Thursday, April 28, 2011

Being Schooled (lessons learned)


Lesson 19: Looking back is looking forward

I've heard ultrarunning likened to banging one's head against a wall. It doesn't really make sense and most of us aren't totally clear exactly why we do it, but it feels so good when you finally stop. After the finish, I checked into the headquarters cabin and let them know I was done. I congratulated Jamshid on a great finish and headed over to the racer's cabin. Most everyone inside was asleep so I changed clothes in the dark, laid out my sleeping bag and crawled in. I don't think I've ever fallen to sleep quite so quickly in my life. I awoke about an hour later to relieve my bladder and then again after a few hours when Jill and Beat arrived. The remaining hours were spent in blissful slumber until the sun came up.

Bleary-eyed racers began to awake around the cabin and there was Hernan sitting up in one of the beds. We smiled in recognition and congratulations. Brief conversations were shared about the race, but it was clear everyone was still a bit out of it. Eventually, all but Jill, Beat and me headed out. We were waiting for word about Danni when the final racer, a skier, came into the cabin. She said she had spent some time with Danni and had seen her at Flathorn. Apparently, she had accepted a ride to the final checkpoint after deciding her race was over. We would have to wait around for a while to find out what the plan was for getting her out.

I was in no hurry. I felt good and, after putting on my warm jacket, was enjoying simply ambling around the area.  We ate a huge breakfast at the cafe and then I stood outside for a while thinking and reflecting. It seems disingenuous to call the experience "indescribable" after having written so many words about it. But, at the end of these epic events, it's always difficult to characterize the jumble of emotions I feel. In this case it was something like a deep sense of satisfaction coupled with a longing for more given all I'd learned. There was no grumbling or swearing off the race. My thoughts were filled with sled designs and better gear management, the desire for longer adventures and a sense of anticipation for the plans I had in the coming year. Clearly, these harsh lessons had not left me no wiser.

I imagine that anyone who has read this entire report (assuming such exists) is hoping that what I've ultimately learned has something to do with brevity and economy of language. I might say that I'll never write a report this long again, but I've said that before about shorter ones so I think my credibility on such matters is shot. Certainly, two months is a long time to take, but it has given me some insight into why I enjoy writing these. Obviously, a blog is not a private journal. Having an audience, for what feels like a personal indulgence, bears similarity to the reason for running races. It's motivation to finish. In writing, I get to put myself mentally back out there and hang onto the experience. However, if I never complete it, then I can't make the shift from reflection to anticipation. Planning the next big adventure is at least as satisfying as reliving the last.

Lesson 20: Always leave them smiling

There is no "Lesson 20".


Jill said...

Loved it. Thanks for taking the time to go into such depth and introspection on the experience. I agree it's a valuable exercise. And I have no problem with long race reports. After nearly two years I'm finally finishing up my Tour Divide race report, which turned out to be nearly 120,000 words (!!!) or about 350 normal book-sized pages. So you haven't won the "oversized race report" award just yet. ;-)

Eudemus said...

Thanks Jill. I'm really glad you enjoyed it. However, I think your Tour Divide book goes a bit beyond a simple "race report"