So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Do What You Love (So Long, Ryan Shay)

Ka mate, ka mate - Ka ora, ka ora - Tenei te tangata puhuruhuru - Nana i tiki mai whakawhiti te ra - Upane, upane - Upane kaupane - Whiti te ra. (If I die, I die - If I live, I live - This is the hairy man - Who caused the sun to shine again for me - Up the ladder, up the ladder - Up to the top - The sun shines.) - "Te Rauparaha Haka (ca. 1820)"

While I feel great sorrow at the death of Ryan Shay, who apparently collapsed and died from a heart condition at the 9K mark of Saturday's Olympic Trials Marathon, I cannot help but also feel a certain degree of joy...maybe jealousy. It sounds morbid, I'm certain, but I cannot think of a better way for an athlete to go out but while doing the thing they love. It sounds trite and of little weight, but you hear this statement all of the time from family and close friends of many athletes and adventurers who meet their end in the middle of exercising their passion.

Once upon a time, when I was a cyclist (recreational) I joked about wanting to leave this physical existence while descending a mountain slope somewhere in Europe; breeze in my face, pavement under my wheels, sun warming my shoulders, the whole click, it's over concept. Lance Armstrong said it a little better (with the help of Sally Jenkins) in his first book, It's Not About The Bike:
"I want to die at a hundred years old with an American flag on my back and the
star of Texas on my helmet, after screaming down an Alpine descent on a bicycle
at 75 miles per hour. I want to cross one last finish line as my stud wife and my ten
children applaud, and then I want to lie down in a field of those famous French sun-
flowers and gracefully expire, the perfect contradiction to my once-anticipated poign-
ant early demise."

Perhaps Shay's death should remind us all to (oh, no, here's the typical pithy statement) live our lives to the fullest. Better yet, live our life like we might pass away during the first thirty minutes of it, without a warning. Hey, man, take a chance: Michael Wardian held two marathon world records (running on a treadmill, running with a stroller) but was seeded 102nd on Saturday. He went out and blasted the first five miles of the course in a pace that was somewhat faster than the rest of the field, got himself some serious television time during the first half-hour. After that, who knows where he was? I'm certain the finish listing has him somewhere. But he did what he felt was the best thing for the day.

Know what you want to do. Do it. And if it isn't making you happy, isn't making your life complete, find what it is that will.

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