Get Out of Bed and Go!

I laid in bed and listened to the rain pounding on the skylight. Well, maybe not pounding, but definitely more than a patter. If I’m going to meet Paul for our Wednesday morning ride I must get up and get going. Cycling shoes, helmet, gloves, air up my tires, lubricate the chain, pack some nutrition, fill water bottles, get the bike on the rack and get to the parking lot on time. Ohhhhh, coffee, I can’t forget coffee.

I sit up in bed as I begin to cough. The aftermath of bronchitis provides the perfect excuse not to ride in the rain this morning. Why is it that on some days 45 degrees and a little rain seems so formidable while on other days there can be no level of dread weather that could keep me home?

I begin to think of days I could have stayed home. This morning as I think of weather I think of Ed. Ed, Jake the husky and I went on my last run in Alaska, the day before Ann, the kids and I left to catch the ferry to a new life. It was pouring down raid but we were Alaskans. While it would be inaccurate to say we didn’t notice the rain, or that we didn’t care about it, it would be accurate to say we reveled in it. It never occurred to us to call off the run. If you call of a run in Alaska due to the weather you won’t get out of the house very often. I yawn, cough some more and think, “This is Arizona.”

Perhaps the most fun run of my life was with Ed on a night that any reasonable person would have stayed home. It was one of the few times Ann showed her distaste for my bad judgement. Ed, the manager of a Footlocker store, got off around 9:00 pm. We were training to run the Sustina 100; A Race Across Frozen Alaska. Tonight was an important training run. We would run in the worst likely race conditions. Jake, my Alaska husky and Ed’s black wolf were ready to go. Ann suggested we reconsider. It was 10 below and the wind was howling so viciously that the living room windows buckled with every gust. Ed came in the house laughing, “It’s blowing so hard that my truck slid across the road sideways. Are you ready to go?”

Our plan was to go to Eagle River and run up river for about three hours then turn around and run back. An out and back in runners parlance. When we pulled into the parking lot Ed’s truck was blown up against a snow berm by the gusting gail. We looked at each other and laughed, “This is nuts!” “Yes it is. Let’s get started.”

We walked down a trail which led us over the parking lot snow berms, down the river bank and out onto the frozen river. I kept hoping Ed would call it off. That was clearly false hope. Ed never calls anything off. He is the happiest person I know. Our eyes met and his were twinkling with anticipation. Mine were clouded with doubt. He didn’t seem to notice. The scene was surreal. We could hear the wind howling above us. In fact it was so loud we could hear nothing else. Unable to speak over the roar we just stood there as my grin joined Ed’s. It was windless down here. While the wind created dangerous wind chills above us we were below the river bank in a lovely icy shelter lit by the full moon. As we headed up river we never turned our headlamps on. No need. The trail was so bright that we could see clearly. The dogs bounded ahead of us. These faithful companions provided an extra measure of safety. They always noted pockets of open water before we did. When they left the trail and began to circle around we did too. At the turnaround we reached into our packs and retrieved our small thermoses. While you are required to eat a huge volume of calories on a night like this one, and we were keeping up with that, it was nice to have a cup of a hot, steamy liquid to help wash down Ann’s fruitcake. Nothing packs more calories per bite than Ann’s fruitcake. The run back was close to perfect. Running slightly downhill we were young, strong and filled with confidence. We put in close to 30 miles. Ed taunted me as he said, “Don’t worry, on race day we only have to do this three times, plus a ten mile run at the end. 100 miles isn’t that bad.” I couldn’t imagine running that far but I had unwavering confidence in Ed who assured me we could do it…and we did.

On this morning, decades later, 45 degrees, a slight breeze and pelting raid, I sent Paul a text. “Im going to bail today. I’m not completely well and don’t want to ride in the rain.” He would never tell me if he was planning to ride before he received my text or if he was still in bed too. I didn’t care.

What drives us to say yes to an extraordinary night like Ed and I experienced on Eagle River and then to roll over on a mildly uncomfortable day like Wednesday? I know this, after saying yes to a night of suffering on a frozen river I rode a wave of euphoria that lasted a week. Filled with the arrogance of the overconfident I genuinely believed that I could do anything. For the rest of the day after I didn’t ride I sloughed around, coughing, overeating, avoiding people and feeling bad about myself. Finally, around 5:00, I forced myself outside for a run. It helped, a little.

In all of life I believe this is true…the desire and ability to do the extraordinary is built upon the platform of 100 choices to do the ordinary. Did it matter that I didn’t ride that morning? Probably not. It may have even been a good decision. However, if I want to ride long, or run long, or explore the mountains that surround my city, or travel around the world I must get up and go on the normative, routine, everyday runs and rides that build a base for the long ones. It is true in all of life. I want to go long in offering compassion and mercy to my neighbors. I hope I will be given the chance to do something big, risky and bold. In preparation for this unknown gift I look for ways to offer kindness daily. I sleep in a church basement with asylum seekers weekly. I go to church on Sunday hoping for outsized inspiration. When asked I say yes in hopes of being asked to do something big. And when I lay in bed, listening to the rain patter on the skylight, I think of Ed, his optimism and his huge smile then, more often than not, I get up and go.

2 Comments

  • Paul Caseman Posted January 12, 2018 1:19 pm

    A great read Billy….and yes I’ll mever tell if I was going to call off the ride. 😜

  • Jim Tatman Posted January 12, 2018 1:29 pm

    Your story reminds me why I loved coming to church on Sundays, when you were preaching. Your writing has the same appeal, in that your wealth of personal experiences that you deftly fashion into stories always carry a universal truth and a basic lesson of humanity and life that I have always found thought-provoking and inspiring.

    I’m am also glad to know that there is someone else in the world who loves fruitcake!

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