it's in me
it runs through every single solitary capillary, vein and artery in my body
it resides in my spirit
it occupies my mind
it flows from my fingers and toes
i think it
i speak it
i feel it
no one can take that from me, no matter how hard they try
and try they have
to no avail
i will sustain
i will fight
i will conquer
toughness - is it in you?!
this weekend was a mixture of pain, sentiment and fortitude. i saw kindness, concern, frustration and disdain. i saw the strength in some. i saw the weakness in others. i made the days mine and let no one tell me otherwise. realizations hit home and new facts came to light. there have been times that i have been alone in this life. there have been times that i have been surrounded by others and felt more alone then ever. and there have been times that i have been close to good people who don't judge, who don't make excuses who don't pretend. right now i want to be the best person i can be. i have my work cut out for me. the road to greatness on any front - whether it be athleticism, professional gain or personal growth - will always lead to struggle and strife. if it was easy to be great, then everyone would have a hand in it. its the constant struggle within yourself to think better, do better, be better. toughness. its something that comes from deep within. you have to find it somewhere - and that somewhere is not around the next corner, its not on the other side of the fence, its not even at the church down the street - its found in you. deep down in the farthest recesses for some, bubbling up to the surface ready to ignite for others. who has what where and what makes it so? who knows. i only know that if you can't find that toughness, keep on looking. its there, it just might be hiding out in order to make you want it that much more.
so i wrangled Chris, Joanna and Dana into a kick ass ride this weekend. the plan was to do the Great Western Loop in all of it glory. 40 miles of 4,846 ft in elevation gain. about half of that is climbing - meaning the other half is full of screaming down hills. fun, fun and more fun. it was to be my first time and i couldn't be more excited to get this thing under my belt. i hear comments all the time concerning this ride ranging from "it's my favorite ride ever!" to "oh lord, that was the hardest thing i've ever done!" i'm not gonna lie - i was scared. scared like when you know something awful is about to happen - your hands are sweaty, your legs are tense, your mind it sharp and your subtly doubting the essence of your very self in the face of something you are unsure you have the strength to transcend - yet you walk right into because you know there is absolutely no way around it. Dana had been sick all week, so i wasn't sure if the ride was the best idea for her. i invited her anyhow and let her make her own decision as to do it or not - she's a big girl, she knows what she can and can't handle. she opted in and the morning came without further adieu.
Chris was so nice to tag along and lead us through the route, as this was also Joanna's and Dana's first time. we all know how i am with directions so just having him there made me feel 100% better about the climbing and navigating ahead - plus he seems to be a really great guy so i was looking forward to getting to hang out with him and hopefully make a new friend. who am i kidding?! i was really hoping to snag him as an added training partner because he's fast and riding with those who are faster and better makes you faster and better and that's right where i want to be. challenged. so we headed out just a little after the 8 o'clock start time we had agreed upon to accomplish one of two things - eat up the course or let the course eat us up. i, for one, was not about to let the latter of the two happen.
we rode for about 7 or so miles before we came upon our first ascent. luckily i was able to keep up with Chris who warned "this is the steepest it gets, there's more of 'em - but nothing worse." okay, let's do it. HOLY MOTHER OF GOD ALMIGHTY JESUS CHRIST IN HEAVEN WHO PUT ME ON THIS EARTH AND CAN TAKE ME RIGHT BACK OUT - pain. pain and burning and utter fear took hold of my legs, my lungs and my heart. there was an actual moment when i thought this is it, this is how i am going to die. dramatic - yes i know, but i quite literally had it pass through my mind. the only other time i have ever struggled like that is when i've climbed Hernandez Hideaway. a moment always comes in each of these climbs where you find exactly what you are made of. the difference between toughness and weakness. surmounting or succumbing - and you know what? i pulled it off. i did not fall. i did not roll back. i trashed my legs, jacked up my lactic acid, screamed and cussed and inhaled so hard and deep and fast that i thought my lungs might explode, but i did it. i miraculously pulled the damn climb off and immediately realized how ugly and trashy and ungraceful i was at that exact moment and apologized to Chris. i felt it necessary to preface the upcoming climbs with an apology and a warning that he was going to see a very ugly side of me that not too many people get to see. lucky for him, that was the worst climb and the worst of my ugliness he had to witness that day as the ride just got more enjoyable as the miles passed.
we manhandled switchbacks. we navigated technical turns. we climbed great mountains and we flew down great descents. i talked the entire way. i gabbed about nothing at all and everything i could. Chris listened and he responded. he let me go on and on about my ideas for my team next year. he gave feedback and some direction. he listened as i talked about my brother and the inner turmoil of the past few years without judgement and without criticism. he listened and he responded. i kept us both occupied enough to keep our minds off the actual task at hand - to own this ride and make it ours - which in the end we did and did it well. Joanna had a fantastic ride as well and was so excited to have come along. we were all really stoked at the end of it for having had accomplished the task in such a way that we could all walk away and say "hell yeah! that sucked! that was awesome! that hurt so bad! i can't wait to do it again!" we high fived after it was all said and done and congratulated one another, revelling in the glory of our accomplishment.
Dana didn't join in on our dance - she had drawn on her inner self for the ride and was spent. i'm not sure how to help her realize the magnitude of her outward look and the sanctity of her inner acceptance, but i won't stop trying until she absolutely tells me to. i knew she was feeling things we weren't aware of and couldn't quite relate to, so i encouraged as best i could and let her tackle the challenges of the day how she deemed necessary.
Chris and i were slated to go the the TCSD BBQ at Don's so after making plans and getting directions, i asked Dana if she'd like to come along and was met with a simple "sure" and shrug of the shoulders which i took as an "okay, why not?" we headed to her place to shower and make our stinky butts presentable for the gathering ahead and had a grand time of it in the process. the party was full of good people, good food and good fun. i got suckered into the Fiesta 100, which has now (THANK GOD) been switched to the Strand 100 - a much more enticing ride to say the least, and an hour run to follow next Saturday. that, after i finish my own ride of 70 or so miles up the coast - hard and fast for the three week out preparation. the party was relaxing and light hearted and an all around fantastic time - exactly what i needed to wind down a great day of riding, learning and conquering.
toughness - yeah i got...do you?