An active life – it’s brought me adventure, uncontainable smiling, and peeks into intimate corners of the natural world. Whether it’s running for… forever, or biking through forests, or latching to mountainsides and rockwalls, or contorting into daily asanas, being physical consistently breaks myself and my world open to daylight.
So, dear Ladies (and Lady-lovers), I find myself yet again drawn to the rigors and release of training. I’ve decided to run my second 50k trail run in May (tips and insights from training to come!), it’s looking more and more likely I’ll be biking large parts of the CDT this summer, and I’ve committed myself to 100 days of yoga practice.
This could, indeed, be permanent-hobble damaging and insane, as some friends have commented, but ruminating over my disconnect from the negative connotations of these feats led me to a very clear and important differentiation.
See, I’ve met the people who have mentalities so inflexible their bodies must bend (or break) to accommodate their goals. Top-o’-the-line gear, beep beeping watch alarms for perfected nutritional intake, finishing times cemented as “musts” rather than aims. This performance perfection mentality works for some, but for this Lady, just thinking about this level of obsession makes me exhausted.
I do physical things to let go – to stop clinging to life and it’s unfolding as if I have any control over it. Central to my training and my adventures is a clear and empty mind. I’m calling it the zen of endurance. When I run with my mind set on what I’ll have accomplished at mile 32, I’m living in mile 32. But what about mile 5? Mile 19? Or my nemesis – mile 23? If I reside in where I’ve yet to be, I fail to experience the beauty (and discomfort, and everything) of where I am. But where I’m heading doesn’t actually exist for me till I get there, and if I cannot learn to experience joy where I am, how will I ever be happy? I think this sums it up nicely:
Most music tries to control its circumstances, just as most of us do. But there’s another way to live. Accept indeterminacy as a principle, and you see your life in a new light, as a series of seemingly unrelated jewel-like stories within a dazzling setting of change and transformation. Recognize that you don’t know where you stand, and you will begin to watch where you put your feet. That’s when a path appears. – Kay Larson
I read that passage the day before I rode my bicycle from Seattle to Portland for the first time – my first ever century (100 miles)… times two. It proved apropos. I had arrived with a bicycle computer mounted upon my handlebars, my timing and pace monitoring providing me reliable belief in my ability to finish without collapse.
The next morning, as I set off in the middle of a sardined peloton before the world had awoken, I heard a kind of clink as I turned a sharp corner on rocky pavement. The shaking from the proliferative potholes loosened my computer and off it flew, never to be found. My plans were erased and the comfort of control had been ripped away – I was completely on my own.
And that’s the thing – I always was. I thought I needed those numbers, that I needed an outside gauge of my performance, but it was always up to me and my mind. I had to find peace in discomfort and strength in exhaustion. Only through enjoying individual moments could I lay them end-to-end till I reached 100 miles. This meant listening to my body more deeply than I ever had before, backing off when it hurt, laying into pedals when I felt strong, eating when I was getting weak, drinking when I felt parched – these things are never consistent from ride to ride, so why did I ever think I could time them based on some arbitrary understanding of supposed-to’s? As the saying goes, planning is essential – plans are useless.
Each run, each ride, each asana – none are ever repeated. You can run the same route 1000 times, but you’ll never experience this lap ever again, and you never have before. This inquisitive “beginners mind” (treating each experience – no matter how monotonous – as new) can upend your world. It has led me to experience a kind of moving meditation, experiencing anew each time I head out atop two wheels or two feet.
The zen of endurance has brought love to my imperfection, acceptance to a life not quite what I want it to be, appreciation of doing and NOT doing, and muscular thighs (#ladypower). I’ll never win an ultramarathon, I’ll never set world records, but my body feels amazing and I feel happy and connected. What more could a Lady ask for?
Keep riding and finding yourself (always), Ladies!