Mile marker 17
Posted on March 14th, 2013
Every memorable road trip starts off in a similar way. The night prior to departure is flooded with nervous excitement. The thought of arriving at the destination might be enough to energize. Or perhaps it’s the opportunity to break out of those daily ruts and experience another life, another perspective for a few days that serves as the real lure. I can say I’m personally drawn by the latter. Regardless, we prepare like mad. Ten pairs of underwear and an abundance of snacks are packed for a five day trip. Carefully constructed music playlists are synced to all smart devices. That bloated itinerary gets a last second perusal. Then, after all is in place, a last second question gets muttered under bated breath, “Am I forgetting anything?”
All that initial arousal gives way to a cold reality when the alarm chimes at 4:00 a.m. “Who’s fucking idea was this anyway? …Oh, yeah, it was mine.” The decision to get up at the crack of dawn always seems like a great idea the night before, doesn’t it? Luckily preparation has spared you the early morning scramble. You need only grab your car keys, start the engine, and pull right out of that dark driveway. It would all seem down hill from there, but actually, I’ve always found the hardest part to be that first leg of the drive. The route is set, the music spins, but there is no rhythm yet. All that initial nervous energy burns off with the rising sun. What’s left is the eight, nine, or ten hours you hope to put in that day. There are hundreds of miles out there that will have to be logged one by one. Sure, you can play the game of skipping meals and piss breaks to shave a few minutes off your time, but the mathematics of miles per hour hold the truth. This is going to take a while.
What’s interesting is that no one ever grows so discouraged that they bail on their trip, do they? No, that’s really never considered. The lure of the destination encourages patience. We simply wait for that rhythm to appear, as it always seems to do. We lose ourselves in conversation and in that music. We sense the full weight of the vehicle as it climbs and descends highway hill after highway hill. We briefly catch a glimpse of those little mile markers in our peripheral vision as they fly on by. Marker 15, 16, 17 – soon the count is in the hundreds. Notwithstanding a few leg cramps and sleepy moments, the trip is over before you know it. Hopefully only a few small doses of that low grade, over the gas-station counter trucker amphetamine were required.
You can never underestimate the utility of a few strategically imbibed drugs, friends.
I find this little allegory incredibly insightful for two reasons. First, it seems to mirror the reality of our pursuits. Setting big goals is the easiest thing in the world to do. It’s also about as addicting as snorting a line of corn-syrup laced cocaine right off the belly of a Las Vegas stripper (or so I’ve heard). Yes, it’s a gigantic rush that’s followed by that goddamn alarm chime at 4:00 the next morning, figuratively speaking. Crawling under that barbell, gnashing tight tissues, or preparing a week’s worth of high quality meals is far less exciting. But you cannot arrive at your destination without those first steps. And let’s be honest here, unlike that road trip, many people quit as soon as reality sets in. They’d rather go back and just repeat that first step, this time with a brand new goal and the promise of magically sourced commitment. Nothing ever changes. But what’s amazing is that a rhythm soon comes to the diligent. With time you are able to take your focus off that big goal that’s sitting a year or so down the road. You barely even notice those two or three large sub-goals that lie in between you and the future. You simply learn to love watching those markers fly by one at a time. You learn to deal with the down swings, and savor the upward momentum when it comes. Sure, some days will come easier than others, but a step forward is a step forward.
A one-hundred pound improvement in your squat can come by adding an average of two-pounds of weight to the barbell every week. Drastically improved conditioning is cultivated by pushing harder for just a few more meters or seconds session to session. Mobility issues and bad habits sowed over the course of years and years are not addressed by lazily touching your toes a few times before you train. Rather, it comes like anything else that’s truly worth having. You must make it a priority, gnashing those tight tissues and mastering those positions day in and day out until the act alone becomes as ingrained as brushing your teeth or showering. The destination is reached, one marker at a time.
Employ this simple strategy. With you feet planted in the future, right beside your big goal, measure the steps that take you back to the present. How many will it take? How long do you have to take them? From there all you need in order to set your milestones is a little math. It sounds easy, but keep in mind that some steps are harder than others. At times life with piss fully into out bowl of Cheerios. Your schedule will fill. Commitments will distract you. The potential barriers are endless. In those times keep your head down and drive. Do what ever you must to take your step, then put your sights on the next one. When progress does come easily, remember to stick to the plan. Take the step you intended to take, and not another more. If you rush down the path too quickly, you might take a wrong turn. That’s an easy mistake to avoid.
Prepare to the best of your ability, plot your course, then turn on the radio and drive.