“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” – Bill Watterson
The first Leadman event, the marathon run up and back down Mosquito pass, 13,185 feet, on June 14th, 2014, is quickly approaching! The butterflies in my stomach are prepping for flight; I can feel the warm up flutters. Often I wish I could just jump in time to the starting line of the marathon…let’s get this started! But before the Leadman marathon is the 19th annual Miwok, a 100k trail run up and down the fault line along the pacific coast. Miwok runner selection is by lottery, and I got lucky and received a ticket. This event was suggested by an ultra-running friend who completed Miwok as well as the Leadville 100 mile run and knew it as perfect training for the Leadville running series. The course located on the West coast just north of San Francisco startis at the Stinson Beach Community Center. The race includes ~12,000 cumulative vertical feet, optimally requires using trekking poles and its 62 miles take a typical ultra-trail runner up to 16 hours to complete. Miwok is also now one of only 6 qualifying events for the famous Western States 100 mile trail run, “the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race”, and another reason I feel fortunate to of received an entry.
But something feels strange….Miwok offers incredible vistas of the pacific ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge, has beautiful trail, is an exclusive event with limited slots, and is a destination run…all amazing qualities for a run that many would say should be the main event of the year. I even get to stay five nights in a beautiful little resort cottage on the coast, wow! Yet, I am strictly focused on pounding through Miwok as a training run in order to be better prepared for Leadville. Something is wrong here.
Sometimes it is so easy to focus on the future (or the past) and forget about the present. Sometimes it is easy to reflect on what we want and desire instead of what is, and to be mindful of the present. Maybe all this running and training is going to my head a bit, …bear with me. There is something about running down a trail that frees my mind, creating the perfect opportunity to clear my thoughts, reflect, and let things go. I often tell friends that God speaks to me while running because it is a time I can clear my head and in a meditative state embrace the challenges life has presented, pray about them, and work through the issues. I’m not distracted by the computer, phone, food, the TV, or anything else.
Running and biking often becomes a place of solitude, meditation and prayer. Granted the first several miles are not reflective of this, often involving time to warm up, some un-rhythmic breathing, a little pain and whining, and maybe a few stops to adjust, settle, recover and re-start. But once the body gets going and things are moving and grooving, time and distractions slip away and “flow” takes over. Flow, as noted in a documentary on happiness, is seen as a key trait in being happy. Some say flow is the key to a happy life. According to Wikipedia “flow” is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
Running and mountain biking are not as much a form of exercise for me now, but a way to achieve flow and a way of life. These physical activities clear my head, provide a framework for focus and meditation, and create opportunity for flow, which ultimately makes me happy. I can’t imagine putting forth the effort ultra-running and endurance mountain biking require without these, if you will allow, unintentional side effects, of meditation and flow. The thirst for flow and the happiness it brings is the reason I continue to seek new challenges, as it’s not just about sweating and getting miles. What does exercise mean to you? What does it do for you not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? Beginning to understand these influences might be how one transitions from being a random inconsistent participant to a lifelong athlete, or having regular exercise as a way of life, achieving flow and happiness.
Back to Miwok…. I have come to realize I have been too focused on Leadman and the associated 5 events. They will each come in their own time. Coach Jenny and the ever evolving training plan will ensure everything is on track for those events. I should stop counting the days and fretting about the events. The “Road to Leadman” will present itself one turn at a time over the next 3 ½ months all by itself. Worrying, being anxious and wishing to “get started already” robs the events of their beauty. I need to enjoy the waiting and the patience of the impending moments. The easy…and torturous training runs and rides, butterflies at the start lines, the pain on the trail, the exhilaration at the finishes, and the grand finale will all happen in the moment they are meant to happen. Until those moments are here I need to live in the present, be mindful of the “now” and appreciate the moment it presents. Miwok is going to be a beautiful and amazing event. I’m going to pause on a vista and soak up the ocean view embracing the wind, smells, sunshine and trail.
I’m not suggesting you need to do Leadman or Miwok to be happy, have flow, and embrace an athletic lifestyle. Everyone needs to reflect on where they are in life, what reality is, and what works for and is appropriate for you…learning to be mindful and understand reality. Maybe walks around the block would be an amazing accomplishment for you (my cousin Dale walked a ¼ mile a week ago and I am so proud of him!), allowing you to lose yourself in the beauty of the neighborhood, and get an appropriate amount of exercise and meditation. My father gets his flow from playing golf. My girlfriend loves P90X (version 3!). My brother goes for walks. Where is your flow waiting for you?
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller
Good luck out there.
Editors note – Check out the entire “Road to Leadman” Series: