One of the truest, but most overused, cliches is that "it is not the destination, but the journey". It has been expressed myriad ways by writers much more skilled than I, and exhaustively explored by countless bloggers even more syrupy and sanctimonious. But, this morning, I had a conversation with a friend, and he closed with a brilliant observation that I feel bears sharing.
BACKGROUND... this past week I have been eagerly following two remarkable races.
October 4th, many of my friends were participating in "Hunter Gatherer Survival Run" in Rocksprings, Texas. If you've been following this blog at all, you know that I have participated in some truly brutal races. When I read THIS RACE REPORT, though, I realized that Hunter Gatherer has taken it to another level again. It was dreamed up, then brilliantly executed, by Josue Stephens, a mad genius who is race director for two legendary ultramarathons (Copper Canyon and Caballo Blanco) and creator/RD of Fuego Y Agua Survival Run.
One of the competitors was my good friend, Paul Kavanagh. Less than a year ago, Paul called me to invite me for a coffee. There he told me that he was looking for some new challenges in his life and was interested in the racing I had been doing. He had been running some 5 and 10k road races, but thought he may like to try something more interesting. A few months later he was in Nicaragua, signed up for the 25km run (that climbed a volcano) but was quickly captivated by the spectacle of the ultradistances and the Survival Run in which I took part. Jump forward just 8 months and Paul finished THIRD overall in Hunter Gatherer - well ahead of scores of incredibly experienced and accomplished runners. With that under his belt (literally, actually, as the trophy was an engraved survival knife), Paul has registered for February's "Fuego Y Agua Deadly Devil's Double Challenge" - returning to Nicaragua to complete the 75km survival race (open water swims, volcano climbs, jungle crossings, insanely difficult challenges) AND 100km ultramarathon (ridiculously steep, technical terrain) IN THE SAME WEEK!!!
Along the way, Paul has met many of my other friends, including Olof Dallner and Andy Weinberg. So, like me and hundreds of others, he has been refreshing THIS WEB PAGE obsessively for the past several days - checking the live updates from the Virginia QUINTUPLE Anvil Ultratriathlon. To put this race in perspective, the Ironman was long considered the "standard" for a long, brutal triathlon - with a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and full marathon (26.2 mile) run. Over time, some people began challenging themselves with double the distance (wow) and triples (c'mon, is that really possible?). But the QUINTUPLE looks like this ... swim 12 miles, jump on your bike and ride 560 miles, then simply run FIVE STRAIGHT MARATHONS to the finish. And this is STRAIGHT THROUGH (pitting only for food, poops, medical help and quick naps)!! And this is the race that four of my good friends - Andy Weinberg, Olof Dallner, Rebecca Daniels Hansen and Josh Zitomer began on Tuesday. The race is still going on at the time of this writing, but Olof (3x Death Race champion) just finished, taking FIRST place in just under 96 hours. Andy is only about 10 miles behind, with a lock on SECOND despite severe ankle pain and stress fractures in his feet. Josh and Rebecca are also well into the run and look solid to finish. This truly is nothing short of SUPERHUMAN.
So, with a great sense of humour and greater sense of humilty, Paul just sent me this photo of Olof (posted mid-race, then photoshopped by Paul) ...
Anyone who knows Olof gets why this is funny on multiple levels. First, Olof is an extremely nice guy who is humble about his own achievements and excited about others'. Second, he is a fucking cyborg for whom there truly may be no limits. He does things that seem impossible to most everyone else - smiling and laughing and dancing (literally) the whole way. I once pointed out that "Olof races like he's at a rave!", an observation with which everyone gleefully agreed.
I replied to Paul, commenting that being around these extraordinary people (I think I used the term "freaks") is so good for us, as it just keeps stretching our imaginations and ideas as to what is achievable. I also pointed out that, while a "nice ego stroke", every time someone tells us that we are crazy/amazing/impressive for what we accomplish they are actually pulling us back into the center a little bit.
And here is Paul's answer to that ...
Yup! Was thinking recently it's awesome. Feeling more confident, but much less ego based. Whatever I do, there are people capable of far more, and are much more humble about it. I still have a ways to go, but I like the trajectory.
And, in that last sentence there is some true magic. Some wisdom that I intend to apply to the rest of my life. I hope I DO still have a ways to go ... and the key is that I am happy with the trajectory. That is what will determine everything, and I can always change it - as slightly or drastically as need be.
So, ask yourself - "Do I like the trajectory of my life?".
NOT "Am I happy with where I am at right now?" because you are always still moving - and where you are at is ssimpy the result of the trajectory you WERE on. In this very moment, you can alter your trajectory and (as small a change as it may seem - maybe just a coffee conversation and signing up for a seemingly minor adventure)... THAT will change where you are going. SO SIMPLE!!!
Changing your life does not have to be difficult!! You do not have to have all of the answers or even make wholesale changes. It is all about the trajectory!
DO I LIKE THE TRAJECTORY OF MY LIFE?
IF NOT, HOW CAN I CHANGE THE TRAJECTORY OF MY LIFE?
So, this Thanksgiving weekend, I am feeling special gratitude for friends like Paul, Olof, Andy, Josh, Rebecca, Joe D and Josue, who have been hugely influential in helping me shift my trajectory, allowing my life to expand, seemingly miraculously, in a magnitude I had not even previously imagined.
***** BONUS ****
Here is one of my favourite pictures of all time. Andy (L) and Olof (R) during a quick nap toward the end of the QUINT (taken last night and shared by Olof's girlfriend, Caitlan Alexander). I have included her comment below ...
|And to set the record straight, most of the posts about this "competition" between Olof and Andy were BS. Around mile 70, they were both pushing each other so hard that they shook and decided they would finish the rest together. Around mile 95, Andy starting developing symptoms of a stress fracture among many other things and urged Olof to go ahead. Olof wouldn't leave him but Andy was persistent. So the two split but were still cheering each other on.|