Monday, November 9, 2015

Those Last Miles - The Transformation

Rio Del Lago 100 - Horseshoe Bar Aid Station
Mile 87
I was recently volunteering at The Rio Del Lago 100 Miler and everything was business. A wave of runners had come through our aid station and every volunteer was on point filling bottles, ladling soup, restocking the table or rummaging through bins for band-aids or other random items. Every runner was diligently being taken care of. After sending a runner off with a breakfast burrito and a full pack, I turned to walk back to the warmest part of the tent. My toes were numb and frozen. I glanced off to the side of the cooking area where a lone runner sat, eyes fixated blankly out into the darkness beyond the tent. 

Something in me connected with him.

The distant stare of an ultrarunner who has just arrived at mile 87 is profound. Fatigue and determination have stripped them raw by that point. They peer into nothingness with an intensity that is indescribable. Maybe they are surveying the miles of wreckage inflicted on their body or game planning on how to cope with a sour stomach. Maybe they are fighting sleep, or trying to calculate distance and pace for that final push. Maybe they are lamenting lost time on the trail. It's possible at that point, their mind could be completely shut off to the outside world and oblivion has taken hold and burrowed itself deep. Whatever it is, they are without a doubt feeling every blister, every chafe, every ache and throb with piercing insight. You learn a lot about your body after 87 miles. You also learn the depth of your mental substance. Mile 87 is close enough to the finish line that it is more than just a glimmer of hope, but far enough away that it can feel hopeless.

Horseshoe Bar - Mile 87
There's a transformation that takes place in those last few miles. Subtle changes that sneak up on us months later or revelations that happen the moment we receive that buckle. Many of us have crossed over the finish line of our first 100 miler to be born on the other side a new human.

Hmmmmmm. Funny how sport has a way of teaching us about life.

The last 10 years have been quite a ride for me. I've been changing and transforming for sure. I have undoubtedly evolved. A conscious effort on my part to see life as a gift and not just something to endure and survive.

I wouldn't say I'm a better person. I'm still learning to connect with people, even those closest to me. I still have judgements. I still carry shit on my shoulders. I'm not perfect. But my goal isn't to be a better person, or a more perfect person. I'm working towards embracing who I am at the core. I'm learning to embrace being human. 

I've been given an undetermined amount of years, which can expire at any time, to feel life on this earth. FEEL life on this earth. That's not feeling what its like to own a nice car, or a big house, or to have a great job, or build a career, or to have saved for my retirement. That's not feeling what its like to impress others or make them happy. That's not about feeling what its like to live within the lines of society, to follow all the rules, to do things because it's good, or right, or just because that's what I've been taught.

I want to know what it is to feel genuine life, connection, and love in all it's forms. From the inside. Good, bad, sad or happy.

That's my goal. Cuz when this life is drawing near it's end I don't want to feel like it was wasted.

So I've spent the last 10 years chiseling large cracks in the protective shell that was built around me from my childhood influences and society in general. I've exposed a fissure looking into a red and raw part of myself that I have accepted and am learning to love, even with all her flaws. 

Although I don't feel as though I'm quite at mile 87 yet, I'm beginning to feel every blister and chafe now. It's becoming more painful the further I go, but I will embrace it because I'm learning what it's like to FEEL ALIVE.
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1 comment:

  1. Great post! Oddly enough, I just read an article on Ann Trason where she also makes a comparison to life and doing an ultra, though in the opposite direction (life informing ultras vs. ultras informing life): http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2015/10/inspiration/i-won-the-western-states-100-mile-endurance-run-14-times_47646

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