Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chunk Rocks

There must have been twenty-five dogs in that pack, all sizes, all breeds. Over twenty years ago, I was on a hot fifteen mile run, coming back from my turnaround on an isolated stretch of country road. As I entered a straight portion of the little road I saw the dogs about two hundred yards ahead. I stopped. They looked at me. I looked at them. After several moments of this, they attacked, some barking, some had a low growl, but all were coming directly for me.

There were no large trees nearby to climb; no houses to retreat to; no way I could outrun those dogs. . I remember in that instant, I had a flashback to the old John Wayne movie, “True Grit.” In that movie several outlaws on horseback were facing Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) across a beautiful meadow. Though outmanned, outgunned, Rooster charged across the meadow, shooting away at the outlaws.

Yeah, there was no way around this confrontation. After quickly gathering an armload of broken pieces of asphalt from the edge of the old road , I charged the oncoming pack, chunking rocks and hollering insults. They were stunned. As my projectiles began to landed closer, as this crazy human got closer to them, they lost their nerve. They stopped abruptly and hastily retreated, tails between their legs: some yelping even though they had not been hit. The crowd of dogs dispersed in all directions. Three of four of the larger dogs remained beside the road , but on the other side of the bar ditch. As I ran by they made no move on me at all. One just let out a weak, muffled “whoof.” Then they set off to chase a nearby horse.

Live is like that sometimes. Sometimes obstacles, roadblocks, and enemies come at you like a pack of dogs on a lonely road. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a tree to climb or any escape other than frontal confrontation. In these moments, I think we decide who we are, and who we are going to be.

But, it is easy to forget all we have overcome when we see the next pack of dogs coming at us. Endurance athletes are somewhat defined by all we have overcome. And I try hard not to forget that. Even with my age-effected, memory, I should not forget times like finishing a marathon with blood squishing in each shoe . Or, the many night runs alone out here in the country, shining a flashlight at regular intervals to see the snakes on the road. Or, how I got pretty good at chunking rocks and killing Copperheads stretched out across my running path. I didn’t quit running because there were dog packs. I didn’t quit night running because of snakes on the road. I chunked rocks.

The other day, spokes on my new bike came loose: chunk a rock; move on. The new running shoes jam my toes, there is pain, chunk a rock; move on. It is pouring rain, visibility limited on my long bike. Chunk a rock; move on. Now that my training is probably more serious than it ever has been, I must remember: I am an endurance athlete. Things will come against me out there. It happens to everyone who risks and pursues. Into every life some rain must fall; sometimes it pours. And far back as the time of Shakespeare: “To be or not to be. That is the question. Whether to tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles.” For my money, it is take up arms: chunk rocks.