Since Marcus and I met over 10 years ago, I've been insisting to my friends that he and I have nothing in common. It's true: we're seriously nothing alike. He's really easy-going and nothing really ruffles his feathers; I, on the other hand, have been called "Type A" and "high-strung" -- rather accurately, I might add. Marcus seems to have an innate understanding of science and physics; and while I have an engineering degree, it required a lot of study on my part, since physics (particularly electricity) isn't something that I immediately understand without effort. He can draw anything, I can't draw a stick figure. And most glaringly, he is incredibly athletic, and I am decidedly and emphatically not.
One of Marcus' biggest passions is cycling: he was an avid mountain biker in England, Ireland and Trinidad. Here in Houston there aren't any mountains (our biggest "hill" is a highway overpass), so lately, he does a lot of trail and road biking, instead. And he is a man obsessed: if he doesn't go out and ride at some point over the weekend, he becomes seriously cranky. He owns seven bikes, and our garage (shown above) is a complete mess of various tools and bike parts for which I've completely given up any hope of seeing any order. Every few years he tries to convince me that I would enjoy bike racing and touring, and every few years, I respond by asking if he's ever actually met me. Cycling, as a sport, holds no interest for me at all.
Still, I get that it's his passion, so a couple of months ago, when a friend's husband called and invited him to participate in an Ironman competition, I knew there was no way he would say no, even while I couldn't possibly understand what would be fun about it. To be fair, the plan was for the men to participate in the relay portion of the Ironman: our friend would be responsible for the swimming portion (he's an insanely talented swimmer), another friend would do the marathon portion, and Marcus was to handle the cycling portion. Each man would play to his strength. Easy-peasy, right?
And then they found out that Lance Armstrong was going to be one of the competitors.* No pressure.
Yesterday morning was the race. Marcus left at about 4 a.m. to head down to Galveston to meet his teammates. He admitted to me he was nervous, which made me nervous. He was gone all day, and I kept near the computer, hoping for some clue as to how the team had done, but for most of the day, I heard nothing. I tried not to worry, reminding myself that the friend who invited Marcus is a doctor, so if anything went wrong, at least medical attention would be close at hand.
Then finally, a private message on Twitter from my friend:
Just got off the phone with Steve. Marcus was working thru some cramping. Both said it was tough but they did really well.
So, good. They were alive.
A few hours later, Marcus walked through the door, looking great. "How was it?" I asked.
"It was good. It was tough. But good."
"I heard there was some cramping."
"Yeah, we all had cramping. But I think we did well."
One look on the computer confirmed: their team came in 9th of all the relay teams. They did great.
"So, would you do it again?" Marcus thought for a bit. "Yeah, definitely. I'd definitely do it again."
And suddenly, I understood. Because even though there is no way in hell you could get me to participate in an Ironman race, I totally get the drive to do something just to see if you could do it. I applied to law school because of that feeling, and then when I was accepted, I went to law school because of that feeling. I started a blog because of that feeling. I became a SCUBA diver because of that feeling, and I quit practicing law because of that feeling.
There's something about just trying something out, just to see if you've got the stuff. You know, as Sir Edmund Hillary said of his reason for climbing Everest, just "because it's there."
So maybe Marcus and I have more in common than I originally thought. Also, I'm insanely proud of him.
But I'm still not going to start cycling anytime soon.
(Out of curiosity: is there anything you've ever done just to see if you could? I'd love to hear.)
* For the record, Lance did the entire Ironman solo -- not part of a relay -- and he came in 7th overall. Because he's a rock star.