If comparison is the thief of joy, why is it so thrilling to get a PR? If comparison is the thief of joy, why does finishing 3rd or 10th or 156th feel so good? You and I know that this classic phrase is true, but it’s more nuanced than it appears at first glance. Like stress, a certain level of comparison is healthy, but go a hair beyond that and it quickly turns toxic. Comparison used as a tool to assign value is the real culprit. In this context, comparison is not a mere pickpocket. No, it straight up kicks down the door, snatches your joy and then proceeds to flip your furniture, drown your electronics and smash the contents of your fridge on the floor just for fun, leaving a dangerous mess in its wake.
That feeling of reaching a summit, when those last few hundred feet of vertical struggle is over, there is a feeling of relief, humility, awe, gratitude, achievement – but it is brief, and after a few minutes, it’s time to turn around and go back the way you came. It’s not that the view gets old or that you don’t want to savor the moment, but the goal has been achieved and no matter where you sit, some pointy rock edge is jamming you in the ass – it gets cold and windy and chances are a storm will roll in before too long. Before the journey down the mountain is even over, you find yourself already craving another and reminiscing about the journey up, almost wishing you were still headed in that direction.
One of the main drivers behind my desire to run ultras is curiosity. Come to think of it, the main driver behind most everything I do is curiosity…
After reading Born to Run about 7 years ago, the book that introduced me to the concept of both trail running and ultra running, I became fascinated with the topic. I was living in Atlanta and ran mostly road, topping out at about 5 miles. I had no idea that I would move to Boulder or run ultras. By the time I decided to move out to Colorado, I was completely captivated by trail running and trail runners – I had visions of bumping into Scott Jurek every time I went for coffee and becoming BFFs. Well, I have run into him several times, but I’m pretty sure he just thinks I’m a creep… Turns out he’s not the only trail runner in this town and I’ve made a good few trail friends here, most of whom can confirm that I’m not a creep…
The other night I went to the Trails in Motion film festival, leading up to the Golden Gate Dirty 30 race that I’m running tomorrow. Featured in these films were a couple of local legends – Courtney Dauwalter and Clare Gallagher. More importantly, several films showcased athletes who may never podium, but who demonstrate an inspiring amount of heart, grit and perseverance, who put themselves in unique positions to experience both suffering and joy.
It’s no secret. I’ve been flailing.
Anyone close to me lately has seen the signs that I lost my way. I can’t stop thinking about my last blog post – although it contains many complete sentences, it feels completely incoherent. I’m leaving it up to demonstrate that sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on the right and positive things, to demonstrate my humanity. The funny thing is, that post took me forever to write and edit and write again, while this one is just flowing out of me. A sign that I’m on the right path.
This is the natural course of these big lessons in resistance. As the pace of change has quickened in my life, I have been resisting instead of remaining open and vulnerable. As a result, I’ve experienced a lot of darkness, confusion, grasping for control, the going down of rabbit holes and general overall emotional flailing. While my unconscious has been busy processing all the disruption in my life, my ego went hog wild, partying and breaking valuables. It’s not all that surprising, but while I was in it, I just knew I was miserable and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it. That’s when I remembered. I have a say in the matter.
When I was in high school, I was attracted to guys who were interested in having deep conversations about philosophy or economics or anything I was curious about, which was everything. The first and last to break me was one of those. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known and a true original thinker. I met him when I was his math tutor. He was crazy smart but didn’t care about proving it. He introduced me to the author Douglas Coupland and more specifically the book Life After God. I read it at least three times, reveling in the fact that someone could articulate with such sarcastic wit, the existential curiosity that lived within me.
Nobody wants to deal with any of these, but if you’re a human adult, you’ve certainly encountered all of these things and probably taken them a bit too personally a time or two. If you’re me, you have become intimately familiar with each one of them, like a trio of sister-wives.
The One Where She Ran
If you read my inaugural post, you may remember that I confessed to being too intimidated to join any of the RMR runs because it’s a large group of fast and furious runners that are much stronger and fitter than me. I promised that for every comment anyone made committing themselves to doing something they were afraid of, I would join one RMR run this year. Well, this week I attended the first one facing that all too familiar fear of “I’m not good enough”.
I’ve had a cold all week, where every day has felt worse than the last. I’ve been able to keep in good spirits, or at least make jokes, rather than focusing on my suffering. I’ve been spreading this li’l gem far and wide, as it pretty much sums up the last three days of my life.
Congratulations if you made it past that. And sorry, humans are gross.
I’m gonna need a new hydration vest.
On December 30th, I wrote that post on goals, fully intending to sign up for the Mount Hood 50k as my annual destination race. My schedule was coming together nicely… Continue reading Others get divorced and buy a Porsche