Friday, July 17, 2015

fighting words

"What is it I really want to achieve? What direction will I go? What really excites me? What would I fight for?"

~ anna frost, 2015 winner, hardrock 100

"imma have a little nap right here..."
what do you think scott jurek did when he woke up on day 47?

that'd be the day after his record-setting, 2,189-mile journey on the appalachian trail.

scott (flailing covers): shit, we overslept! what time is it? gotta go gotta go gotta go...!
jenny: scott, it's okay! you finished! you're all done, baby.
scott (groggily): finished...
jenny: all done.
scott: i don't hafta do 50 miles today?
jenny: babe, you don't have to do any miles today.
scott (wipes tears): omigod...all done.
jenny: all done.
scott (pauses): wull...what do i do now?

jurek beat the previous record, set by jennifer pharr davis, by about three hours. three hours, over a span of 46 days, is a teeny-tiny slice of time.

but it's still quite a bit more than six seconds. which is the margin by which gunhild swanson completed the 2015 western states endurance race before the 30-hour cutoff. six seconds, over the course of 100 miles. if she lingers one second longer at six aid stations...she doesn't make it (intensely awesome video here).

and of course six seconds is more than one second. which is the margin by which bogie dumitrescu finished the 2015 hardrock 100 before the 48-hour cutoff. that's...well, that's just ridiculous. (heart-pumping video here).
anna frost won at hardrock, an amazing pinnacle at an event most runners never dream of, let alone reach. 

and while the others didn't "win" anything in their respective adventures, they still achieved something spectacular. they answered frost's elemental question, "what would I fight for?" and the rest was simply action becoming its own reward.

the kind of reward that is visceral and lasting and (the best part) accessible to anyone. 

"What would I fight for?"

it's a great, defining question, no matter how you apply it to your life. 

a couple friends of mine, for example, are inexhaustibly determined to run western states. their planning and training and resolve are constant and inspired. other friends are gearing up for different 100-mile races. a couple more are ironman triathletes, devoting enormous time and energy to the demands of those events.

i find myself awed by and slightly envious of these folks because, standing here right this second, i can't identify any personal goal i would fight for with that kind of passion. as you might imagine, this realization is somewhat, um, disturbing.

"the whole reason I do these things is to find that inner strength when I least expected I had it."
~ scott jurek

well, that's a reason. i would've thought scott had found that inner strength so many times by now that he'd need to make up some other reasons. ANY other reasons. 

but that's coming from me, the guy who can't think of that "one thing" that he'd go all-in for. who proceeded to get himself all sideways and inside-out because surely there must be something and if there's not then that's just laziness or some other failing to be remedied right quick.

and just when the inner choir was really getting warmed up ("unacceptable! unacceptable! hallelujah! hallelujah! un-ax-sept-ah-bullll!!"), my friend laura posted this: 

"we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

~ t.s. eliot

never underestimate the power of one quiet line at the right time. taking a deep breath, reading it again, the turmoil dissipated, and i laughed at me. eliot's quote reminded me of something i already knew, a lesson i had already learned, one that is apparently all too easy to forget.

in the same way we all learn at different speeds...we discover the things we'd fight for at different times. they may come and go, and change over time...but you get yours when you're ready.

the journey, the act of moving along the arc, is what prepares us for those moments.  

in the meantime, the exploration is its own reward.

gear up.

"cherish the experience. and hold the record lightly.”
~ jennifer pharr davis' message to scott jurek

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