Harrowing victory? Brilliant, jubilant defeat?

The mind creates a portrait of the past, but memory has a paintbrush, not a camera. As such it is inherently inaccurate.

Is it any wonder that there are few descriptions of “harrowing victory” in the annals of competitive history? In the same way is it any wonder that there are few memories of a “brilliant, jubilant defeat?” The pixels of light and darkness captured in the mind’s eye are filled with the pallet of color of the results – hence the memories of winning somehow pull from the yellows and golds, success and color implying a relatively easier effort, while the losses are inevitably painted with the charcoals of those chiaroscuro efforts – blackened, brutish, pain and disappointment closely linked.

I choose to repaint this race differently. No – I didn’t win - but I did finish. And in so doing what I did accomplish was a unique mastery of the instrument of my body. For over two hours, I played it like the first violinist – drawing out of it with every lash of the straight bow every possible note, every emotion, every tremble of resonance the space of ribs and air and bones was capable of producing.

In the end was it all meaningless? A black deep hole – a fissure to the worst unknowns? Or was there transcendence in the agony I endured? Did I learn something so raw and true about myself that I’ll be describing it for decades? I don’t really know to be honest – more than two months later as I write this and I still feel as though I’m clawing my way out of that black crevasse, that hallowed and horrifying yet blindingly brilliant 2 hours and 10 minutes I spent at the edge of sanity and consciousness.

A "Good Tired"

After 8  days and  nights  on the road, radiant, glowing days in the dunes and at the beaches of Lake Michigan, hot turbulent racing and suffering over swollen burning cracked pavement,  and moist, sweaty yet cooling evenings under the open windows in shell of the RV, I pulled into my driveway and began the interminable unloading process.

 The preceding 4 days were particularly intense – days of “really living”  – comprised of lengthy drives, incredibly difficult races full of highs and lows, and more importantly the resumption of old friendships and assumption of new ones: celebrations with friends and loved ones. Oddly enough – in that same husk of the RV where most of these activities took place we were carrying 5 chrysalides – waiting for the butterflies to emerge.

 By the time I reached home at about 6pm, I was entering that strange netherworld of the overtired – I was on autopilot. I wandered back and forth from the RV to the house carrying odds and ends without much plan or strategy. I could have probably cut my trips down by half if I had the ability to think, but my brain had shut down and only my nervous system and musculature were carrying the day.

 I was physically destroyed and mentally incompetent – yet I was stumbling through happiness. Each glimpse at my bed – the cotton sheets and fresh pillows, the air conditioned air – contrasted with the humid dank air of the garage and RV as I muddled my way through the extensive unloading process.

 3 hours later and I finally finished the task. 3 hours? Yes – the RV is like a rolling home – and it is like moving in and moving out – between sheets, pillows, chairs, coolers, equipment, tools, music, movies, books, papers, pots, pans, cutlery, napkins, plates, condiments, dry goods, pasta, cereal, sports drinks, snack bars, water bottles, coffee, milk, cream, soda, water, bread, meat, chicken, fruit, yogurt, oil, firewood, vegetables, spices, onions, fresh produce, spatulas, bowls, clothes, swimsuits, jackets, bug spay, dog food, and about 100 other things I had redecorated the interior of our home with the insides of the husk of the RV.

 As I moved the last few loads, a recurring thought kept running through the remnants of my brain, “bed… I love bed… can’t wait to go to bed…” 9:30pm and I laid down for the first time since departing Milwaukee early that morning before the race (and the race to the race) in Chicago and the 2 hour fight with traffic back home and I think I entered Stage 2 sleep within 5 seconds of closing my eyes.

 I loved that motion - of actually laying down on my bed. It, my bed, had become like a long lost lover and it embraced me with its dry cool perfumed arms. At some point I wondered in my fog… “maybe people who can’t sleep aren’t tired enough…”