Anyhow, he's a former rugby player, started out in his teens playing left or right wing because he was faster than anyone else out there. As he got older, he moved up and in. Last I'd heard, he'd played scrum half, fly half and hooker, hell they even set him up in my old position at #4 lock. He's not that big, but he has no fear of aggression, and no mental breakpoints. Back in his late teens he was running down the sideline at the NMSU pitch at mach 9, and someone pushed him into a tree. Broke his face. He has a titanium plate in there now, keeping his face together. Took him four days to see the doctor for it, because pain don't hurt.
He's doing Crossfit now, which is what you do if you're of a certain age and type in the US. The folks who were really into kettle bells and marathons are now into Crossfit. The US rugby teams swear by it. The email that I got recently, "Yesterday I did 10 rounds of 7 x deadlifts @ 165lbs and 15 x weighted situps @ 14lbs in ~14 minutes." Which is nuts.
I'd mentioned that I started running at the first of the year, and that I'd finally reached my 10 mile goal. My 5 mile long run is now my twice-a-week run, and my new long runs are 6, 7.5, or 10 miles. Like most anyone who knows me, he was amazed that I could run ten miles. He knew me when I was 280 pounds with a broken back, and though he's seen me a couple of times since I started running, I still don't look like a distance runner. I stopped losing weight in May, and have been holding steady at 248 pounds. My waist size has dropped, and my legs are like iron now, but the rest of me looks like what I am: a pudgy white guy in his late 30s trying too hard.
So he asks me, why do it? What inspired you to start doing long distance running? And my standard reply is, well, I needed to lose 50 pounds and gain some muscle in my legs and back, because my back surgeon told me I'd be crippled if I didn't. Running is actually great for the back....especially if you use a barefoot or "zen" stride, like I do. The jarring helps circulate fluid into the disks (which has no way of circulating on its own), keeping them mobile and healthy. So that's why.
And he asks me, no, really. Why?
Because, I replied. Because I can't do it. Because I'm not supposed to be able to do this, and truth be told I can't. I hate it. I despise how weak it makes me feel. I hate the way my body reacts to it. It is more work, and more difficult work, than anything I have ever done. I run into a wall at mile 4, and I run into another at mile 8 which is less a wall and more just all-encompassing physical despair. It is so very tough that I'm positive I'm going to die. That's why I do it. Not because I'm sadistic, but because it is very, very tough.
When you're doing something really mind-shattering, you find a place where every thought lasts a brief second or less. You can't dwell on anything. The rest of the world and the way it works drops away completely, and all you can do is run a loop of, come on. Come on. Push, keep working. One goddamn leg in front of the other. And everything else around you is still there, but none of it will help you. You have to find it in yourself, and fucking run.
I work in an industry that used to have artisans. Folks who'd hit a problem and solve it by applying creativity and sheer horsepower. I know a lady who once worked on a new network with a new routing protocol with some new traffic types. It was a solid mass of work for a year, then in that last critical bring-up stage she worked for seventy two hours straight, taking cat naps on her office floor after the first day. No one else could do it but her, and she had to do it, and she did. She took a week off afterward, staring into the sea. The office she worked at in Cambridge is just another cube in a glass and steel building near the Alewife T stop. You'd never know what happened there. There's no plaque. No way to tell that all the stuff we now do is partially her doing, her sacrifice.
We used to engulf ourselves in our problems, those of us who were hack taught and mis-aligned with the rest of the world. Those of us without degrees but with an unfailing imagination and clarity, a way to cut through and find the thread to solve the problem. No short cuts. No easy way to do it. You just put your head into it and pray that when it is all done, you can sleep knowing that the solution is in place.
Now, with most of our thinking offloaded to Google and the main creative purpose of our lives being how witty we can appear in 160 characters, dire life-saving work is a realm once again outside of tech. The only times this job consumes me any more is when something breaks and I'm about to get fired for it. So instead of finding solitude and hope in my work, I struggle three times a week to the point of heat stroke to quiet my mind enough to have one task that I can complete and say this, this is mine. I drive myself to the breaking point to own that moment completely.
It is not a thing or a gadget or a philosophy or anything simple. It is a brutal honest stupid selfish way to prove that I am in control and still very much alive. Everything else fucks off because it can't stand up to that moment.
Then I go home, sweat for four more hours, and try to act interested in the rest of the day.
|< A Day in the Life -- Magnanimous | Attn: UAF sympathisers! >|