July 18, 2006

I will do my best.... part II

I recently related a story of how I got the sole A in a class I'd never made more than a B in before. I got some comments at the time and even began to write a lengthy reply to one of them, but never posted it, for it got pretty preachy, full of opinions I'm sure most people wouldn't agree with. But recent thoughts of "On my honor I will do my best" have brought me back to this incident.

What I didn't put in the original post is how that incident has revealed itself to me over the last two decades as essentially the kernel of socialism, versus the success in direct competition that capitalism encourages. The fact that I really did put in an enormous effort that semester is irrelevant to the larger social issues. I am bothered by a) the lesson that got taught that day, b) the method of delivering the lesson, and c) the echoes of that moment that I see in the socialist "everyone's a success" movement in American education, specifically, and the pussyfication of the American male in general.

I feel I earned a B that semester. Fact is, while I went out willingly for 50 minutes 5 times a week and did the coach's bidding to the best of my abilities of that moment, I didn't put in the effort required to get better at any of it. I didn't shoot hoops after school 'til I could sink 70% from the foul line. I didn't even try to figure out how to do a layup; when tested, I just gave it my best uncoordinated unpracticed attempt. I didn't try to run any better, I was just afraid to stop or take shortcuts. If fear of reprisal is what motivated me, then fear got me an A. In running terms, I guess it's like grading two different runners: one who has not run before and who goes slowly, but nevertheless finishes three miles in 50 minutes; and one who is on the track team and the grader KNOWS what that runner is capable of, say 8 minute miles, but sees the runner turn in three miles in 40 minutes. We know how Coach K graded that; how would YOU grade that?

Did I do my best? Each day, at the time, sure. But is it really one's BEST if one doesn't make a planned, coordinated attack on the problem, such that where improvement is possible, improvement happens? I didn't improve. Did I do my best, or didn't I? I guess I have more thinking to do about this.

On more immediate topics.... no running the last couple of days. It has been a rough, long, brutal few days and I'm glad it's all over and I can get back on a normal schedule. Things will continue to be tough for the next couple of months, but at least they'll be tough here at home, not on the roa-.... oh, that's right; I WILL be on the road, for a few days at a time, many times between now and marathon. I had better figure this shit out.

This was a terrible "vacation" - and that's the last time I'll use that word. During this time away from New York, I worked my butt off. Never more than five hours of sleep per night, worked while on the ride to herd kittens, some couple of whom have some serious growing up to do, and when off the bikes, just trying to maintain my temper and do anything rash. More than once, I thought about packing up my shit, turning my handlebars east and telling them all to kiss my ass. It is nearly certain that I won't do this particular group ride again, not unless a lengthy list of problems gets sorted out (and which were all acknowledged by the one rider I deeply respect and whose pet project this whole ride is; if he can get things sorted out, he will). Oh, sure, there were high points - awesome things and all - but nowhere near enough to make it worth the stress I was under. This isn't my motorcycling blog, so I'll leave the ride report at that. Exhausting; disappointing; not to be repeated.

Coming back, though, I did manage to complete my 1500 mile BunBurner Gold ride. 1,520 miles in 23 hours, 30 minutes. This was my "silver medal" finish, to bring it back to running terms I've used before. My gold finish would have been a full 2500 kilometers. But a little bloody nose and a little trashed main shaft bearing in my transmission slowed me enough that I had to wrap it up at 1520 miles. (I finished the last 300 miles without a functioning clutch and a transmission that didn't rattle only in sixth gear. Amazingly enough, only the bearing ate itself and the gears are fine. But once again, my bike is out of commission for the time being.) I wound up exhausted beyond belief in Columbus OH, parts of my hands and legs numb (but not my butt!), hearing ringing loudly, and arranging for the dealership to keep my bike for repairs while I continue on in a rental car. I got to Zanesville (my originally planned end point) and checked into a room at 3 p.m. I ate a sandwich, took a much-needed shower (48 hours) and went to bed at 4 (36 hours). Slept for 17 hours, getting back on the road this morning at 8 a.m. As with the entire motorcycle trip, this is something I will never do again. This ironbutt in particular is in no way worth doing again, a state of mind that I understand some people view marathons with. But unlike marathons - which surely hurt - there was nothing rewarding in this ride other than finishing it. And now that's done.

The one thing this whole ride did was put me on a 4:30 and 5 a.m. wake-up schedule. If I can stick to that, I'll have an excellent summer of morning runs.

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