Monday, May 24, 2010
This weekend was the penultimate (why would anyone say second-to-last when they can use a word like penultimate?) pre-moving-day weekend. Yesterday and most of Saturday were gorgeous, and staying inside a house and packing ranked a lot higher on the necessity list than it did on the wish list. Training’s rank on those lists was reversed. There was some internal whining. Probably some external bitching, too.
And a lot of fear. I just wrote a book about triathlon. I’d like to begin my first season after its publication looking like someone who knew what he was writing about, which is complicated when you’re not training much.
Some reassurance was needed, and I found it fermenting in the refrigerator.
Beer? No. I find a lot of things to like about beer, even reassurance sometimes, but what I found was my sourdough starter. Sourdough starter, or levain, if you’d rather, or poolish, biga or mother, is basically home-grown yeast for baking bread. But yeast is a living thing that needs to be fed and cared for. Like any kind of farming, it takes some discipline. Unlike some other kinds of livestock, though, yeast can go dormant in the right environment, so if you’re going to miss a couple days of feeding the culture, you can put it in the refrigerator and get away with it. But there are limits.
I put mine in the refrigerator before I went to the Alcatraz swim a month and a half ago. Life had already gotten a bit full by that point, and I sort of forgot about it until yesterday, when it didn’t look much like starter at all. It looked like putty with a big puddle of alcohol on top. Dead.
But amid all that packing – maybe because of all that packing – I took a few minutes’ time-out to stir it back together, measure out a new portion to combine with fresh flour and water and see what happened.
By this morning, bubbles were happening. Bubbles mean life. Another couple days and replenishings, and it will be full strength, and I’ll take it east with me and soon the new house will smell the best a house can smell. Sourdough is hardy stuff; it’s tougher to kill your mother than you think.
That’s just the sort of thing I needed to apply to my own life. Fine. When I race the Hawk Island Triathlon in a couple of weeks, I might or might not look like someone who had any business writing a book about the sport. Five weeks later is three races in three days at the Musselman, and I’ll probably still be putty and hooch. But by Luray in August and Savageman in September, I might just be showing some bubbles again, and by the Detroit Marathon in October, I might just have the suds to qualify for Boston.
I may not look like it now, but this summer I’m going to race like a mother.
Posted by Jef Mallett at 10:29 AM