Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Be Careful Out There...

Triathlon season, that is. Cyclocross season continues for another month. But I thought I'd take a minute and reflect on 2007, my first year as a professional triathlete.
But before I talk about that, I have to kick things off with a dose of perspective. I'm home for Thanksgiving, kicking it with my parents in Portland, ME. When I got home Sunday, after a few days in New York at a teacher's conference, my folks told me a UPS man had been trying to deliver a package to me for days. That struck me as odd, since I live in Vermont and receive all my mail there. What could it be?
The UPS man showed up again yesterday, around mid-morning. The return address was a guy who sold me a pair of Zipp 404s w/a powertap for a song, this past summer. Inside the package was an apparently brand new Garmin Forerunner 305, a tool I'd always found intriguing but way beyond a schoolteacher's salary. Had I missed something? Bought something while sleepwalking? Raised in New England, when something appears where nothing should have been, you start looking over your shoulder.
Turns out I wasn't the one who paid for this surprise. Inside the box was a note from Brad, who'd sold me the wheels (he's also coached by my CTS coach, Nick White—our original contact). It turns out he'd been hit by a car while training and had sustained some spinal cord damage. He mordantly quipped in the note: "Looks like the wheelchair division for me for at least a year."
Besides the shame of another cyclist seriously injured by a careless driver, I felt a rush of sympathy for Brad and the cold hand of good luck, which is always a capricious touch. Just that morning my back had gone into spasms, my penance for not warming up the day before at a 'cross race in Lowell, MA. It had hurt so much that I had had to lean against the kitchen corner and catch my breath. It passed, and I resolved to do some more core exercises, but compared to what Brad was now going through mine was a tiny affliction. Still, it reminded me of my amazing luck over the past two decades of athletics: no serious injuries aside from a horribly sprained ankle my junior year of college.
I was touched and haunted by Brad's gesture. Caught up as we are, these days, in heart rate and wattage numbers, stroke counts and aero helmets, it's too easy to forget why we bought that bike or those running shoes in the first place: we enjoyed the simple pleasure of a day's ride or run or dip in the local lake. I won't belabor the point, as this observation can easily descend into the trite, but I wanted to thank Brad and to point out how fragile our "Iron" bodies really are.

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