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Words to Live by

I babble a lot about The Sufferfest. I mean a lot.

But what’s not to love? When going from riding 6,000+ miles every year—with 90% of those miles outdoors to having riding restricted to either a 2-mile round-trip bike commute to/from work or indoor trainer workouts/rides, it’s essential to find a platform that offers what one needs for quality trainer time.

Sure, I’ve tried other platforms, but nothing really racks up to what SUF can offer, including a catchy culture that others have tried to replicate but just fail to measure up.

The “motto” of SUF and its imaginary nation of Sufferlandria is Pain. Misery. Agony; then, as somewhat of a subtext—and if there has been sufficient Suffering—Honor. Victory. Glory.

I know these words well. They’re stitched onto a polo shirt I occasionally wear on Biz Cas Fri (First time the boss asked about it? I told her it was best she didn’t know.), as well as emblazoned across screens at the conclusion of each workout. Heck, during a dark point early on in last year’s Bike MS, I muttered them through gritted teeth and squinted eyes to surge through 116 miles almost like it was nothing.

But it’s that first group of words that’s really been resonating with me as of late—agony in particular.

Pushing through pain is part of what makes endurance athletes “special,” and Nicholle was no exception to this. She’s pushed herself through more physical and psychological pain and misery during her days as a distance runner and triathlete than anyone else I know personally. And this isn’t even counting going through natural childbirth—twice! Yeah, she’s a tough one, but, sometimes, there’s a challenge that’s just too much. Like MS, especially as of late.

Since a nasty mastitis infection a few years ago, Nicholle slowly (then quickly) began to lose the ability to walk, let alone run. There’s been stiffness and spasticity in her legs that cause her to be unable to lift them like “normal people” do. Walking was relegated to an awkward hip swinging motion thing where physics more or less forced her legs to move in front of her; balance was handled by a hand-me-down walker. Lately, though, even that awkward walk has been reduced to bracing herself on a walker (still, albeit a new one) and force-dragging her toes across the floor. It is, in a word, agonizing. Not only for her to experience (her cries of pain and frustration over inability to move so simply) but also to witness.

To see, to hear such literal suffering goes well beyond anything I’ve put myself through on a bike or a run or anywhere, really—and I’ve had some pretty horrendous crashes. There literally is nothing else that this can be compared to. After watching this day after day for months, years, all I can think of is that it must be like her nerves are on fire. Her, my wife, who went through natural childbirth not once but twice, cannot compare the pain she experiences daily, hourly, minutely, if that’s even a word. But no matter.

The human body makes countless gestures over the course of even a minute, and most of us do not give any of them a second thought. What it takes to stand up from a seated position. To walk across a room. To raise a glass of water to our lips. To give or receive a hug without any regard for displeasure or discomfort. But MS has changed all of that.

Despite having lived with Nicholle for ten years now—MS for nine—I still find myself forgetting just how agonizing it can be for her to do so many things. Most days, she just grits her teeth and digs deep to push through. But there are days when she can dig no more, so it’s up to me to pick up the shovel and dig for her. Sure, it raises challenges for me to focus on any one thing for any extended amount of time, and sure, it gets irritating—it’s taken me over a month to write this post! But I made a promise to love and take care of her until death do us part. And it is through all of my own selfish examples of pain and misery and agony and helping her out that I achieve honor and victory and glory.

Thanks for reading.

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