XXXI: Elite

Currently: Into the evening ritual that includes laying my feet upon pieces of ice for twenty minutes at a time. This can only mean on thing…
…story time.

While I’m stuck on the couch for the next hour-or-so, there was a story that came to mind that felt needing to be shared with you, the reader. A bit of a taste of what “XXXI” is about, its strange intent, ideas, and images. Sadly, it tends to revolve around one word that, over the years, I have grown to strongly despise: Elite.

The word itself, not even the conotation of golf clubs, Porches, and other random ‘necessities to life’, is enough to make me cringe. Over the previous several years its been a mission, not even holy at times, to abolish every sense of this term. Naturally, in today’s society that image will never take place.

My first official girlfriend was a volleyball player at the university that I attended. It was quite the experience, between her training 24/7 and myself working in the Sports Information Department, I was around the elite of our campus 24/7; athletes. Their presence was addictive, they didn’t have to say anything, do anything, or even make eye contact with me; just being around them took my world to a new level. Their mission was to train; day in and day out, never missing a beat and always pushing themselves to their limits. Needless to say dating one of these athletes just about put me over the moon and back.

It became so severe that I started watching their training; I’d show up on campus a week early each fall just so I could see football, cross country, volleyball, and soccer hit the training sessions hard. I would purposefully run the stadium bleachers, and sprint around the track a few minutes before track practice just so I could learn more about these athletes. I lifted weight (note: I hate lifting) because that’s what my girlfriend did, and I needed to be like her. I was never an athlete, but I want to be everything that they were and so much more. I craved that elite status.

Finally, the day came where my girlfriend gave me her backpack from the season prior. With college athletic teams, they tend to hold some sort of contract with a specific brand. Because of this they tend to get plenty of free material, and in return the company requires that they only wear this brand during training and game day (there’s also a small request on the side…a soul). When I received that Asics backpack I had ‘made it’ in my small college brain. I wouldn’t wear it on campus, because they looked just strange since we didn’t have a men’s volleyball team. However, when I was off campus. The height, running, lifting, and magical bag combined allowed me on occasion to hear, “I didn’t realize your university had a men’s volleyball team…”

It really was as close as I ever got to tasting the ability of being elite. In the end the girlfriend obviously didn’t work out, the bag disappeared (she asked for it back), and I never really was an elite athlete. Looking back of course I tend to shake my head at the sheer stupidity that must have been clouding every judgement and rational thought that could have been created. Blinded by what I couldn’t have, and cursed by what I wanted so badly. I was a horrible athlete; elementary, junior high, and high school. Believe it or not I was foolish enough to request a recruit from the university that I ended up attending, placing the only award I had received in track & field, a 4th place medal in a race of six (two racers fell in the beginning). Needless to say, the recruiters never came to see me run. While I was video taping and pumping water at football practice in high school I would daydream about bone crushing blocks and touchdown runs. I never made it past preseason training before quitting. I envied the game winning three point shot, the crushing block, and even the momentum shifting dunk…but I couldn’t get myself together for basketball (also in high school). I’ve always wanted that elite notion, something that sets me apart from the rest of the population.

Hindsight being what it is; scientifically we can make the argument that my junior and senior year of high school I was clocking in at 165-185 pounds, with a height ranging from 6’3 to 6’4. While I was in ‘peak’ condition in college, my sophomore year, I was 6’5 and 225 pounds; more importantly though, I had stopped growing. All of these physical elements could have kept me from reaching the status that I desired earlier in life.

The truth though; God knew that power and authority is the absolutely last thing I ever needed. People like MC rocked the court with her skills because she loved the game, she loved to play, she didn’t do it for the press conference afterwards. People like myself, we have to face the reality that we don’t get the spotlight because we know that’s the last place, for the growth of God’s kingdom, that we should ever be.

Now, five years removed from college (ouch), I find myself running on rubber, icing at night, and nearly watching each piece of food that enters my mouth. Why? If I know it’s not for the spotlight (there is none), then what drives me? If it’s no longer about dreaming about being elite, what else is there?

At the moment, I have no idea. I know what daydreaming gets me, but those thoughts need to stay as dreams. I’m 6’5 and 273 pounds, I ran six, four hundred meter sprints tonight and lifted weights following. I do my abdominal work every morning and every night. I kicked out gluten, refined sugars, and all processed food.

For what?

Truth: Because even though I’m physically older, there isn’t a proper way to describe the sensation. The sensation of when your feet hit the rubber just right, when your stride is just within the proper distance, when your calves and quads are firing in sync. There’s just something about the harmony that’s peaceful beyond anything else. The world vanishes, and you just glide. Nothing hurts, nothing burns, everything is fresh, strong, and for a split second in your own little world you feel as if you’ve always been elite.


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