Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Something in the eyes

There is something in the eyes. Those folks who have had to contend with their demons. The folks who have had to strip themselves bare and examine, change or reach an understanding about parts of themselves.

It's a look I've seen in the eyes of endurance athletes, particularly ultra runners and triathletes. When you've been running or underway for three, four, five or 20 hours and aren't finished, or maybe even close to finished, you can start to break down physically, mentally, psychologically. I know I can start to lose it.

The question becomes: how will you/I put it back together?

Will I allow myself to crumble and quit? Or will I figure out what I need to keep going, to rally, to finish?

For me, it isn't always pretty. But what comes with that decision and gumption to continue means everything.

It's a gift--the ability and opportunity to test myself in different ways. I don't think I've ever taken it for granted, but even less so now having passed five weeks without running (fu%*ing ankle).

This past Saturday, six of us met at the Miles River Yacht Club for an open water swim out to a mark in the Miles River. It was a 3/4 mile swim. I was the lone non-swimmer among a group of solid/strong aqua people. Coupled with the fact that my ankle won't flex to kick while swimming freestyle, I was the slow boat.

It's been a long time since I have swum any distance. But it felt like swimming in the river always has to me: see something a ways off and see if I can swim to it, and back. "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

After my forward floating, a couple of us biked the 13 miles back to Easton, while the rest rode to Tilghman and back. My bike is a single-speed, which I have been digging for the flat land known as the Eastern Shore.

Where this post came from is both dealing with injury, redefining my activities, both for the moment and the long haul. And from the look in the eyes of the swimmers. Those who had put their time and training in; who looked effortless in their strokes, unlike my "survival" brand of swimming.

It's something in the eyes. It's a look you know when you see it. A contentment that comes from continuous effort, on the other side of struggle and through self-searching.

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