Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Small Wonder

Superheroes never know when they’re going to get the call, and so they are always waiting. But when the moment is right, when the call comes in, they are ready and able to strike.

That’s just what I did the other day.

I’m not saying that I’m a superhero, but sometimes I do feel half evil museum minion by day and half superhero by night, just like Tim said.

What, you ask, is my secret superhero identity? That’s easy – I’ve known it all along. No, not Ironman – that’s already taken. Not Ironwoman – that’s kind of lame. Not the Tiny Terror – that’s Alexander Vinokourov. Not even The Mosquito – that’s my secret identity reserved only for San Diego.

On a day to day basis, living in Illinois, I am the Small Wonder. But don’t say that too loud lest my manager finds out and starts expecting superhero things from me during the day, too, which would likely drain me of my superhero powers at night. And at night is when I need them – because at night is when I train.

The Small Wonder is just that - seemingly harmless, unthreatening, and small but ready to strike big when least expected. When she receives the call, when the challenge is set, Small Wonder puts forth a relentless force of stamina and endurance combined with a mind like steel.

Little did I know that Tuesday would be the perfect day to unleash my superhero powers. Before or after 8 hours of work, I would have to squeeze in a 75 minute swim and a 2 hour indoor trainer ride. Today would be a super long day that might even threaten the most super of heroes. But I was prepared, ready and waiting to unleash my power in a rage of superhero fury to make the most out of the day.

Surprisingly, something superheroish possessed me very early that morning. Maybe I fell asleep in my cape. The alarm clock went off at 4:40 am, and I responded by suddenly bolting out of bed and driving straight to 5:30 am masters practice. Maybe it was traveling at the speed of superhero sound, but I actually arrived early – 15 minutes early. So I did what any superhero would do, I started swimming – extra yardage for superhero extra credit. This is the kind of stuff that counts when they give out stripes for your cape.

After a lot of super hard yards, I went back home, got ready for work in record-breaking time, filled the car with gas, and even had time to stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for a medium coconut with cream – the perfect fuel for a superhero like me.

I arrived at work ready for an entire day of CPR and First Aid training. When the instructor told us that we would be finished by 3 pm – possibly before 3 pm, I knew I had gotten the call. The batphone, if you will, was ringing. It was the Commissioner with a super mission for me – and that mission was to get outside and ride.

At lunchtime, I scrambled home to throw all of my cycling gear in the car, bike, water bottles, shoes, helmets, gloves, gels, bars, pump, sunglasses, everything and anything that I could have needed for the ride was dumped in the trunk. At that moment, I realized if we got out right at 3 pm and the traffic was just right, I could be on my bike and riding before 3:30 pm.

But it would require speediness and efficiency. My cape would come in handy, as well as my ability to, when necessary, fly at a frenzied speed to the mission or task. There was no time to waste. Especially no time to change carefully into my cycling gear while in the car in the parking lot so as to not reveal and of my superhero secrets to the rest of the world.

But wait – an idea…..what if I put on my uniform a little early? I mean, what if I went to work wearing everything but my cape, keeping it all concealed under my ordinary work clothes?

That would be so superheroish – to conceal my secret powers, ready to rip open my shirt at a moment’s notice to reveal the Small Wonder inside.

The plan was put into place. Underneath my work clothes, I layered my cycling jersey, my jog bra, cycling socks, and shorts. I looked at myself in the mirror – would they know? Could my co-workers tell I was hiding something? Would they discover my other identity? I know they’re suspicious of me already. Someone that eats that many cookies at work-related parties must possess some type of superhero power.

I returned to work, gear in tow, uniform concealed cleverly underneath work clothes. And about 30 minutes later I was sweating in my superhero outfit. I was dying to rip off my outlayers to reveal the jersey underneath and shout behold the Small Wonder and pedal west. Instead, I sat there roasting in my super hot gear.

Good thing time was on my side. The course was finally over, and it was 2:48 pm. I bolted out of the building in a single bound, hopped into my car, and flew off towards Fermilab. Twenty minutes later, I arrived. Using the car as my phone booth, I made a quick change tearing off my work clothes to reveal my superhero uniform emblazoned with Trisports.com on the front for all of the world to see. Finally, I emerged from my car and in perfect harmonic symphony as voice from above announced my arrival…..BEHOLD THE SMALL WONDER BEFORE YOU.

I was so ready to ride.

I rode out towards Fermilab, ignoring the traffic, the potholes, the stoplights along the way. Nothing would get this superhero down. Small Wonder pedaled on, riding past the guard house and into the miles of open roads.

Fermilab is the perfect place for a superhero’s secret Tuesday afternoon bike training. Belonging to the Department of Energy, it is a particle accelerator laboratory where physicists and other wizards do all sorts of scientific trickery in the space-like buildings lining the roads.

According to the website, scientists at Fermilab carry out research in high-energy physics to answer these questions; what is the universe made of? how does it work? where did it come from? These are highly charged issues that surely any superhero could solve. I ride around wondering if Fermilab realized that I am the answer they are looking for. Bring your questions of the universe to the Small Wonder for she, like an oracle, will provide the answers you need. And today, the answer to the only question that matters - why are we here - is TO RIDE.

Caught up in thinking such highly ionic thoughts, I seem to have missed the Commissioner’s call. Literally, the Small Wonder phone was ringing. Commissioner Coach Jennifer left a message - ride as long as you’d like today, she says. Ride as long as I’d like? The wind catches in my cape, I start to feel boundless energy in my legs. The Small Wonder uses her powers to their full potential – she rides off towards a very long, long ride.

Tailwind pushes me along for the first 20 minutes. Super powers totally unnecessary at this point, I’m flying along effortlessly at 23 mph. But nothing lasts forever, not even in a superheroes seemingly perfect world. And tailwind becomes crosswind becomes headwind. The headwind is forceful, it is gusty. It is making me rethink my superhero weapon of choice – my time trial bike.

I put my head down, and good thing I’m wearing my helmet because I feel like I am riding right into a brick wall. The wind is whipping from the south at a steady 20 – 30 mph. The wind is like kryptonite draining me of my superpowers. Soon the Small Wonder will be reduced to a Tiny Wonder and then weakened to a Wee Wonder until there is no Wonder at all. But if I was a betting superhero, and it was me against the wind, I’d bet on me. Because superheroes don’t give up. They look at their cape – in my case aerodynamically designed for a day like this - they realize their potential and they push on. It takes more than wind to get a superhero down. It takes a lot more than that.

Small Wonder pushes on, throwing everything she has at her enemy – the wind. The wind pushes harder, I grip my bars. The bars move me sideways, I tighten my core. My core gets tired, I put weight into my seat. My rear starts to hurt, I sit up and grip the bars again. I repeat this cycle, cycling around the 15 mile loop of Fermilab, superhero powers fully engaged. Eventually the wind will let up. The Small Wonder, however, doesn't let up - she just pushes on. When things get harder, she works harder - like any superhero would.

It is Tuesday night, it is mid-March, it is 72 degrees in Chicago and the Small Wonder is pedaling her way to a 3 hour ride. For the Small Wonder, it doesn’t get any more superb than that. At 2:48 pm this afternoon, I had two choices – return to my office to squeeze out 1 hour and 12 minutes of lackluster waiting-for-the-clock-to-hit-4 work, or rip open my shirt to reveal the superhero inside. I chose myself and my personal power. I chose to ride.

We spend most of our days with our true identify hidden underneath suits, nice clothes, or other disguises we wear throughout our day. Underneath is a cape, an emblazoned uniform, a secret identity teeming with our personal power and waiting to bust out. It is the side of ourselves that means the most to us, yet stays hidden for most of the time.

For most of you reading this, that hidden side is probably the athlete inside of you. In Tim’s words, you likely live a life of suit monkey by day and superhero by night. You sit behind your desk waiting for the clock to roll around and free you from the shackles of seated servitude. You look out the window on days like this and in your head hear the sound of wheels on pavement and you long to ride. You see your cape in the corner, you notice your superhero outfit showing through your clothes, and the time can’t pass quickly enough.

On days like this, when the conditions are just right, when you get the call, rip open your shirt and reveal your superhero powers. Give yourself permission to get out and let it out. Escape your everyday identity, tap into your superhero power, and go for a run or a ride. The work of your ordinary life will be waiting there for you tomorrow. And with your super powers fully recharged, you’ll probably get it done twice as fast.

But just in case, don’t forget your cape.

2 comments:

Beth said...

I had to smile after reading this entry - how very, very true! My co-workers have no clue about my triathlon races or what the training entails, other than I do "one of those competitions where you run, swim or ride a bike or something like that..." :) I feel like I live a double life! (perhaps it's better that way...)

Regardless, I'm glad to hear you had a great ride outside on Tuesday. I really enjoy reading your blog - you write so eloquently and always seem to say (much better than I could) exactly how I feel!

hak said...

Elizabeth,

Great story! You're a talented writer. Keep it up!

hak