At that sound I carefully moved my bike to the far right of the bike path, and moments later a 60 something woman who could have been my mom, gracefully passed me on her beautiful retro Schwinn, as if it were the Battlestar Galacticta gliding by an inferior cargo vessel.
This was one of those few “ah-ha” moments that come around once in a blue moon. I think the one prior to this may have been 13 years ago when I crawled under a large rhododendron bush while gardening on a busy street corner in Massachusetts, and wound up being spell bound for 45 minutes whilst watching a toad patiently wait for its prey, fixate and focus intently on it when discovered, and then unleash its tongue like the whip of Indiana Jones. That was a spiritual experience for me as I learned to slow down and be fully aware of my immediate surroundings, and all that is to say these moments don’t come along very often these days.
Anyhow, the woman on the bike bore a striking resemblance to my mom, and she exuded joy as she cruised along on her beautiful bike. She had no helmet, and wore a large smile and a mom-ish sort of attire. This was no speedster, and she easily passed this young buck, who at the time was approaching his mid thirties and had aspirations of ultra-marathoning, of fathering a family that biked everywhere and only rarely used a car, etc. At that time, however, I had two surgical screws that passed clear from one end of my ankle to the other, and I was slowly on my way home from an arduous session of physical therapy.
At that moment I was overjoyed to sense the freedom that had overtaken me as I happily let this lovely older woman pass by. I felt no compulsion to explain why I was traveling so slowly, or even to make a joke about being a Sunday driver. She simply passed me, I allowed myself to be encouraged by the joy on her face, and we exchanged quick pleasantries as she went on her way hopefully buoyed by my sincere compliment of her unique bicycle.
Generally “ah-ha” moments are incredibly simple, life-changing solely to the one in which they were intended. Like the toad, I suspect most others are not impacted in the same way by this. For me, it was liberating to not have to be the fastest one on the trail. This experience changed me with respect to my running, biking, skiing, and other non-physical endeavors. It taught me to find appreciation, enjoyment, and contentment in being passed. Sometimes the person is better trained than me, and I can appreciate their lovely form, fluid movement, and obvious dedication. At other times I am simply in a different place than they are (such as the screws in the ankle and taking it easy). Really it makes no difference though. I need to be content with who I am, and where I am going on this journey God has sent me on.
Earlier in life a feeling of umbrage would settle upon me if I were to be over-excelled by a woman in running, biking, skiing, peeing contests, or anything really. My competitive nature would have me be the best, and men should be stronger and faster than women. Well, there are a lot of really amazing women runners out there these days, and in my last race 3 women came in ahead of me. I love being content with that, and simply viewing them as other competitors that may or may not be in better shape than me. There, that’s it. I could go on and on about how this has affected me positively, but I reckon this is my ah-ha moment and not your’s. Now I’m just content to be slow at times, and that’s ok.
Speaking of that, after a summer of unforeseen injuries (such as a direct hit from a sledgehammer to the knee and a horrific mountain biking accident that left me with only a cracked rib and wounded pride), I’m happy to say I’ve finally come to terms with not being able to run the 50K trail race I was preparing to run this fall. Perhaps next year. If not, that’s ok. My whole identity isn’t wrapped up in being able to complete great feats of strength. I’m happy to be on this journey, and there’s a chance it’ll never be in the cards.
Prior to my ah ha moment above, I was just a couple months away from competing in my first ultramarathon and I was in great shape. Just that day I had run for two hours on snowmobile trails across snow and ice in the woods north of town, and then I had a freak accident later that day on a sidewalk that changed my life and plans. Now, two and a half years later, I’m still not there yet. Slowly I’m coming to terms with that.