eating well and exercising consistently for the past 4 or 5 years, he has never had this kind of power, this kind of endurance. His recovery time is amazing and he routinely impresses every doctor that examines him with his astoundingly low resting heart rate.
I have always been proud of him – his mind-boggling creativity and enviable work-ethic attracted me to him in the first place. But last night I felt a deeper kind of pang, an intense shot of pride that left me dizzy. He’s worked hard for this. It was not given to him.
I thought of him this morning as I ran up the west side of Mt Tabor and the sun began to rise around me. I thought of that searing in his legs and the unthinkable willpower that enables him to push through. My lungs burned and my heart rate skyrocketed and I pressed on, “cranking the notch a quarter turn”, as Daniel the boot camp instructor is fond of saying.
When you hit the point and you think you can’t take it any further, crank the notch another quarter turn. Just try for a little more and see if you have it. I bet you do.
In those make or break moments I think of someone inspiring. For a long time I used to think of Lynne Cox, the famous long-distance swimmer who set records in the English channel, and was the first woman to cross Cook Strait in New Zealand, the Strait of Magellan and, the Cape of Good Hope. (Read her book if you haven’t.) Today at the top of Mt. Tabor I thought of my boyfriend, the Amazing Sicilian Hammer – bike racer extraordinaire.
I channeled the cadence of his pedal stroke and found rhythm in the image. I tapped into his exertion, found power there, and leaned into a Wednesday morning Portland sunrise.