“I’m With Über” Confessions of the Significant Other o
For the first two months I couldn’t tell if it was dating or training. Was his post-workout offering of eggs with spinach the ultra-athlete equivalent of dinner and a movie, or was this simply a recovery meal that I happened to be in the room for, and by default, invited to share? When he offered to show me a new trail running route was I to consider it:
A first date?
His weekly charity act of introducing casual recreators to extreme elevation gain and previously unknown levels of calf soreness?
A vetting process that all potential girlfriends must go through to determine their base level of fitness?
When the sun had set hours prior and my headlamp batteries were dying, I began to suspect option C. Maybe it was the combination of oxygen debt and an overactive imagination, but those mounds of duff bordering the trail looked suspiciously human-body sized… Is this what happens to the girlfriends who can’t keep up? It’s not that I thought he was a serial killer… no, I just thought if I had to climb another 100 vert I’d probably just lay down by the side of the trail and never get up. But pride won out. A potent alchemy of terror, self-preservation, and unexplainable attraction to the trail blazing maniac ahead of kept me going that night.
Two years later, I couldn’t be more in love, but there have been a number of times along the way I have questioned what I was getting myself into. I have always valued fitness and enjoyed casual participation in mild forms of physical exertion, but an athlete? A jock? These things I have never been. Ambitious-as-all-get-out and fueled-by-faith-and-will-alone? Now that’s more like it. I am the girl who ran a half marathon off the couch to see if I could (I could, but don’t recommend it). My most focused athletic endeavor of the last decade has been developing a new fitness modality I call RUNDANCE. This workout basically involves spending most of the hour you’ve allotted for your run making a kickass playlist that will motivate you to sprint as fast as you possibly can. The workout culminates with said sprint, embellished with air punches, high kicks, and spirit fingers for the time remaining (usually 7-12 minutes). I also like to stack medium sized rocks into cairns as a form of strength training.
It wasn’t until we’d been dating for 6 months that I began to comprehend the extent of my new beau’s athletic extremism. He has more bikes than pairs of pants. So often does he leave the house in head-to-toe spandex, some of his friends have never actually seen him in street clothes. Curious about my new love interest, a surprising number of my friends and acquaintances realized they had heard his name before but couldn’t put their finger on where…. Their moments of realization were priceless. “OH MY GOD. Is he the guy who _________ ?!?!” (Fill in the blank with everything from 6 day, 480 mile adventure races to paddling class V rapids in an inflatable kayak to being the fastest man in the entire state to ascend 69 floors of stairs wearing 70 pounds of firefighting gear and breathing from a single oxygen tank.)
“Yes. He is That Guy.”
“Why would he do _______?!?! (Insert previous totally insane athletic endeavor.)
“Well… He seems to think it’s fun.”
I almost broke up with him when he convinced me to ride a century with him and his friends. I thought it sounded cool. Turns out “a century” is not a creative way of referring to a bike ride that tours various historical landmarks. It is a creative way of referring to a bike ride that is 100 miles long. Needless to say, his friends were not “bike riders” like me. They were cyclists. At mile 67 I pleaded to be left for the vultures or allowed to finish my 100 miles another day, and all he did was let me draft off of him at a fraction of his usual pace while the peloton of his cyclist friends rode off into the distance. Grmpf. Then he coached me, encouraged me, told me stories to distract me from the suffering, and reminded me that I was a very strong cyclist for the remaining 33 miles. How could I break up with him after that? Nobody had every called me a cyclist before!
I’m sure you can imagine what an incredibly statuesque hunk of speed and muscle Mr. Über must be. I will not even pretend that I am immune to the attractive side effects his physically extreme lifestyle produces. That said, looks aren’t everything. Good kissing and stimulating conversation are critical ingredients for long-term relationship success. This is something I love to remind my sweetheart of after a day off together- not because these are areas in which our relationship lacks, but because when every single muscle in your body is sore and quivering, it works well to suggest activities that only require the use of a very small muscle group. Take a walk? Weed the garden? Chop vegetables for dinner? Nope. After paddling, running, rock climbing, and mountain biking from dawn to dusk I am officially down to lips only. Bring on the passionate kissing and stimulating conversation, and I will try my best to muster a pitiful pucker and some monosyllabic responses. This dating thing is WORK.
I used to ask myself, “What if I get tired someday and can’t keep up?” or “What if the weather’s bad and I don’t want to go outside?” or even sometimes on very dark days, “What if my physically virtuosic partner ever stops wanting to spend his hours dawdling along with a former off the couch RUNDANCE dabbler and rock-lifter?” Truth be told, I don’t actually worry anymore. Mr. Über and I have developed a very effective way of communicating when we are sharing quality recreation time together. For example, when I finally crest the steep hill he has now sprinted up twice, and he greets me with, “Strong work! Beautiful day, eh?” He knows my cryptic gasping response of, “Go bastard damn hurts!” actually means, “I love you very much and am glad we have shared interests.”
I certainly do appreciate the influence Mr. Uber’s insatiable drive to exert himself has had on my own fitness pursuits. The things that used to intimidate me now seem like good activities for a day off. I have gained strength and confidence operating all sorts of sporty contraptions from medicine balls to skis on wheels that I zip around the neighborhood on. I can now use words like, “tempo-run,” “hill repeats,” “sets and reps” and “quick push” in a sentence without feeling self-conscious. I don’t even mind me some spandex of my own every once and awhile! I love that in my relationship a breathless exclamation of expletives can be interpreted as a declaration of my love and admiration. Most importantly, I have come to understand that speed, mileage, and spando-garb do not define a person, nor a relationship. Surviving daily self-created multi sport sufferfests (they’re fun!) with my partner helps the time pass, but this is merely a foil for connecting over the simple things in life: truth, joy, hard work, and heart. These guiding principles made me the top-notch RUNDANCer that I used to be, and they continue to support my relationships and (more legitimate) athletic pursuits to this day.