I’ve taken to listening to podcasts. Not the CBC or NPR sorts where lofty ideas are floated. My auricular peccadilloes are a little less grandiose, yet so much more expansive.
I do things to music. I have always done things to music. It composes, not so much the soundtrack of my life, but the libretto of my essence. Long before the Walkman existed, I remember truckin’ (yeah truckin’!) around town with a portable mono cassette/radio in a small canvas purse-thing and a pair of Sennheiser earphones rescued from my brother’s garbage bin after Rusty, the family dog had chewed them within an inch of their phono 1/4 inch plug. I still remember the odd looks I got on the ski slope as I got of the chair lift with this contraption strapped on to me like a man purse with brain scan attachment.
A few years later. Sony did introduce it’s revolutionary Walkman. This was truly revolutionary. Even though I had clearly invented the device a number of years earlier, Sony had managed to miniaturize a cassette player and create the first viable portable listening device. The build-up to my crescendo to a onanistic auralgasm through the use of increasingly miniaturized devices parallels a number of narratives of my life. But this isn't the place for it. Suffice it to say that sometime between Kate Bush and R.E.M. I made the leap from portable CD player to MP3.
Since that time I have never been too far from music. I pride myself on having perfect pitch...well, being able to distinguish and occasionally hit any note I hear. This isn't to say that I can sing. My family makes it all too clear that my singing is closer to Leonard Cohen than to Bon Jovi. That's fine. When I sing now, it is often inside my head or outside - with nothing but the asphalt disappearing beneath my clincher wheels. Or on anotherwise empty running trail. Singing out loud while swimming, on the other hand, has proven to be a little problematic -- more from a breathing point of view, than anything else.
Sometimes, with earbuds connecting me to my little musical stash, I can reach the right note and put the melody together and find my voice. When I am in key, and I know the lyrics it becomes a little pocket of perfection. I can no longer hear the song. Just myself. When I'm in tune everything plays out according to a song sheet that was long ago written. With the right tune, all the training and effort coalesce into a forward momentum that releases endorphins that feel like a peaty whisky entering my blood stream.
Podcasts extend this euphoric stream of consciousness into multi-hour sessions that would make a transcendental yogi blush.
I know there are many out there that advocate listening to your own body instead of music when doing endurance training. Sure...maybe for some. But the delicious secret that isn't really talked about is that the music never leaves you. Long after the batteries have run out. Or during the race when you are forbidden from using earphones, your personal soundtrack continues beats on in harmony with your heart.
During Ironman Canada 2010, I had some precious tunes running through my head as I swam, biked and ran through the Okanagan. They cheered me, sped me up, salved my pain and ultimately reveled in the triumph of my personal best time. Apparently there was music all along the course. I never heard it.
To become the endurance athlete that I'm trying to be, I have learned the I first must become the lyric to the soundtrack of my life. Without it, everything goes out of sync and all around me cacophony echoes.
This is the coda. And the overture.