Friday, 4 February 2011

Days go by...time stands still.

So I'm now in the thick of the off season in the middle of a year that I am not pursuing any major events. Of course I'm already registered for the Great White North triathlon and the Queen City Marathon, the RPS Half Marathon and I'm considering the Gopher, no major events. Sorta kinda...

I was doing a 750m time trial in the diving tank of the pool yesterday and thinking about races, and whether or not I will miss them if I don't register. Of course I'm doing the time trial because I'm considering a sprint aquathlon in March.

There is something you have to understand about doing laps in the deep tank of the pool. Usually, there are no ropes to calm the water. There seem to be more jets creating currents. And, of course, stopping and resting is considerably more complicated - especially since one can't stand and the bulkhead is a bit of a reach. All this makes for the closest thing to open water swim on this side of the of the outside.

So, I'm swimming in the deep tank thinking about the the Splash and Sprint - the adjacent picture is of me exiting (in the shallow end) of that race) - and I start to think about the relativity of time. This isn't too much of a stretch because, when I'm swimming, I can't really do any kind of math - how many laps I've done, how many back and forths equal 100 metres, what the hell those arrows on the swim clock mean?

Think about time passage in a race. Morning of the race,  time just seems to fly by...before you know it, you are already running late for getting to the site. Once you are there, however, things seem to go into slow motion. As if somehow time has been added to the clock - unless you forgot something, like to put on a wetsuit or go to the bathroom, and then time speeds faster than normal.

I've noticed the same phenomenon near the finish line. One km from that line, time blurs a little, as does distance. It seems that you have much more distance to travel, but with each stride or stroke, your pace surprises you. It is a much misunderstood phenomenon why people look at their watches at the finish line. It isn't because they want to know how well (or poorly) they did - it is because they are confused by what time their watches say and they are trying to synchronize it with the official race clock. Really!

But none of this is why I was thinking about time. I was thinking about what happens to time in the middle of the race. While you are halfway through the swim, or the bike ride. Or when you have just as much distance to run as you have already run. When you are far away from cameras and volunteers and spectators. Just your brain and that miscreant pile of flesh, bone and sinew that comes along for the ride. 

It is precisely at these moments when time somehow becomes infinite. You have no time to waste, but you have lots of time to spend. If you speed up you will have more, if you slow down you will have less. But you will only see how much you have saved or spent at the end of the race. Before that time you are floating...timelessly. There is is nothing but possibility,

The Dairy Queen I passed in Morden, MB
I remember doing on HIM and passing a Dairy Queen and thinking, I could just jump in for a Blizzard and I could still finish the race in good time. Now, part of that reasoning was fatigue-induced delirium, especially since I don't overly like Blizzards. But the point holds that time had become difficult to quantify.

It is a bit like walk breaks...It doesn't seem like you are taking up that much time when you walk during the run - until you look at your final time. While you are walking, it is as if time is infinite - that's why they feel so good, it almost seems like they are going on forever - until someone passes you, or some "friend" sees you and yells at you to "move your fat ass!"

It is these timeless moments that I relish the most during races. Not the fat ass part, but the being in the moment, losing the sense of time and hearing and felling nothing but what's going on inside and beside me.

Will I miss not doing as many races this year? Oh yeah! But I won't miss the start or finish, I will miss the in between. It is a bit like a sandwich. For me all the best parts of the race are what's between the two ends. That is where I learn, that is where I grow, that is the most painful part - but the part that I remember most.
The swim will segue into a highway. Anyone can start or finish a race. It takes real effort to have a metaphysical and temporal epiphany right in the solar plexus of the event. It's about time!

1 comment:

  1. Well said. I love the in-between times too. I hate the end, that's slow motion time for me. The last mile of my race last weekend went on for miles and miles. The last marathon I ran, someone at the aid station yelled out, 3 miles left! I ran in with a guy who kept asking me how long we'd gone (I'd look at my garmin, and sadly report, a quarter mile!). Of course, crossing that finish line is the best!


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