Got Goals? What’s next.

The dental hygenist put me over the edge. She was (approximately) person number 1000 to ask me, “So, what’s next?” She did, however, have the distinction of being the first to then promptly stick a sonic plaque scraper in my mouth, rendering me unable to spit out the usual half-formed, completely uncertain non-answer.

So, while she perfunctorily blasted away at plaque (“If everyone were this healthy, my day would be so easy,” she said), I stared at the beige-on-beige junction between the ceiling tiles and the wall and pondered what a two-sport Paralympic medalist does after the Games are done.

I came to a few conclusions.

The constant striving that it takes to be a Paralympian is an indelible part of me. For a few weeks or so upon my return, I tried flopping around life with no particular aim or plan, rather like a fish on a boat deck. Yes, that is really how I felt about not having some grand project, some grandiose plan to channel my energy. Spastic bursts of energy, to no avail. Slowly dying. Ugh. (Poor fish.) Not for me.

My body requires movement, requires action. This past week, I’ve been sick, spending more time sleeping and lounging than anything else. Alarmingly, I am in far more physical pain than I am following even the most grueling workout or race.

My mind, too, thrives on movement. For nearly a month I had been trying to tease out the right tone, the right story, the right pitch for a conference proposal. The answer came to me while I was riding my bike. I had to keep repeating the words to myself as I raced home, burst through the kitchen door, and, still helmeted and sweaty, scribbled the key phrases on scraps of paper usually left for keeping our grocery list.

Training and some form of competition are certainly part of what’s next.

But this is, of course, complicated – for a host of reasons. One of the major ones these days is that every time I go anywhere – to or from home, it doesn’t matter – I pass by a lingering memorial for a 14-year-old girl who was struck by a car and killed while she was riding her bike in the bike lane on a heavily-traveled bike corridor. She was on her way to school, riding what I had thought of as the only “safe” way to travel through this particular intersection.

The details of the incident, by the time I heard them on the pool deck (she swam for our team; I coach the cousin of the boy who was riding along side her that morning), obviously, are rather heresy, but the essence of the incident was alarmingly like my own car-bike interaction. The community here is rattled. Parents who used to let their kids walk to the pool are driving them. I am back to thinking fifteen times before I get on my bike – back to really, overtly, obviously fighting fear of things I cannot control: primarily, texting/speeding/unaware drivers. The whole thing hit a little too close to home. And I mean that literally.

In the meantime, while I (once again) sort through my desire and willingness to fight a perfectly reasonable fear in order to adhere to a training plan, I have to keep myself busy. I have to channel my energy, and there’s been some really interesting developments.

Primarily, I discovered the Riekes Center for Human Enhancement. The Riekes Center stubbornly refuses to be pigeon-holed. It IS a gym/fitness center…but it’s also a community-building center in a low-income neighborhood. There’s a mentoring program, a nature center, an art gallery/recording studio/photography guild. You can bake a pizza in a brick oven out back; you can host a campfire – provided you have learned how to start fire using only your bare hands and the most rudimentary tools. You can be whatever you want and whoever you are, but you are expected to speak honestly and act with integrity. You could be the next pro basketball player to be drafted straight from high school (and there are professional athletes who workout here), but if you swear on the basketball court, you’ll get kicked out – no exceptions. Everyone is equal; no one is better than anyone else. Speaking of swearing, I forgot to mention: there is a hip-hop program that teaches beat, [expletive-free] song writing, dance, and the fine art of graffiti.

Should we be surprised then that the Riekes Center is also a Paralympic Sport Club? Of course it is! The short version of the story is that through them, I am giving back to the Paralympic movement by coaching swimming, cycling, and track & field.

We’re partnering with the other Paralympic Sport Clubs in the area, and will have a decent-sized group of Para-cyclists training together come January, and racing against each other in 2013. This is exciting.

It’s also a cargo-boatload of work.There is funding to secure (please consider donating – we especially are looking for 3 gently-used indoor trainers), race opportunities to organize, athletes to mentor, workouts to write. The syngery that’s cropping up, however, is beyond logic.

The Bay Area Para-cycling Team is perfect big-thing to undertake while I wrestle with my own needs and wants in the competitive sport realm.

But, at the end of the day, the most effective way I know to sort that out (and also come up with solutions to the challenges we face in getting the Para-cycling Team rolling) is to get out there…and ride.

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