6 Million Dollar Spirit

The spirit is larger than the body.  The body is pathetic compared to what we have inside us.  —  Diana Nyad

I still have a handful of posts that I’ve pieced together, but not finished — as usual, I’m trying to do too much in a single post, instead of just hammering out something somewhat entertaining and enjoyable.

But they are good posts, and will be completed.  Although there is a tension between writing them and working on the book, which is gaining momentum, to the exclusion of most everything.  But training.  And art.  Because the writing and the training and the art are all connected, informing each other in an inexplicable and mystical and creative dialogue that constantly amazes me.  It’s not me who does a lot of this.  I just show up.  The rest comes with time and practice.  I show up.  Stuff starts happening.

I just returned home from my best 5 mile time in too long, and I thought to post a quick entry on the joys of training.

This post on training is actually part of one of the other posts I am working on, but posting this sequel entry first seems to make sense, for reasons that may be clear, should you read both entries.

I didn’t realize until a month or so ago that I had accidently landed into a paradise for training.  My front steps lead to four different routes for biking, walking, or running.  As a local friend said to me, “I didn’t realize it until you brought it up, you really are in the best spot in this area for taking off on the roads, aren’t you.”   Four routes converge on my doorstep — the only place in this area that can boast such a wonderful fluke of circumstance.

It’s really extraordinary, yet another confluence that’s taken place in my life.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect portal to place myself for training, with the hills, the pines, the rivers, the lakes, the fresh air.  And there’s no fighting with cyclists or cars for the right of way — a bane of existence during my life in Cambridge.  The few drivers that pass me here are excessively courteous, slowing way down for the strange, foot bound humanoid that is less common in these parts than deer.

The joys of training.  One mile becomes two.  Two miles become three.  Three miles become five.  Every day, a little more.  Soon the challenging five miles is not only effortless, but invigorating.  Not just invigorating, but thrilling and nurturing.

Today, I not only did my best time, but I came home energized.  Some of the hills around here are steep and unforgiving, and today for the first time, every incline was skillfully managed by slowing down, breathing deeply, and letting the endorphins kick in.  No stops.  No feeling like I was going to puke.  No making the hill and then stopping for the breath, while telling myself I had just made the hill while stopped at the top and checking the monitor as an excuse to catch my breath.  Just concentrated effort.  And breathing.

Before today, some of these inclines have inspired not much more than an “oh shit, here we go” with an immediate heart rate spike, well past the safety zone.

Today, there was simply the joy of pushing through, maxing out my heart rate while pushing through and filling my lungs with fresh air.

That’s another joy.  The air here.  Having my lungs fill with this clean, pristine air.

I considered everything I have pushed through in the past few years, some of which I mentioned before, some of which comprises the entry that will follow this one, and I’ve often had the feeling like all the strength had been sapped from me.  But today’s easy 5 miles — soon to be 10 — reminded me how incredibly strong I am, how resilient and fortunate I am to be given everything I have been given.  Here’s a truth: just when we think we can’t make it, if we push through just a little more, practice patience with ourselves and with life, there we stand, edging closer to the person that we want to be.

This invigorating 5 miles, by the way, happened after a mild back injury last week, which I quickly recovered from thanks the miracles of the modern heating pad.

Injury is usually temporary.  Giving up is always fatal.

Today, by just showing up, there was inscrutable joy — the sound of the birds, the trees, my heart beating, the sound of my feet on the open roads, my lungs filling and feeling like they never have.  Thanks to the mountain air, deep breathing takes on a whole new meaning.  I was completely present and in the moment, and it was beautiful.  Everything sang in unison, and I was part of the choir — contralto, no doubt.

So I eased on home strong — cutting a full 15 minutes off of the times I previously clocked on this one route.

My heart rate’s been dropping fast during a cool down, indicating that I am building great cardio strength again.

Better.  Stronger.  Faster.

Never give up.  Humans are capable of so much more than we allow ourselves to believe.

“Better.  Stronger.  Faster.”  Although I’d qualify that its the human spirit is the actual bionic powerhouse, for we simply follow our spirit’s lead:



4 Replies to “6 Million Dollar Spirit”

  1. 15 minutes off! That’s wonderful. (Bar is now raised!)Two of my classmates have challenged me to do a half-marathon next spring. Normally I’m not drawn to competitive stuff but as a keeping-up-a-friendship idea I think it has value. Keep on moving!

  2. Hi Lee! Well, a lot of that 15 minutes was because I made up my mind to take the hills slowly and deliberately, focus on my breath, and to keep going after reaching the top. Sounds small, but now that I’ve quit complaining, I really moved into the pleasure of listening to my body say, “this is what I crave.”

    I’m not a competitive sports person, either — I was always the last one picked at school for “teams” (I have a neurotic fear of flying balls, cannot stand to have a thrown object coming at me), which in public schools is just an extension of the popularity clubs. As an adult, I became really competitive with my most grueling competition, myself. Set the bar, raise it, set it again, and then raise it again.

    I’m inspired by Rich Roll and Scott Jurek. Being vegan and eating very high raw and almost no processed foods has made a tremendous difference in my energy. Eating vegan doesn’t mean eating healthy, and since moving here, I’ve managed to clean up my diet from almost all junk. One of my goals, met.

    Keep me posted on your half-marathon aspirations — I think it sounds like a great idea, for friendship, health, and being present. As well as the bragging rights.

  3. Just took my new-to-me bicycle out for a 15-mile spin today. Not far from Valley Forge, two people were looking at a tree so I stopped to look. There were two (2) Great blue herons’ nests with two birds in attendance, one at each! Magic day. Hope you enjoyed the holiday too. Yes, I’m tempted by a lot of the processed vegan foods myself. Good on you for addressing that wisely. I’d like to follow your path.

  4. Congrats on the 15-mile spin, and the new-to you bike! Moments like yours, stumbling on the herons’ nest, I believe are the reward for being present, and for showing up for the “experience of being alive” (Joseph Campbell).

    We have many protected heron rookeries in this area. Before I had to move, I would sit and watch the heron fly into the marshes under my window. Heron, egrets, osprey, eagles. Usually, heron attract eagle and osprey, as well as egrets and owls. I’ve read that the heron nests are something like a “timeshare” deal, and one reason heron preservation is so important is this complex interrelationship with other species. You may know more about this than do I, Lee. Here’s an interesting link that you may enjoy:


    Just returned from my first 8 miles in a very long time, and I’m reminded of how important stretching is. I can’t do this stuff without a good stretching/yoga practice, which is another important moving. The great thing about injury is that it forces me to resurrect a moderate yoga practice, which is another way of being fully in one’s body.

    “Keep moving,” keep stretching. Keep breathing life and love.

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