Saturday, April 12, 2014

In which the trying is the sweet spot

Call it denial. Call it optimism. It's probably both. But there's a place where, given enough sunlight, 37 seems warm and 39 feels young.

There's a sweet spot in every sport, at least that's the theory. In golf, you know it when you hear it, club to ball. It sounds like a hole-in-one. And in baseball, you know it when you see it, or maybe when you don't--because it's already out of the park. As for the sweet spot in road racing--the sport I'm supposed to know the most about-- I'm not totally sure. I'd guess it would be the finish line. Well, unless you puke in the chute. In that case, it's more of a delayed sweet spot, like later that afternoon when you're polishing off a cheeseburger and relishing in proving yourself to be faster and stronger than you were the day before, the year before, maybe than ever.

The thing about sweet spots is that they aren't very big, very often, or very easy to come by.  You have to work so hard to find them, and when you finally do, they're fleeting. You can't put them in a mason jar, poke some holes in the lid and hope they'll last until August.

This week I found myself in a contented striving, the sort of place where you're delighted just for the privilege to try. I ran on bare pavement in 37 degrees on 39 year old legs underneath the highest sun I've seen in months, and for maybe a quarter of a mile I felt strong. Top of the mountain strong. Bow of the ship, I'm flying, king of the world strong. Look me in the eye and tell me I can't, I dare you strong. Of course it didn't last. Of course. But those sweet spots--damn if they don't keep you going through the next one hundred shanked shots. (I'm back to golf again, if you haven't noticed).

I have a friend who's running a marathon tomorrow, and I keep thinking about her, hoping that tomorrow's her day, the day of the BQ. She's the bravest sort of lady, the kind who ignores all the really good excuses and only pays attention to the lofty goal, the kind who lets her heart publicly break in the almost-but-not-quite achievement of a huge PR and a barely-missed-Boston. The kind who duct tapes her heart back together and trains through the polar vortex and goes RIGHT BACK OUT THERE.

The sweet spot isn't always (necessarily) at the top. Sometimes it's in the climb and the burn.
You guys. This is how we stay young, and this is how we stay warm, and this is how we stay alive. We keep striving. We keep hunting the sweet spot. We tell the melancholy and the disappointment and the negativity to suck it. We chase the maybe-just-maybes and the almost-but-not-quites. And in the chase, we get warmer and stronger. We get faster, braver. And who knows if we'll ever catch whatever it is we're after. But we're sure as heck gonna bask in the privilege to try. And sometimes? The trying is the sweet spot.

1 comment:

  1. As I stood there at the marathon turn around with her husband I saw one of the most courageous women I know watch her dream day disappear. Yet she was already setting her sights on the next opportunity to teach her goal. Her enthusiasm and spirit helps keep me young.