On Trying Hard

“Hey man, I have to give you props”. Slowly I lift my head from my towel still out of breath to find a young man, let’s say in his early thirties, with his hand extended. Instinct has me reach out and shake his hand with a breathless, “thank you”. I try to control my breathing in a sad attempt to regain my composure. I don’t know if he can see on my face that I am perplexed by the compliment but he follows with, ”every time I see you in the gym you are always working very hard; you leave it all out there, in the gym. I am truly inspired”.  

I don’t know what to make of it. Unknowingly, this kid has sent me on a little head trip on purpose and past. I don’t understand why I am putting so much effort into my gym workouts except that I want dividends delivered on the bike. Why am I so hung up on performance in the first place? It is not the first time someone has recognized my efforts in the absence of results.

In high school I ran cross-country and could run sub-six minute miles for three miles.  Not bad but it was not quite enough to beat the opposing teams fifth man with the regularity required to letter. I never missed a practice and I put everything I had into my workouts. The members of my high school cross-country team presented me with a plaque giving me the distinction of “Most Determined Runner” in my sophomore year.  Touched as I was, it was really a consolation prize for not meeting the criteria for a letter. I did in fact receive a letter as well.

Athletic talent was not my gift. I ran, skied, studied karate, played tennis and raced bikes. Good but not great, I enjoyed them all and continue to this day to work hard at being a better cyclist.

 “Thanks again”, I reply as I continue my march up the stairs to the locker room while the sweat is streaming down my face and off my chin.

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