“How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live.” -Thoreau
I recently heard that Nina Simone described herself as existing in the space between the black and the white keys. Perhaps her metaphor had racial implications that I couldn’t begin to understand, but what a beautiful statement nonetheless. I like to think I exist in the space between the mountains and the city. As the late, grand thinker of our time Edward Abbey encouraged, I’m a “a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic.”
When I began running I prided myself as being a runner who smoked cigarettes. I don’t smoke anymore, but I continue to exist in a life of paradox.
I sell rain gutters in the desert. I grew up on one border and settled on the other. I crave travel and adventure and take comfort in my home and marriage. I drive like an old man, yet relish in the speed of a motorcycle. I’m an adult who can’t quite grow up. I think roller coasters are terrifying, but ill jump out of a plane. I’m the healthiest bastard you’ll ever meet, who will take pleasure in drinkin’ ya under the table – only to be sick for two days afterward.
Knock-knock. I will show up at your door in the morning to design and sell you a water harvesting system. I’ll look clean-cut, bright-eyed, confident and professional. What you don’t know is that an hour ago I was wiping my ass with a few river rocks and a juniper branch while poppin’ a squat four miles deep from that trailhead in your backyard. You also don’t realize that I bushwhacked 200’ uphill just for the sake of a nice view for my sunrise shit. The salt stains on my arms and around my forehead are not from the grueling drive to your house. They are a temporary tattoo reminding me that while my brain and motions are with you, my spirit is back there on the mountain. And that smell? Well, at least it’s earned.
You see, training is a lifestyle. It’s what it’s all about. I’ve learned to blend the Walden Pond – hermit side of me with the urban-metro side through the outlet of training. To be honest, I feel like a goddamn superhero when I’m running. And when I’m not…it’s my little secret. My training is my alter-ego.
My friend Doug Loveday, a former professional cyclist, and I came to the understanding that a race is simply a celebration of your training. The race is the victory lap. When you’ve devoted your time, energy, and heart into your training there’s nothing left to do but display it in the big dance. And then, it’s over in the blink of an eye.
It’s the training – the lifestyle – that’s alluring. It’s what lasts, and only so if you learn to love it. If you don’t love it, then what’s the point? If you do, then like Pepe Le Pew, you chase after it. I found myself a job and a city in which I can actively pursue the good life. Each day I balance my schedule to get my run in, usually beginning or ending the day near some trailhead, mountain or running path. Tucson has a mountain range and miles of trail within 45 minutes any direction you drive. It’s how I have learned to function in the day-to-day grind of living a domestic life. Like a werewolf exploding out under the full moon, I anxiously await the transformation each day.
Now let me tell ya, I have a frightening case of the runs. I tend to run because I am happy. Sometimes I run when I am sad. Here and there I’ll run when I’m angry or pissed. Occasionally I’ll run to think about something. Often I’ll run to think about nothing. The outcome is always the same. I feel like my dusty old truck would if I ever ran it through the car wash.
And so the summer training block goes. It’s hot, dry, harsh and gritty. Last week I ran the toughest week of training to date – about 85 miles and 18,000 feet of vert. Coincidentally, it was also the hottest week of the year in Tucson with high temps ranging from 105-111 every day. It also happened to be my best week of sales to date at work.
This is a lifestyle I can get used to.
And if you need to reach me this summer, I’ll either be with a client, with my wife, or out on some trail…howlin’ at the moon.
Photo cred ~ Sion Lupowitz