Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Closing Credits and Outtakes

This year I have shifted to publishing articles at Spafford Health and Adventure's brand new web space, so this blog will be more or less dormant. The past few years have been challenging, and perhaps because of that I've found it more difficult to share my thoughts here. I'm feeling more myself lately, but also like a different person in many ways than the person who started this blog almost a decade ago as a training journal in preparation for the Rock and Ice Ultra. Since then my running has definitely gone through a shift, where now I am putting a lot of my running focus on coaching others to achieve their goals, which I find extremely rewarding. 

I've pulled together some excerpts from a bunch of things I found in my drafts folder that I never ended up posting. They serve as some random outtakes over the years, to which I've added my present day comments in italics.

September 2010 - Perfection?

Social Media hasn't made this any easier for any of us, that's for sure. 

We live in a world where perfect has, for some reason, become synonymous with polished. Joe Strummer knew not to over-polish his work. He realized that too much polish can rub the magic off, leaving what was once raw and magical, dull and lifeless. Joe quote: "It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn't make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat." 

We live in a time where it is overvalued to be perfectly polished and sanitized. Individuality is thrown out the window in favour of ubiquitousness, to make everyone just like everyone else.

I love coming back from a trail run with dirt-caked legs, oozing scrapes, bug bites, all dripping sweat and disheveled; it's affirming and makes me feel alive. It's real, and a reminder to live life with the courage to make my own mistakes rather than always playing it safe. To not be a sheep. They get their pretty sweaters stolen All The Time.

June 2011 - Sloth and Gluttony

Wow, shocker! Life and training can catch up sometimes. Nothing to see here.

Time for an update. I'm taking a sloth and gluttony day. I had two naps last night and then slept straight through the night and then slept in this morning. Today I can't stop eating. I'm going with it, and totally enjoying it. Work has been busy and training has been good, so it makes sense to take a day to recharge the batteries.

November 2011 - Too Much of a Good Thing

And also there is no Santa.

In the hours after my first 50 mile race in September, I was very soured on long ultras for what that effort did to my body. I am used to sore muscles, beat up toes, fatigue, etc. after a race, but this one was so different. I felt just utterly wrong in my body internally for hours and hours, and in certain ways it stretched out for a few days.

After a while I figured out that one of the big things I did wrong was to down a bottle of straight water immediately upon finishing. It had heated up a lot, I had sweat a ton, I had taken loads of S-Caps, so I assumed I was probably a bit dehydrated. I didn't clue in fully at the time, but my water/salt balance was now dangerously thrown off, and I had developed the symptoms of hyponatremia.

When that happens, our bodies respond by getting rid of that excess water, kind of like you are a very dry houseplant that you pour tons of water on - it just drains away. TMI for non-runners but that means you need to pee urgently every 10-15 minutes for hours and hours afterwards and you feel like complete hell. In my post-race brain haze, I finally started realizing I needed salt, so I started taking in more and gradually started improving. By the next morning I was feeling much better.

The last two hours of that race I was not having any fun at all. I felt horrible, and couldn't stomach any more gels, which just made my energy plummet all the more. I ran the several hours increasingly on fumes. (I should have switched to a sports drink or cola from the aid stations.) With 6 km to go I told Derrick, "This goes in the big fat Never Again pile." This was just after helpfully informing a young boy that anyone who ever told him ultras were fun was lying. Oh boy. Sorry buddy. 

October 2014 - Two Great Explorers: Bonatti and Horn Charting Their Own Paths

I got lazy and didn't get past some notes for this one, but if you enjoy reading about expeditions, I recommend you check out books by Mike Horn and Walter Bonatti.

Critical Response - Bonatti a lot of criticism and attention

Attitude - hardest, not done before, personal ethic, do whatever it takes

Horn, expeditions 1st, mountains 2nd
Bonatti, mountains 1st, expeditions 2nd

Answer to "Why" - they both have good ones for!!!

Feb 2016 - Pile of Fuel

What I know now that I didn't know when I wrote this: The waves don't stop just because you are drowning and you want them to; and there's a difference between acceptance and surrender. What I'm still learning: Only in the grace of true surrender can we truly find freedom. 

I remember a few years back when the sinking realization hit me that nothing we build up in life has permanence. Like waves on the ocean, everything has to recede. It made me despair to face the reality that everything tangible that supports our happiness is eventually swept away. As I started losing more loved ones, and getting older myself, the question haunted me: What, then, is the point?

Then the terrible wave came that made my mother sick, and swept her away from us too. As close as the cold waters felt, I knew that for me the torture of this wave was to witness, endure, and learn to carry on; and more importantly, to care, to love, and to remember. And to remind myself that in many ways we were still in fact fortunate, even when it most certainly didn't feel that way.

I don't know what it all means, maybe it is random. But I am drawn to figuring out the point, because I don't think I believe in random. I believe in order in apparent chaos, physics in the spiritual, and mathematics in our poetry. No matter how blind they both may be to it, the scientist and the preacher have a point of intersection, and that point is where my truth lies.

I've let my despair, which sometimes flared to anger, mostly go, and am moving towards acceptance. Just like in an ultra when you might ask that same 'what is the point', question, in life it is equally likely to send you down a dark path. Maybe the better question is simply no question at all. Happiness isn't about a set of circumstances; it is a state of mind. That is the hardest and most painful lesson that life is teaching me. 

I'm feeling energy return for other things as that wave recedes farther each day and leaves me free from thrashing to keep my head above water. I'm no longer questioning the point, instead I'm using some of that returning energy and I'm lining up to race tomorrow because it's what I have. I'm writing about it because it is also what I have. To use what we have - by which I simply mean doing that which gives us satisfaction or joy - is to celebrate and honour those we have loved and lost. I'm throwing a match on a huge pile of sorrow and burning it as fuel to eventually transform my tears into joy, and then using that joy as a life raft

June 2016 - Becoming Unstuck - The Delicate Dance of Patience and Action

Fittingly, I only got as far as the title on this one. It pretty much sums up the last couple of years.

July 2017 - Lifting to Failure

Although it did get better, I didn't start really enjoying running again until very recently. I realized I had to give myself permission to be happy again, which I expect is a common hurdle on the path of recovery from significant losses. 

Years before running became a life-changing habit, I started up several times before inevitably putting it on pause and eventually returning with renewed resolve. Even after it became a passion, at times I would struggle with motivation and ways to prioritize energy. Deep down I never questioned I would make it work. 

At times I’ve put my body through more running than is good for me in order to find my breaking point, and then later I'd set out to test it again to see if that point was higher. I’ve nudged myself along the journey from competing against the clock and others; to embracing personal goals to expand those narrow definitions of success; and now where I'm finding such deep satisfaction and joy in coaching others. 

In all my years of running I’ve only ever outright quit once, and that was this April. It wasn’t that I suddenly disliked running, it's just that over the years I had expected it - and relied upon it - to help me structure so much of my life, and to help me through difficult things. I had finally hit a bottom where I had pillaged the bounties to the point the well was dry. In this final spiral I had limped along in my training for nine weeks with nothing but an inertia of identity holding me to it - and that just barely. Not knowing what else to do, I kept waiting for the bottom to fall away and reveal another layer.

But it didn't, so on that day in April I utterly gave up trying. Three days went by, and then I found myself lacing up my shoes. Resurrected. Like in strength training when you lift to failure as a way to get stronger, none of it was pretty. But it has been better since. 

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