Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Managing Expectations.

This is a theme that you hear over and over again in recovery. Learn to manage your expectations. Flexibility of both emotion and thought. Be realistic about your talents and limitations. Manage your expectations.

There is a lot of managing expectations and perseverance in recovery. In a way, it's an endurance race for your life, that happens on the fringes of your days, every day, no matter what. In a way, sobriety is like morality -- when done right, there are no days off. It takes a stubbornness woven into the very fabric of your existence -- tying into your emotions and hopes, all of your choices, big and small. Sobriety has surprisingly little to do with not drinking and a lot to do with making good choices. You become well versed in calmly addressing each crisis, each problem, with the underlying knowledge that if you apply this stubborn perseverance, you'll manage to weather just about anything.

Head down. Carefully. Thoughtfully. Just about anything life can throw at you.

When you close such a destructive chapter in your life successfully, how hard could the rest be?

And those lessons are the ones I thought of on that long road back.

At the third and last rest stop, I stopped the bike. I pulled off to the side of the road and the volunteers looked at me quizzically. Is she stopping? Should we call SAG?

I explained that, no, I'm still going to finish, but I needed to gather myself before the last hill and get some water and food. Boy, did that water taste good! I mixed the cold, fresh water with what was left in my Heed bottle, ditched the finished Perpetuem, and replaced it with Infinite. I ate the second Balance bar and started feeling better.

And then, yet again, I noticed how few people I had seen recently.

"Am I the last rider?" They didn't know. Hmmm. And then a woman my age came riding up the road, grabs a bottle of water and keeps on moving.

Ugh. If I wasn't last then, I must be now. Time to get moving.

I hop back on the bike, thank the volunteers and start pedaling. My seat is ON FIRE, and I've clearly answered the question as to how long a race suit can pad your rump. I see one last woman -- could she be an Athena? -- pass by in the opposite direction on the switchback. There's someone behind me! I'm relieved. Hugely relieved.

And then, halfway up the last climb, the HFP Racing truck drives by. With a couple riders in it, including that last woman. They slow down and say good job, cheering me on with fists out of the window. But I can't help but notice that they pause to tell the cop something at the next pass. Something, I'm imagining, like "here comes the last one...we can open these streets up after her."

Double ugh.

Last place. By attrition.

But there really is no stopping on a bike course, is there? You don't just hop off and magically an escalator appears on the side of the road to whisk you back to transition. It doesn't work like that. And, anyway, I didn't come here to stop.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll let myself change my mind later. But not now.

The last 15 miles were mainly downhill and exceedingly lonely. And tiresome. The extra fluids I started taking on at the last rest stop were making a difference, as was the Balance bar, and this was good. With a little hiccup there, I managed to keep myself on track with food and water. But, frankly, it was time to get off the bike.

Like my weekend before, I've never wanted to start a run more than I did at that last intersection before the bridge over the Monongahela.

Banana -- it's been fun. But, it's time to run.

I look up and see Mighty M on the bridge. He has the camera glued to his face and is yelling cheers of encouragement. I try to tell him I'm the last person on the bike. I want to tell him how they're opening the roads behind me and each police officer seems relieved when I go by, since I'm a reprieve for them from the long hours spent in the sun on their feet. I want him to get the full impact of this realization -- that I'm the very last person in this race and the (mottled and distorted) clear conclusion that I wasn't supposed to be able to finish. I want him to hear all of this as I yell out at him on the bridge.

He hears a little of it. He yells back that there are more behind me and I think he must really love me. Because he doesn't know what I know -- that there's nobody else. That I've become the very last fat chick out on the course. Because I'm now DFL. But, he keeps yelling that it doesn't matter, just keep on going.

It doesn't matter.

Manage expectations.

And there he is, grinning from ear to ear. He's so proud of me. Me! Mighty M, with his shiny bald sunburned head. He thinks that I can do this. He thinks I should keep going. He doesn't care that I'm absolutely last. Of course, he doesn't feel my legs or shame. But he often knows more about me than I do, so I trust that, and I trust him. Implicitly.

So I pull into transition. Back to human kind. Back to civilization. And back in time to run a half marathon.


Bike time: 3:58:45
Average pace: 14.1 mph
Overall Rank: 303 of 305
No. people actually behind me: about a half dozen
Transition time: 0:02:17


B Bop said...

Ah Man, I saw the post and I thought you were going to take us through the run with you. All this waiting is torture ;-)

And then I've gotta keep waiting for IMmoo.....dang.

Big ups to you not only for this IM journey, but also the afformentioned personal journey you've endured. You seem to do well handling very difficult tasks.

Wes said...

How many people can say that they have finished a half ironman? It's an old cliche, maybe, but the worst student who graduates is still called "doctor". We would all like to do better, and next time, I'm sure you will..

ShirleyPerly said...

Way to hang in there and get that bike segment done! Personally, I think you ought not to worry so much about being last. Just keep going!!!

Duane said...

I know how you feel! I am always last, maybe we can ride together someday for company! :-)

LBTEPA said...

More than anything for you, I wish you didn't feel shame at your achievements, when everyone who is priveleged to share the journey even from a huge distance feels nothing but PRIDE to know you

sarah-ly said...

i'm so impressed with you. and i love your writing. from start to finish. you're amazing & an inspiration. thank you so much for sharing.