phpw9UY6cPMHave you really ever met someone who hasn’t cried to music at some point?  Perhaps, that same person was driving over the speed limit because of the tempo of a song they are listening to.  And, maybe, only 20 minutes is all that separates those two events….

Maybe that person is you?

The photo above was taken in Tanzania, and guy in the photo with me had never left Tanzania-he was my taxi driver on my trip to the base camp of Kilimanjaro.  He couldn’t tell me where Michigan was, what Blue and Gold meant, but he LOVED how he felt when he saw or heard the word Michigan.  Same thing goes when I hear David Crowder, Rush, Anberlin, Lincoln Brewster, Linkin Park or the Newsboys. It make me different as I hear their music and get a taste of their persona.  I want to share publicly that I like them and their body of musical work, but I don’t expect to ever meet those artists.  They get no measurably closer to me than a T-Shirt, like my Taxi driver’s experience.

Music enhances my performance when the conditions are tough.  As I start running in the mid-day heat or cycling at the end of the day, and the humidity is doing everything it can to slow me down, I often want to back off and quit.  Then, I hear a special song on whatever gizmo I have inserted into my ears, and all those surrounding pressures go away.    A great tempo song from a band or the words of an inspirational singer rings in my ears, and I feel undefeatable.  That feeling can last for more than a sprint…it can take me another few miles or sometimes another hour.  It can carry me up hills at the same speed I go down them.  As I review the effects of that song, I see changes in my half mile and one mile splits, and I can get mildly impressed at my effort during that moment.

With music, I can hear a message in the core of my core that says, “do it!” when a song hits that unspeakable soul of motivation.  The exclamation point after the words “do it!” is the loudest part of that message.  Sometimes, that exclamation point is all I hear.  The effects of music are there with me, when no other words are.

It is June, 2013.  I have about 6 heavy weeks of training in the heat before Alex and I hit the road for more of out 50 summits and a long canoe trip in Northern Minnesota.    I will have lots of “this is tough” moments as I do the necessary prep and knock out the miles.  Each time, it will feel like the first time that I have ever done it.  It always does.  Reality that I am doing the same thing again and again will not be heard in my mind as I hit the pavement when it is 90+ degrees.  The sky will never seem close.  I will not ever feel “right” in these conditions.  It will always be an unknown for me.

But there is my music….it takes me beyond those walls that always impose themselves.  When I get that one song that I really need to get through the wall in front of me, I change.  It is like finding 11th gear on a 10 speed bike.

The value of the moment when I overcome the obstacles is never a present tense happiness for me.  It is only later in the day that I feel good about my effort.  This is anti-Yoga.  That feeling that I just had a chance to be swallowed by my surroundings but overcame it makes the day seem whole, when I realize it.  Music doesn’t remove the pain of the moment.  It just takes away its power over me.

And, as a father, I see that I am creating an example for my boys.  I want them to be proud of their dad.  My actions show that I “man’ d up” to the challenge and showed them how they should approach a challenge to compete at a higher level when given the chance.  I want them to see me come in after a long ride in the hot of the day or a long run in a light rain and see that I didn’t cave into to the temptation to take the easy way out.

For them, it is not relevant that I come in first or last in this competition, either.   I will guess that my oldest son will literally never ask me a single question about either my event or this training.  But, maybe we will talk about our music interests…half of what I have comes from him, anyway.  And, I can share with him what I have used his songs for.  That might make him proud.

On race day, I don’t get to use any music-ear buds are illegal.  However, in training, music of my choice will be with me.  With music, I find shelter from the troubles of the hardcore training.  Music helps me lay down the burdens that heat demands I must carry.  It creates joy.  It gives me hope.

And it makes me a better athlete.