22 February 2013

Reflections in the Afterglow

Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. 
The least we can do is try to be there. - Annie Dillard

I’m slowly coming down from my slick rock high. Despite coming in the bottom third of finishers, I’m still jazzed about having a great day in a jaw-droppingly beautiful place. I've gotten choked up about it several times this week, feeling blessed to have such a full appreciation of my race experience last Saturday. Having no expectations of how I would perform, I was able to run my own race and be satisfied with it.

While I’d love to be fast enough to be a podium finisher (who wouldn’t, right?), it dawned on me that I was free to enjoy the race in a way that a top runner can't, especially if racing is their livelihood. While I plan to run my best, I’m able to approach it more as a supported adventure run. I won’t be assessing my race based on whether I ran faster than anyone else.  Did I enjoy the scenery? Oh my, yes. Did I enjoy the company? Absolutely. Did my feel good overall? Yep.  Then it was a great day.

I'm glad that I don't have to work through the ambivalent feelings that Prez wrote about here after finishing well last Saturday, but not as fast as the winner. High expectations -- internal or external -- are such a heavy burden. This just feeds into the lie that significance is tied to performance. Pegging our worth to our accomplishments is "like nailin' jelly to a tree". No one always wins -- not even Kilian. Performance eventually declines. Worth must be derived from something which remains unchanged through success and failure in life.

"I'm sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody" - J.D. Salinger

I suspect that I may never run a stunning course as fast as I could -- at least not the first time.  I’m not even sure I’d be less distracted if I ran it again and here’s why: As I’ve gotten older, acquired more life experience, took responsibility for others and loved those whose triumphs and tragedies affect me directly, I need beauty -- lots of it. I need beauty that exceeds the pain, sorrow and disappointment of life. Beauty makes the hard more bearable.
Halibut Cove, Alaska
It’s been a very difficult two years, having to leave New England and make a new life out West. Feeling trapped in a job that piled stress on me and my family made it 10 times worse. Resigning from my job and enjoying three adventure runs in Moab these past two months have given me hope -- hope that my best days may not be behind me. Do you see why an ultra run on slick rock can move me to tears? It’s more than just running. It’s a doorway to hope. It’s grace.   

This is why I’m compelled to drive hours through the mountains to get to places like Moab, the Canyonlands, the Grand Canyon, the Rockies, the San Juans etc. I look for beauty in the everyday and it shows up in strange and interesting ways – small deeds of compassion, the sound of rushing water, words aptly spoken, an unprompted kiss from my child, a delectable meal. But there are times that I need the visual magnificent; where the awesome is dialed up to the red zone. Those special days have a way of carrying me through the longer, grinding sections of life, providing comfort and delight as they are relived in my memory. This is what my race in Moab meant to me and why I seek out these adventures as I settle into Colorado life. Not only will they give me joy, but these experiences are formative and will make me into the person God has destined me to be. I can count on it.
Chamonix - Lac Blanc (Photo credit: Kilian Jornet)
We do not want merely to see beauty...we want something else which can hardly be put into words--to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.– C.S. Lewis

Happy Trails,


No comments:

Post a Comment