Strong Through The Lows

On Saturday, our team-the Ginger Ninjas-won the Catalyst Games. Even though my partners carried most of the load, it was a physical high point for me. Yes, I win the odd workout at lunchtime (when Boo’s stuck at work) but this was different. The girls’ brainpower, combined with the tactical advantage of going last in each workout, carried us through.
Strength was required, and we had it. The tire flip event, in particular, was a big bright spot: strength plus conditioning plus strategy, and we rose to the occasion, sticking to our game plan and winning the event. On Monday night, I was still flying high, but had already returned to training.
I went to bed at nine. Two hours later, the real Games began.
3,2,1 phone call. We’ve all begun a heart-pounding workout this way: roused from a warm bed to confront an emergency that seems without bottom. A sick kid, a car in the ditch, a relative taken away by ambulance…these are the true tests of maximal heart rate. Breathing into an inflatable plastic bag has nothing on “Danny’s basement is flooding!”
From REM to dyke-building in a foot of frozen water two minutes later. It smelled like sewage, because it WAS sewage, and we dug up a lawn to reroute the flow of water. We dug and hauled, fueled by dead-of-night adrenaline. It was an hour before I thought to check my own basement.
It was dry when I left-my eyes weren’t fully open yet, but my feet stayed dry-but water had rushed up through my sump hole since, and was rising quickly. My in-laws, already sheltering in my basement after a house fire, were forced upstairs at midnight. I paced below, watching the waters rise toward a point where my sump pump would be overwhelmed, needing action, craving movement. I decided to drive down the road to pick up a generator in case the power failed, which seemed imminent. My father-in-law, hair combed and jaw set at age 72, came with me. We saw the water over the road at his gate. We felt it hit the running boards in my truck, heard gravel being sucked away. Then he opened his door and was gone.
I’ve kept my swearing habit a secret from that man for twenty damn years. That illusion was washed away pretty fast as I came around the front of that truck. But he was already on his feet, made spry by the danger, and we slogged our way into his garage. I had to carry the generator to the truck alone, water higher than my boots, and fell into a hole in the driveway. He grabbed me, we saved the generator, and that gave me another idea.
I’ve been pouring large concrete slabs in my yard. One will be a gym, and the other will be a garage (read: gym.) A few days ago, my nephew lugged a heavy old pump to our house to keep the slabs moist while they set. The pump sat in a field; there was a lot of lightning, and no shelter. It was heavy, and the long hoses dragged through the mud. I dropped my light almost immediately, and the metal handle was sharp even to my callused hands.
THIS is when fitness counts: heavy loads, long distances, for time, at 2am.
The pump worked. We drained my basement, checked on my kids, and started on the neighbour’s. Many friends and relatives have it far worse than we do, and I’m happy to be able to help them today without fatigue.
It’s nice to win. But it’s more important  to limit your losses. Our training is fun, but our testing is not. Train to pass.