Bittersweet Symphony

I am strong enough, but I am not strong.

I’ve long advocated that mental fortitude can carry one any distance: a marathon, triathlon, whatever. And for the last six or seven years, that’s proven true. Yes, I run and ride perodically, every few days even. But do I train? Not a ton. Not really.

I do these races — the New York City Marathon, the Bellaplain Duathlon, the Montauk Trathlon, the New York City Triathlon — for a number of reasons. Sure, I like the bragging rights. Between rock shows and races, I have some pretty good answers for “What did you do this weekend?”

More importantly, though, I like the way the mind follows the body. Physical strength does translate to mental strength. When I’m having a tough go of it in life — a bad day at work, a rough patch in relationship — I know from my racing that it will pass. Eventually.

But every so often — and this morning was one of those “every so oftens” — I am reminded of my limitations. A few runs a week and a couple of rides does not training for a triathlon make. And my 33-year-old body, while not so bad, ain’t so good.

I put all kinds of crap in it. I was hangin’ out with a bunch of twentysomething rock stars. And trying to keep up. Seventy-two hours later I was swimming a mile in the Hudson, riding twenty-five on the West Side Highway, and running six in Central Park.

The result? Not terrible. I wasn’t dead last. For a guy who hasn’t swam since last September’s Malibu Triathlon, well, I did fine. And for a mountain biker amidst thousand dollar road bikes, well, I held up. But by the time the run came around, and the sun was blazing down on the East Side, well, I found my limits.

What did it feel like, running a 10k after swimming a mile and riding twenty-five? I was out of juice. Every step was a chore. My hips were burning. The pads of my feet were raw. My body said “No way,” but my mind said “You have to.” And so I did.

I walked long strides through water breaks, pouring one cup over my head, and drinking the other. I counted my footfalls. I focussed on the elapsing miles. And I reminded myself that it will pass. Eventually.

It did. And I’m fine.

Since the finish, I’ve eaten a ham, egg and cheese sandwhich, two salads, sushi, and a plate full of pasta. I drunken numerous bottles of Gatorade, and a few beers. I’ve taken exactly one hour-long power nap.

And I’ve listened to The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” approximately twenty-three times. I’m not quite sure why.

No change, I can change
I can change, I can change
But I’m here in my mold, I am here in my mold
But I’m a million different people
From one day to the next
I can’t change my mold
No, no, no, no, no

I can. I do. And I must.

Something’s gotta’ give, or something’s gonna’ give.

‘Cuz my mind, and my body, are strong enough, but not strong.