Racing, moving, and the thrill of uncertainty.
Forgive me this long-winded, dramatic and obvious metaphor. Feel free to skip over the text in parentheses, that’s just me thinking to myself.
[Five days until I cross four time zones with three packed bags on two 737s with one layover.]
Starting something new is like racing. Finding a good spot near the line and jiggling up and down, double-checking details like whether your watch has been cleared and your shoelaces are secure. Wondering how you’ll feel in 20 minutes, or 41 minutes, or 3 hours and 30 minutes.
[How much waterproof clothing will I be able to cram into three bags? Where is my passport? Am I going to be kicking myself in a few hours for forgetting something crucial?]
The ecstasy of racing is in its potential and also its uncertainty.
In all likelihood, even as you line up for a race with your stomach in your throat, you know that soon it will be done, and that minutes or hours from now you will be noshing on a banana at the food tent wondering what you were so worried about, perhaps looking back on the experience already with a faint sort of nostalgia and regret that it’s all over.
But right now? Not so fast, buddy. You’re not noshing on that banana and relaying stories of your halcyon moments of sneaker-shod glory yet.
Right now, you’re still standing there at the line — body primed to move, legs electric with adrenaline and the pleasant terror of high expectations, perched in that dread moment between petrified immobility and ACTION.
And, even if you’re feeling optimistic about your chances, you likely still possess that anxious epinephrine-spiked respect for the reality that things can go perilously awry during this—and any—race.
You might be nursing an injury or you might just have one of those pop-up bad days or you might forget that you even know how to run and you might just be slow because of it.
[What if I’m bad at my job? What if I forget everything I ever knew about what I’m supposed to be doing? What if they don’t like me? What if I expire in the jaws of a black bear while being trampled by a vicious moose in an avalanche?]
Luckily, before you become too mired in these panicky reveries, the gun is going off and Instinct seizes control of the neurological wheel and, thank goodness, your legs remember what to do, so off you go!
[Pilot speaking. This is Alaska Airlines 25, bound for… take one guess. The weather here in Boston is sunny and warm. The weather at your final destination is rainy and cold, haha sucker! Turn off your ipods and cellphones and put your mini-lapdogs back in their carry-on cases, or else I’ll send this architecturally-coiffed stewardess to engage you in passive-aggressive conversation about the standard rules of cabin conduct.]
But you’re off, you’re off! And it’s only the first mile, the first few miles, and you’ve got to settle in. Sometimes this can be one of the most exciting parts! Here you are! Racing! Feeling great! The whole experience is still ahead of you; all your daydreams of success and racing bliss can still come to fruition.
[Mountains! Snow! XC-skiing! Killer whales! Bald eagles! Trails! The last frontier! Weeee!]
Eventually, the honeymoon feeling of the race may subside. Skin starts to chafe, muscles get sore, your breathing becomes labored and your heart-rate creeps up and up and up and up and you begin to second-guess whatever ludicrous delusions propelled you to this point.
[Rain. Snow. Clouds. Rain. Except I can hardly even see the rain anymore, because it’s always dark out. Can’t call my parents or friends to enlist their sympathies about it, because it’s 2 am where they are. What was I thinking? How many months ‘til July?]
Or perhaps the initial thrill stays with you and doesn’t fade.
A good day. The ZONE.
You have struck the elusive fusion of blessedly uncomfortable, struggling, bearing down on the meters for the PR, yet so in-the-moment you overlook that it will ever end…
MY BAD, GUYS… Let’s shift gears out of the wordy sappy stuff. I guess this has been a long-winded preemptive reminder to savor all the ups and downs of my impending “journey,” rather than looking desperately ahead to the finish line when the oxygen debt sets in.
Time to get crackin’ on the packin’, I guess.
Question is, how many pairs of running shoes do I bring?
Who else is moving, heading back to school, or otherwise settling into a totally new routine?
What is your mindset on the starting line of a race? Nervous? Confident? Terrified? What are your strategies for getting in control of racing nerves?