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The Dying Time.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Tom crosses bridge in difficult territory


I could not believe it but somehow I knew. I was standing in The Little Café here in Dearborn, getting coffee on Saturday morning. CNN was on their TV and that re-entry did not look right.

"NASA has lost communication with the shuttle Columbia. No other statements have been issued. Mission Control has been silent since 9:02 a.m."

Other people were watching the video and no one said anything. I suspect everybody thought the same thing. It didn't look right. There are pieces coming off of it. It looks like it is breaking apart. It exploded and was disintegrating.

And with it comes another broken heart.

At Ironman Canada in 1999 I finished the race and seconds later they announced the man who finished behind me was a shuttle pilot (I checked, no members of the Columbia crew from what I could determine). I was so impressed I sought him out to shake his hand, so I could tell people later I shook the hand of a shuttle pilot. Several years later Colin McMahon, Michael R. Rabe and I drove from the Walden School of Cycling to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to tour the facility and walk inside a real space shuttle. Colin (Calvin) and I attended a lecture on how the heat resistant tiles worked. A man heated them with a blowtorch then immediately picked the tile up to demonstrate its heat dissipating capabilities.

The economy, September 11, anthrax, the sniper, the West Bank, the war with Iraq and now this. I've recently had a terrible break-up with a girlfriend and tried to get back on my feet dating someone new and quickly learned that doesn't work either. Individually, my heart is broken. Collectively, the entire country's is too. We're all thinking, "What next?"

I'll tell you what next.

This is called The Dying Time. It is the time in the ebb and flow of life when old things that are tired and unyielding are stripped away. That is a painful process. When you start exercising the pounds start to fall away and are replaced by muscle. Awkwardness and pain are replaced by poise and grace and endurance. And The Dying Time fades.

"A newborn is soft and tender,
An old person, hard and stiff.
Plants and animals, in life, are supple and succulent;
In death, withered and dry.
So softness and tenderness are attributes of life,
And hardness and stiffness, attributes of death.

Just as a sapless tree will split and decay
So an inflexible force will meet defeat;
The hard and mighty lie beneath the ground
While the tender and weak dance on the breeze above."

Those are great words of wisdom spoken thousands of years ago by the famous philosopher and sage Lao Tzu. He also describes that the sun does not shine on both sides of the mountain at once. So for every period that was good, there are periods that are bad. To appreciate warmth you must have felt cold. This is one of those periods. In the past five weeks no less than three people I know have died- two by suicide. I have broken up with two girlfriends, one a long term one and one, relatively new, but nonetheless significant since she helped me heal from the loss of the first one (that never works really). And then there is all this crap about Iraq, the economy, troops leaving loved ones to go somewhere they can't say and then those poor Astronauts.

What a downer.

But there is the promise of The Growing Time. Yesterday I did a set of bench presses where I did 15,12,10 and 8 reps effortlessly. Two weeks ago that would have been impossible. I've ridden my bike over 150 miles on an indoor trainer this past week, all with Power Cranks, so my legs are becoming like iron now. I ran a week ago and it felt good. I felt the sun on the side of my face yesterday and I could feel its solar warmth as the earth begins its axial transition toward springtime.

And with it comes renewed hope. The hope that the race season will be filled with adventure and good performances. That we will feel better as we get more fit and feel more powerful. The sun is staying out longer in the evenings now. It is 5:00 p.m. here right now and it is not getting dark yet. Calvin, Michael R. Rabe, Nate and Dave Koesel rode 40 miles today to Northville and back. They returned covered in mud speckles and raving about their ride. I sold bikes, measured people, lifted weights and rode the indoor trainer. So we begin the process of springtime.

The Growing Time is here again. And with it comes the promise of better days and new things.

One day in the next 60 we will reach that time when it is too hot out to run in tights. That is a huge day. One day I will be training on the run course I call "Zone of Power" and I will feel the setting sun on my face. There will be long rides, good food afterward, hot, long runs, muscle cramps, tough swim workouts and the promise of new friends and new places. I have never been to Madison, Wisconsin, but I am going- along with 101 other triathletes from Michigan. And the journey to prepare for that holds great promise. You see, we do hold the quality of our destiny in our hands. Things don't "happen for a reason". They happen because of our influence (or lack of it). So with that in mind we enter a new springtime, a new season. Right now.

This time next year I will be writing about the things getting ready to happen now. I wonder what they will be. Great triumphs and sad failures. The dark side and the light side of the mountain. Both. They rely on one another.

So I am pleased to be leaving The Dying Time behind. One of my ex girlfriends wrote me recently filled with hope and kindness: She is getting married soon to her new boyfriend. She sounded so happy I couldn't help but be happy for her. So what was the dying time for her and I three years ago is now a new springtime for her.

I can't wait for this new season. It can only bring the promise of things new and things renewed. And that is worth suffering through The Dying Time for.

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© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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