Not Your Typical Athlete

I am an athlete, just not your typical athlete. I didn't do sports in high school, except when they forced me to in gym class. I went to band camp. (This one time, at band camp...) I sang in the choir. I was in national honor society. I was on the stage and behind the scenes. I didn't do sports.  I did go through the student athletic trainer program, and I took care of the athletes, but I wasn't one myself.

In college, I took a job as a referee for intramural men's volleyball at the second highest competitive level. These guys were all over 6 feet tall and could smash the leather off a volleyball.  As a very petite 5' 3" female,  I took distinct pleasure in being the ref, calling the "touching the net", "out" and taking away points from these giants that swore at me. I never felt more empowered!  But still, I was not the athlete.

That same year, although not terribly skilled at it, I played intramural co-ed flag football. Really, I helped our tiny team fill up its "female" portion of the "co-ed" requirements.  I wasn't fast enough to be a receiver, and I couldn't throw the ball over the defense, because I am too short. Defense was my strong-suit.  I could scare the bejeebers out of any girl opposite me on offense. I tended to yell and scream, then dive at them to grab their flags. They all thought I was crazy and were terrified of me tackling them. Really? I barely broke 105 pounds soaking wet. Wussies. I was still not an athlete.

Let's fast forward to my twenties. I wanted to work for a fire department, so I started seriously working out. I took my little frame and bulked up to 120 pounds of lean, mean, EMT-machine.  (EMT = Emergency Medical Technician  -- There are different levels of licensing, but think "paramedic"). I was so busy testing and failing to make a department that I never noticed that I'd become a runner and a weight-lifter. Wow!! Suddenly, I was an athlete and didn't even know it. I was eventually hired by a fire department and got to live out my dream as a firefighter/paramedic.  Other than developing a serious case of "potty mouth", the entire experience on the department was pretty amazing. After a bit, I started working two jobs and didn't have the time to work out anymore, so I was once again, no athlete. Bummer.

Now, a zillion-jillion years, two children and only half a thyroid later, I'm no longer in shape. I HAVE a shape. Round. Round is a shape. However, I am more of an athlete now than I ever have been before. At 45 years old, I kayak, run (sorta), hike and bike. In fact, I'm in training right now. By September, I need to be able to ride my bicycle up to 30 miles per day for 5 days. I'm going on an adventure vacation with my favorite adventure vacation company, Austin-Lehman Adventures, Inc. ( called "South Dakota: Black Hills to Mount Rushmore."  The "Mount Rushmore" part sounds totally cool; the "Black Hills" sounds like sore thigh muscles. So, today I put in 20.25 miles on my bicycle. It was hot, I was sweaty, and it felt good to get out and get some sunshine.

Since I'm not your typical athlete, I also don't have "typical" long-distance cycling gear.  My bicycle is a Trek Navigator. It's perfect for toodling around my neighborhood with my girls going 8 mph for about 6 miles. I sit very upright, the handle bars come straight out to the left and right from the post, and my seat, in comparison to a racing saddle, is the equivalent of a lazy boy chair.  My bike's weight is listed in pounds; a good road bike is weighed in ounces. I have a good helmet with a mirror, gloves, Keen cross trainers for shoes, Smartwool cycling socks, women's gel-padded cycling shorts and a neon jersey. Before I get on my bike I look like a serious cyclist. Once I'm on my bike, most serious cyclists point and laugh. My hubby is a serious cyclist; he knows better than to point and laugh, because I cook his meals.  I saw many serious cyclists out on my ride today, but for some reason, they were all going the opposite direction. At first I thought, "Am I going the "wrong" way?"  "Are there some special "which way to go" rules that I am unaware of?"  Then, I realized it was just God's way of keeping me from getting discouraged. Every single one of them was on a sleek, lightweight road bike and would have passed my pokey behind.  At least I didn't catch any of them pointing and laughing.

I live in suburbia, but within just a couple of miles from home, I can lose myself  in back-country farmland. I prefer riding on nasty, melting tar and chip roads, or crushed gravel in the middle of nowhere over riding in my own neighborhood every single time. Riding a bicycle around my neighborhood is a dangerous undertaking. How can a wide-body like me, dressed in a neon, chartreuse bicycle jersey be completely invisible to so many drivers?  (Yes, I know that's a bit redundant - chartreuse tends to be naturally "neon", but I'm trying to make a point here). Oh, yeah - PUT DOWN YOUR CELLPHONE and STOP TEXTING WHILE YOU'RE DRIVING!  No, you're not good at it. No, you're not! Sorry, I digress, but I'd like to live long enough to go on that trip I paid for.

I'm also starting to believe that super bright colors are a beacon for dragonflies and June bugs. Kamikaze bugs, at that. How is it that a slow, round bug with wings, flying 10 feet above my head can suddenly be hitting my face like a piece of hail? Dragonflies as big as Boeings seem to think that their food supply is in my open mouth as I climb a hill. Picture me zooming down the other side of that hill at 22 miles an hour making sounds like, "phttt, ptttt, bleh, yuck, sptttt."  I even had something small land on my face and then crawl right into my nostril. The snot shower I gave my right arm and leg was pretty nasty, but it was better than a bug in the nose (or a bug in my coffee; wink, wink - ).

I took my first break in the shade of the only tree I could find (it was 85 degrees Fahrenheit) at just over 10 miles.  My backside started to get sore at 11 miles. I ran out of water at mile 14.75, because I only have one water bottle cage and it was HOT out. Fortunately, I was right in front of a fire station; thank you very nice Joliet Fire Department guy for refilling my water bottle; next time I'll be more specific and ask for cold water.  At mile 17, climbing a hill into the wind, I started questioning my sanity, and by mile 19, my legs began their revolt.  Knowing I had forgotten my cellphone and would have to walk the last mile and a quarter is the only thing that kept me in the saddle, pedalling until I got home. I slogged up my driveway, dripping with sweat, while a bug tickled me between "the girls" inside my sports bra, and thought, "Wow. That was great!"  I guess I'm more of your typical athlete than that first glance might lead you to believe.

2 Timothy 4:7    I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Isaiah 40:31     But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Hebrews 12:21     Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

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