Monday, August 10, 2015

That's Why: The Absence of Expectation

runners of all walks of life are often asked this one question by non-runners, which, while simple and only constructed of a few words, begs a thinking process tantamount to answering an Epistemology course exam question.   it's worse for ultrarunners as, to most pedestrian spectators, we're appearing to be half-assedly attempting suicide, or at least slightly deranged. 

"why do you run?"

simple, reasonable answers exist for this question.  
"i want to live longer."
"it is a perfect metaphor for self-improvement."
 "yoga is hard."

however,  few realize that the wide range of responses applicable to this question actually forms a bigger, more fundamental reason for why you run.  the problem is that this reason does not manifest itself through words but only appears as a mild sensation while you're running.  henceforth--the more tangible an answer becomes, the harder it is to put it into sentences.  

in this eleventy-bajillion part feature, I will attempt to put my spin into the runner's search for meaning.  as noted, the resulting draft of a runner's rambling manifesto will be guaranteed to DNF.  each post will connect to a previous post in some manner, forming a giant puzzle of indeterminate size and product.  however--i hope this sisyphean endeavor will help you find a more purposeful consciousness to your running regime.  enjoy.


if you've run with me before, you'll know I have a disdain for using Garmin watches.  i've committed myself to sticking with the notorious Fenix 2 because of all the money I sunk on it, but lately I've been using a friend's Fenix 3 while she recovers from a hip surgery.  unfortunately, that watch has not addressed a periodic freezing issue shared with the Fenix 2, which can sometimes make for mysteriously truncated run recordings with certain stupid-slow pace times.  

one of these freezes happened while I was on Rockwall this past weekend.  I was caught alone between a fast group and a straggler who cramped up bad coming down from Helmet Creek, and after abandoning him i was trying to get to the finish by 8.5h.  (i left course markings for him and there were hikers on the I wasn't actually abandoning him.)  I had roughly 14.6k to cover in 90mins, and I hit the stop button to take a piss with about 11k left to the car.  this was all it took to lock up the screen, and after squeezing my lemon I couldn't get the watch to start recording again.  


(I was running alone and needed to make sure bears in the valley were off the trail anyways.)

Helmet Creek runs east-west in a valley, and it was late in the afternoon so I decided to keep moving to make sure the sun did not completely set behind the mountains before I got to my car as I had no headlamp on me.  after a few minutes of running with no change to the screen, I decided to kick the software loader function and do a hard reset on the watch. 

the screen turns off, then the Garmin logo pops up............and decides to stay there for a total of 43ish minutes before the 'GPS is Ready' alert chimes.  

I never stopped moving in those 43ish minutes, but I just completely entered a different world while my watch was in limbo.  No clock to tell me the time.  No pace to tell me my speed.  No heart rate to tell me how hard I was running.  No distance and elevation to feed my Strava challenge-farming addiction.  No cadence to tell me how stupid my efficiency was.  No clue on how far I was to the cold beer in my car. 

No more data points for overanalyzing.  just me, the forest, maybe a bear or two somewhere in the distance, and the sound of a raging creek.  

my mind began to run as well.  in the absence of social constructs like civilization, and all the strings that come attached to it like your family, your job, your friends--why are you out here all by yourself?

having no numbers to overanalyze, I unconsciously set my heart rate back into a comfortable breathing pace as I had nothing to give a shit for.  the feeling of hurt in my legs was replaced by the sounds of the rushing water and the trail before me.  not a single fuck was given in those 43ish minutes except to keep moving.

I previously hypothesized that life comes to us inherently meaningless, and it is a human responsibility to make sure our lives have meaning through our designs on a personal identity.  I won't tell you what I thought during those 43ish minutes 'alone', but i learned that my other life--the one with all the numbers, Strava segments, the job that pays the bills, my real family, my secret family--that's not who I really am.  those things don't define who I truly am.

maybe if my watch was a bigger piece of shit, I could tell you what really makes up who I am.  but 43ish minutes is enough to make you figure out what you're not.  it's enough for you remember who you're not.  it's enough for you to remember where you came from but where you're not going.  

and maybe that's why we keep on running in circles or the same route over and over again--because once you do it enough times, eventually you'll figure out where you're actually going.

(so, moral of the story: don't buy a suunto; buy a garmin.  it will crap out on you and give you a chance to connect with your true self.) 

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