Sunday, January 3, 2016

Getting There

They dance best who dance with desire.
Irving Layton

I usually begin a new year not by loading myself down with plans and resolutions but by trying to find a simple word or phrase that will help with the plans and resolutions I am sure to dream up over the next 12 months.
This year my phrase is going to be “Getting There.” As with last year’s choice, “Higher,” I chose it because it has several possible meanings and senses.
It can be a reassurance – almost a mantra – we offer ourselves out at mile 80 of Ironman that we are, in spite of all indications, slightly closer to the end than to the beginning. It is a calming understatement, no giver of false hope; it can be infinitely more useful than those well-meaning-but-misguided cheers of the marathon spectators who call out “You’re almost there!” when we still have 8 miles left to run.
My phrase can also be inspired by a larger thought: that getting there is half the fun. And this is actually the way I want to try to slant this. I have always been a setter of goals, and goal setting has been responsible for most of the athletic adventures that have enriched my life and kept me sane over the past 30 years. But I believe it is also possible that in keeping my eyes on the forest, I sometimes lose sight of the trees.
When I was running in Death Valley last fall (pictured above), I had no idea whether I would be able to survive in the unforgiving desert for ten minutes or three hours. My only real goal was … well … to run in Death Valley. And run I did; I found myself cherishing every stride. I let the stark landscape and the silent distant mountains surround me, and the hot dry air infuse me, and I was truly sorry when I got to the end of my planned 18 miles.
Afterwards it occurred to me that I could do with a bit more Zen and fewer long-term goals in my outings. To run as though each step is the only one that exists. To enjoy the synergy of working muscles and joints; of watching the road pass under me; of moving myself across the earth.
 My chosen phrase this year means that I will look at a run or a ride not just as a path to a goal but as an end in itself. A training run will not just be hay in the barn for some future event; it will be a chance to remind myself of why I love what I am doing. Or for that matter, why I hate it, if that’s what I’m feeling at the time. This will be work for me, as living in the moment is not my natural style. I am a planner, a breaker of projects into phases and tasks and subtasks. I am always looking towards the goal.
I need to remind myself that finishing a race may start with a dream, but there is a whole lot of running or cycling between the dream and the finish line. If I don’t take time to notice the experience while I'm experiencing it, what on earth am I doing out there?
There are many paths. Choose one.
I haven’t set a lot of athletic goals for the coming year. Rather I am going to choose some paths and see where they lead. I am going to let my training drive my events rather than the other way around. If I feel up to running an ultra by the fall, I’ll do one. If not, I will have had a lot of good long runs in the meantime.

I will search for sensual and mindful value in the doing as well as in the achieving. I will make the journey my goal. The end of the journey will be the dividend.