Colorado Trail "race" 2019
“Its the not the Destination, It's the journey.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
To sound cliche, this really is the truth. Measured by completing the Colorado Trail "race", this season was a complete and total failure. In reality, it was anything but. It was an experience that I will forever cherish and reflect on. Oh, and I will certainly be back to do the entire thing. No doubt. At this moment it will probably be an ITT (individual time trial) rather than the grand depart.
This race report is much less about the "race" and much more about the journey getting there. One could think of it as a journal entry where I will share my deeper thoughts and expose my inner fears and dreams as well as the resultant growth inherent to preparing for something as involved as the CTR.
Jenn and I had our first child, Alyssa, on October 6, 2014. When we learned that Jenn was pregnant with Aubrey boy oh boy was I scared. I simply could not answer the question "How in the hell will I be able to love Aubrey as much as I love Alyssa?". Guidance from my good friend John and two years of experience has made one thing very clear. Things that I once thought critical and important no longer come to mind. Things of little or limited value simply slide off the plate of conciseness and you move on. A lot of that happened in preparing for the Colorado Trail "race". The biggest thing that slide off for me was perfection. Life is complicated, messy and intricately woven with those you know and love. Rather than stress about getting everything written on paper accomplished for training I valued time with my girls, wife and friends. It is always an uncomfortable thing for me to let go of superficial things and instead focus on relationship. My default is to focus on the tangible and measurable first. Letting go of this "perfection" is a massive shift for me that is still uncomfortable. It probably always will be. I think it is for the better. Much as it is more important for me to focus on loving Aubrey as much as I love Alyssa, I need to focus on relationship and giving back more than having a manicured lawn, organized tax folders, polished financial plan and high nutrition diet.
pain, growth, joy
Anyone who has done something that is hard hits a low point of some kind. A period of darkness if you will. Questions of doubt like, "why am I doing this", "what is the purpose", "who really cares", "what benefit is there to this", "this is dumb", "why put myself through this pain", "this hurts, I should stop". It is these dark moments that build character and resolve in a person. It is also these dark moments that foster an environment for growth. It is hard because growth is an uncomfortable experience. Be it a child learning to walk or sprint intervals, growth is uncomfortable. Stay uncomfortable and embrace the process. Periods of growth will come and go weather sought or not. Embracing these uncomfortable periods allows one to maintain a state of joy and happiness. Be happy and grow.
I listen to a podcast called Farnam Street. I started listening to this and Art of Manliness primarily to gain knowledge to maybe better answer life questions Alyssa and Aubrey will inevitably throw my way. Time will tell if this is an effective approach....
One of the podcasts was with Jim Dethmer where they talk about leadership. In the podcast they discuss the 5 different ways people are motivated:
Fear, anger, rage
Extrinsic (rewards from other people)
Intrinsic (inner-rewards, make you feel good, sense of purpose, etc)
Play (literally child at play. Doing said thing is "fun")
Love (I "love" doing said thing)
I personally crack because I ride because of motivation from #1 and #2 above. These are shallow motivational factors that quickly fail. In periods of darkness the toxic nature of the fear and extrinsic motivation fill the mind and result in failure. For extrinsic motivation think of the pop star who "falls off" because they no longer have the fame they once did. Looks good for a while but then comes tumbling down in an epic way. Because of the CTR I have began a period of self reflection and become aware of the fact I feel a sense of reward seeing big numbers on my GPS, love to ride and am just happy because I LOVE to be at high altitude and pedaling without any sort of “requirements”. Obtaining a state of zen/flow is "where" I like to ride. Riding a bike without suspension makes sure you are there by the way. If you are not riding with zen/flow the rigid fork will remind you to get back to the task at hand. No letting the mind wander about anything other than the trail. The CTR made me realize I need to learn how to motivate my children and myself with #3 - #5 above and not #1 and #2 as I have been and probably always will. A new life goal for me is to squash fear and extrinsic motivation from my life. Both personally and in guiding Alyssa and Aubrey through life.
Jenn likes concerts and making other people happy. I like physical challenge. One need not know why. Simply accepting this and more importantly embracing it is how to promote one's unique way of expressing life's purpose. Gino Bartali poetically put it as:
Everyone in life has his own particular way of expressing life's purpose - the lawyer his eloquence, the painter his palette and the man of letters his pen from with the quick words of story flow. I have my bicycle.
This is where my CTr journey has landed. Exploring this space will continue. I need to "walk with my shadow", "tame my dragon" and explore what it means to take the "ugly" parts of myself and the situation and leverage them in a positive way. Put better than I could myself Richard Rohr writes:
This introduces the necessary suffering, “stumbling stones,” and failures that initiate you into the second half of life. Prophetic thinking is the capacity for healthy self-criticism, the ability to recognize your own dark side, as the prophets did for Israel. Without failure, suffering, and shadowboxing, most people (and most of religion) never move beyond narcissism and tribal thinking (egoism extended to the group). This has been most of human history up to now, which is why war has been the norm. But healthy self-criticism helps you realize you are not that good and neither is your group. It begins to break down either/or, dualistic thinking as you realize all things are both good and bad. This makes all idolatry, and all the delusions that go with it, impossible.
Maybe I will be wrong, but, I think my motivation shift from fear and extrinsic to intrinsic, play and love coupled with the realization of something other than "self promotion" will result in me being a better person for myself, Jenn, Alyssa, Aubrey and all of my friends. This has been my single greatest learning from the CTr. Self reflection to understand and tease out my "shodow" along with motivating in a non-toxic way.
Thanks for making it this far through my personal growth resultant of doing this thing called the Colorado Trail "race". It really has been wonderful and I would not change a single thing about this year's attempt. I am sure another attempt will be made. Might be a couple of years though ;-)
Enough rambling from me.....
Here are the photos I took on the first 1.5 days of bicycle cycle riding.