“The hay is in the barn,” said the legendary Adams State coach Joe Vigil (thanks Jeff). Time to rest and reward the body for it’s hard work. 11 months of building and focus. After so much physical and mental training, I am in much need of rest. I will probably not post any more training logs, as they will be puny and insignificant—short jogs around the neighborhood whose purpose is simply to remind the legs to turnover.
Instead, it seems appropriate to take this time to reflect on the last year. The 5am runs with Stubbs and Jay-Pop, the hundreds of thousands of vertical feet climbed over more or less 2,000 foot miles, the pushups and sit-ups and battles with The Beast. The small victories as well as the deflating moments. All the lessons learned.
It’s been pretty damn fun! Self-propulsion over beautiful landscapes with beautiful people. Not a bad way to be.
Will the training be enough? I’m not sure. As I mentioned in my last post, the odds are not necessarily in my favor (Hunger Games reference for Kelsea), but they weren’t for Katniss either. I mean, Cato was scary! Regardless, I know that I’ve put myself into a position where I have a shot—a chance to crest the final hill on the western edge of Leadville and in the distance, see the finish line. Will the hay be enough to get the horses through the winter? I sure hope so. I gave about as much as I could, and have little regret about how things went down. As long as I can be patient and rest the next few weeks, I’ll be ready.
Besides reflection on training, I once again am reminded of why I started this business in the first place—why would I choose to run 100 mountain miles?
It comes back to a simple question. For starters, let’s be clear: I’m not a big fan of life-mantras, quotes or pithy sayings that attempt to capture ones whole experience. Each of our lives is just too complex and different to be captured in a single quote.
However, even my aversion to sayings has exceptions. In my case, I’m always drawn-back to a quote that is less advice and answers and more a simple inquiry. It continues to resurface again and again.
My ol’ pal Cookie introduced me to the great poet, Mary Oliver. Ms. Oliver is an incredible purveyor of beautiful words and lines (see American Primitive, New and Selected Poems, House of Light, and others). One such line, in her poem The Summer Day, resonated deeply when I first read it over ten years ago. The timing was impeccable. I was a bit lost, wandering in search of purpose, place, meaning. The line goes like this:
“…Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
She’s not telling the reader how to live, how to find meaning or purpose. She is simply presenting the facts: we have one life; it is beautiful and precious; it is short. Presented these facts, what will you do about it? Knowing that you live but once and our time is short, how will you spend your days? No answers, just a question. Over the years I let this question bubble to the surface again and again, preferring to let it sit in my not-so-sub-conscious until an answer was either revealed, or as is usually the case, I let the question percolate until without notice, I am actually living into the answer.
In my search for meaning those ten years ago the Question presented itself when Cookie asked me to join him in a service trip to Honduras. I signed-up after the deadline, begged for donations, and five weeks later found myself on a rickety bus puttering into the Honduran outback.
Upon returning to school, I was sitting in an upper-level math class my senior year of college, and the Question whispered itself into my mind again. I packed up my books and sprinted for the door, changing all my courses to Theology and Justice and Peace Studies.
After graduation I began looking for work when the Question surfaced again. Three months later I was again on a bus, heading to Alamosa, Colorado and a two year stint with AmeriCorps. Within 15 minutes of being in Alamosa, I met Kelsea MacIlroy. What sparked our relationship, and continues to bring us closer, are conversations that continue to ask the Question. When thinking about getting married, the Question was there. When moving or seeking out new opportunities, the Question is there. Sometimes the answers are slow to come, or hard to decipher, or can be difficult to live into. Sometimes the answers are pretty damn clear.
When thinking about entering the Leadville 100, the Question was already there. It had been there for a few years. I lived into the answer that running in wild places is one thing that excites me, makes me feel alive. Life is whittled down to simple, primal needs and requires a deep focus of the mind and body. There is connection and clarity.
In the early morning hours of August 16th, 2014, I will line-up at the start line in downtown Leadville with 700 other brave souls. At precisely 4:00am, with so many friends and family watching, race founder,14-time finisher and all-around badass Ken Chlouber will raise the barrel of his 12-gauge shotgun into the air. Silently, looking West into the darkness of the Rocky Mountains, I’ll take a deep breath and smile. “What will you do with your One Wild and Precious Life?”
When the gun fires, the answer will be clear: