Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On Badassery...

What is Badassery?

Funny how the "Bad Ass" phrase gets tossed around by ultrarunner types. I've been seeing it a lot lately. Cat sent me a message to tell me she couldn't make my talk last night, she had a boot camp workout with her daughter and said "maybe it will make me as badass as you". Ha. She has a pretty bad ass herself, she doesn't need a boot camp class but she's doing it to be with her daughter.

Spoke at Runners' Roost last night and there was a good turnout despite the heavy downpour that happened just before 6 pm, but by the time we all left the store to go for the group run before my talk, the rain stopped. I showed my Badwater Double Slideshow, something I had to dust off. It's been 3 years since I ran it, and about a year since I last showed it to anyone. There were a lot of questions about Badwater, and I forgot how much interest that generates. I had planned to talk more specifically about ultras and preparing for them, but I let the questions guide the discussion instead. It worked out well.

I did want to talk more last night about the notion of Badassing it...people get so caught up in the achievement, the numbers, statistics, that they forget about the essence of the experience, and that is what I always want to convey. I ran across Death Valley to be a tiny dot in a landscape full of colorful rocks and stars. I wanted to be in that place, and traveling through it on foot, in those conditions, which make it that much more intense and enjoyable.

And really, it's not at all about being a bad ass.

Getting distracted by shiny objects like trophies, awards, and records takes the focus away from the real inner strength you develop as you push yourself past the limits you thought you possessed. I see it a lot, especially in young male ultrarunners, though women are also prone to this. The idolatry thing, getting all caught up in the eye-popping amazement at someone else's achievements, usually defined by some small number of hours and minutes it took the object of your mesmerization to finish a given course relative to your own finish, or by a large number of miles, vertical feet, or other statistic. Worshipping that person like they are some kind of superhuman, or a god, or some sort of divine being that you would kiss their feet should they even speak to you.

But just because someone possesses these characteristics or talents of speed, endurance, intelligence, determination, stubbornness, or luck doesn't mean their formula or anything they do will work for you. That includes shoes, gear, training plans, food, rituals, home life, you name it. Getting over the idolatry thing means you stop comparing yourself to others. Yes the people you worship are made of something different, AND YOU'RE MADE OF SOMETHING DIFFERENT TOO, that's up to you to discover on your own and it will be different from ANYONE else, that's a sure thing. But idolatry will only take the focus off of what you need to do to be your own best self.

Ultrarunners go through stages of self-discovery in which they develop and encourage badassery amongst themselves. It's like a rite of passage, testing your physical limits, and your mental limits. It's important to go through these phases because this is where you learn so much about yourself, and your potential. It's incredibly powerful and empowering. It delivers you from the idolatry phase to the self-actualization phase, where you are comfortable in your own skin and confident in what you can accomplish. This is where you become your own athlete. You pursue what appeals to you, and that is where you shine.

Someone asked me last night what I learned about myself in doing the ultras I have done, and I replied that I learned that if I set my mind to something that I decide to do, I can do anything. And the other side of that coin is that you can't fly by the seat of your pants, it takes a lot of learning, research, studying, and planning to do an endurance event.

Unfortunately along the way many new runners discover the number one rule of badassery: Stupidity always trumps badassery. So if you don't learn the lessons from the school of hard knocks, you will never make it, and might end up winning a Darwin Award along the way.

Or if you're like the Canadian guy who placed third at Hardrock this year, who got struck by lightning, shattering his headlamp on top of Handies Peak, you're just lucky enough to avoid the Darwin Award. Definitely deserves a nomination. That's not bad ass, that's stupid. The fact that he placed third doesn't make it okay. I'm glad he finished safely. But I also hope he realizes just how close he was to being dead.

My friend Kirk just finished his 20th Hardrock. That's considered badass. And Lisa Smith-Batchen just finished a quadruple crossing of Badwater. That's also considered badass. It's also something I would loved to have done, but financially I can't do it unless I made some pretty extreme sacrifices, which I'm unwilling to do. I know if wanted it bad enough, I would do it, but I guess I don't. I am happy with my road double. I'd love to just stay out there all summer and run as many roads in the park as I could and try to see everything.

But none of us who have become our own athletes do these things to be badass. That is the last thing on our minds. It's an inner effort, an inner challenge, but it contains so much positive energy and it's the essence of living, doing what you love the most. If that's badass, then I guess we're all guilty, all of us ultrarunners.

So in that sense, there's not nearly enough badassery going on. More people should find their inner badass. Finding what drives them, what they love the most, and pursuing it with their full dedication, passion, and energy.

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