Throughout my lifetime, I’ve had the good fortune to participate in a lot of different sports and activities. So as recent brain fuel while running, reflecting on all those great experiences has led me to create a list. Yes, a list! A list ranking what are the best* things** in the world of sports/physical leisure that I’ve personally experienced. Let’s define that a little more…
*”Best”: a purposely broad term meant to encompass anything from most fun to most satisfying to just pure know-it-when-you-do-it awesome.
**”Things”: also a purposely broad term to include anything from a general experience, to a specific occurrence, and anything in between.
And remember, this is stuff I’ve personally done. I’m sure there’s plenty out there that would easily rank. I just have not yet had the pleasure. Anyway, here goes…
1. THE PERFECT ROW IN AN 8+
As its ranking indicates, there’s simply nothing better. It’s the kind of row that occurs when the crew is so locked in that the boat is in perfect balance and gliding out from under you with every stroke. You almost feel as if you are floating above looking down at yourself. As the stroke seat (which I often was), that also means being able to communicate with your coxswain with as little as a facial expression or grunt. As Lance Armstrong (hell yeah, I’m referencing Lance!) used to say about when he had good legs and was in the zone- the bike feels like it has “no chain.” Now for him that may have been because of the drugs, but I can certainly identify, because you get that exact feeling during a perfect row. It almost doesn’t even hurt. Yeah. Almost.
2. SKIING DEEP POWDER
I’m 6’3” and I’ve skied in fresh snow up to my belly button. The only way I can describe the feeling? I honestly could not stop giggling – like pure, little-kid-splashing-around-in-a-mud-puddle, giddiness. It’s the closest I’ve come to what I imagine walking and bouncing around on big fluffy clouds would feel like if they could actually support weight. He he he. Weeeee!
3. PLAYING ICE HOCKEY
Literally everything about it- as a gear junky, to the locker room banter, to the bench dynamics, to the feeling of executing a face-off or pass or shot. Of all the sports I’ve played in my life, it’s hands down my favorite. And it wasn’t until I was 40 that I played my first game on actual ice. Wish I had started sooner. Eh?
4. RETURNING A MONSTER SERVE
That moment (in tennis) when your opponent hits a monster serve – the one where he all but mic drops his racquet because it’s such a sure Ace – and you get real low, and with a shortened backswing, you quickly come thru the ball connecting perfectly, transferring all the power of that serve to rip it cross court right back past his feet for a winner. Yeah, that.
5. BACKPACKING/SEA KAYAKING/CANOEING SOMEWHERE WICKED REMOTE
Hiking or paddling with friends miles from civilization. When all you hear are your own footsteps on a gravel trail, or droplets falling off your paddle into the otherwise glasslike lake, and the sounds of some distant wildlife – I highly recommend loons, btw. Kula-looloolooloo. (Um, that’s a loon call. It’s almost like you’re there, right?)
6. HANGING WITH MY WIFE ON A RUN
I don’t mean “spending time” hanging; I mean literally keeping up. I don’t mind that she’s faster than me. I don’t love it, but I don’t mind. If I were a self-proclaimed “runner,” I might, but I’m not, so it’s cool that she kicks ass. But every once in a while I get into decent enough shape (and, like ya know, she’s pregnant or something), and we’ll run together, and I hang. And it feels good. Plus, I get to spend time with my wife. And she’s in spandex.
7. RIDING “DOWN THE SHORE”
A handful of times I embarked on the 70 or so mile bike ride from the greater Philly area right on “down the shore” to Ocean City, NJ. It usually starts early on a Sunday morning – largely to avoid traffic, but frankly, equally so as to slip thru Camden, NJ whilst wearing colorful spandex and riding a multi-thousand dollar bike before the town wakes up. But also so as to have the remainder of the day to sit and relax beachside while the lactic acid otherwise consumes my body. Over that several hour ride, there are equal moments of sitting up and chatting, head down grinding to bang out miles, and stops at various farmer’s markets for coffee and apple cider donuts. I’ve done longer, more “epic” rides, but something about being in the saddle for 5-6+ hours, only to wind up right back where I started, isn’t quite as fulfilling as this point-to-point journey. And the best part- wives that agree to drive down and join in for the day… and so we’ll have a ride home.
8. RIDING A WAVE
This one will probably move up a couple spots once I complete one of my life bucket list items- learning to surf. But while the extent of my wave riding comes by way of “body” or “boogie,” there’s always something very organically exhilarating about harnessing nature’s energy for fun… Right, brah?
9. SINKING A BREAKING 20+ FOOT PUTT… ON PURPOSE!
Yeah, I golf. Kinda. Last year, I broke personal records in both score (a very modest 88), and rounds per year (a very meager 4). And while hitting a sweet drive or knocking a decent wedge onto the green are awesome, there’s something extra gratifying about sinking a not-so-gimmee, long, breaking putt when you actually hit it with the placement and pace you intended. Queue the charming applause.
10. For # 10, rather than pick one and get into it, I’m going to quickly list, in no particular order, the others that made my prelim list…
– Riding some fast, flat MTB single-track thru the woods
– Scoring a (soccer) goal off a header
– Captaining a (large) boat
– Fighting/catching a 20lb+ fish
– Turning a double-play (even if just in Little League – my personal highest level of competitive baseball)
– Riding a horse – it’s some kind instinctual man taming beast thing, but it’s super good fun
– “Inigo Montoya-ing” (I made that up) someone in ping pong (i.e. beating someone right-handed, then telling them I’m really left-handed, and then beating them left-handed). It’s kinda a dick move, but so, so awesome. (That’s not to say I never lose, btw. I do.)