My legs ached and my lungs screamed for air, all while the sweat poured into my eyes and zapped my body of the water it so desperately needed.
Welcome to summer -- at least my summer of a few years ago.
Just prior to clicking myself onto the lighter-than-air, well-crafted road bicycle that was not mine (and I do mean, "click" -- once those cycling shoes are on the pedals, one simply does not pull ones foot off like riding your old 10-speed, as I discovered moments later when I forgot and ended up collapsing onto the pavement) I harbored the fleeting thought that late night deadlines and the stresses of rounding up 20 game stories in one night was for the birds.
Then I hit the road with a few companions. Twenty minutes later I could only dream of what my job consists of from mid-August to late-May while doing my best not to get tongue caught in the spokes of said bicycle.
True, covering local sports during the summer months allows me the freedom of loosing myself from the computer a bit more. It also takes me away from late-night stresses of tracking down game results from all corners of north Georgia -- not to mention putting up with co-workers who think listening to Fleetwood Mac actually aids the working process for all within earshot. (No offense to you Fleetwood Mac fans out there; it's simply not my cup of tea.)
The summer months also allow me a chance to do things like track what local athletes that may not shine on high school or college fields (anymore) do in their spare time -- which is what put me on that bike that had me spluttering for air and wondering why I had decided to do such a thing. It was an experience I repeated numerous times during a summer series I authored concerning the extreme training methods and fanaticism of some area residents when it comes to the ever-expanding sport of fitness.
It seemed like a great idea: 1) Talk to tri-athletes, competitive cyclists, kickboxers and martial artists, rowers and paddlers, weightlifters, amongst others about what they do to stay in shape while keeping the competitive juices flowing. 2) Attempt to actually keep pace in their various workouts.
It was an eye-opening experience -- though the sweat that poured into them when doing so stung like crazy.
In all honesty I did enjoy my attempt to keep pace with some of the area's fittest residents -- and even provided them with some much-needed comic relief.
And yet as tough as it was swimming laps in the pool until I began to sweat through the water -- I was not aware that was possible beforehand -- it was by far easier than the other torment that awaits people in my profession each time this summer: mental gymnastics.
For 10 months of the year, much of my job is set out for me: team X plays team Y, team X wins, team X gets ready to play team Z, team Y tries to bounce back against team A -- and a team A parent sends me a blistering email because I misspelled his/her son's name in the process (not that I didn't deserve it).
But when summer comes along, well... I have to start thinking. And that, folks, is not always pretty. Just like the finely-tuned athletes I cover, I'd rather react to a situation and work out of familiarity. When you ask me to think, I sometimes get that deer-in-the-headlights look spelling bee contestants get when asked to spell barophobia (it's the fear of gravity, by the way).
Don't worry folks. This summer I have a few preplanned story options. So if you see someone digging through your trash, it's not me looking for a story idea -- or participating in some new extreme dumpster-diving sport.
That said, for any of you out there with any unique stories or ideas, I'm more than open to suggestions -- just know that I am NOT interested in hearing these words: "paddle faster, I hear banjoes." In all seriousness, my in-box is always open at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'll see you here the rest of the summer -- except for the occasional vacation (even us journalists need a break every now and then).
-- Morgan Lee is sports editor for Access North Georgia.com