Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Thing About Sunrises

The thing about sunrises is that they only last a couple minutes. I feel compelled to stare, blinkless with breath sucked, so I can actively absorb the couple minutes. I guess the washing over, that feeling of renewal shouldn't last longer. I mean, there is a point when inspiration should spur action or create cleansing, but I'm greedy I suppose.

But then I rode my bike home from my workout this morning. When I looked to the right, the sunrise had faded; the light had churned against the sky from deep pink-orange against lavender to a brilliant gold. But when I looked to my left the mountains and the thick, uniform line of palms still reflected the deep orange. They glowed against the morning blue. And I thought, holy fucking shit, the sunrise lasts just minutes, but the reflection of it against things willing to reflect it lasts considerably longer. So, I kept looking at the mountains and the palm trees because the beauty lingered there. The sunrise had passed itself off; shared.

We, easily, reflect all things beautiful. We, easily, can pass on whatever good we have/know, right? It won't be lost if we do; there's always more. I don't really mean our lives are a reflection of how we conduct ourselves with sincere work -- I mean, they are! -- but that wasn't the slap of info I received this morning, on the bike. What I understood was that without effort we can absorb and reflect. We can emit and share anything good, without effort. We are mirrors of beauty. We reflect and pass it on. It lingers on us, from us.

So, the thing about sunrises, I learned, is that they last forever. Or until the sunset makes me feel all sentimental about something else.

I just finished the book Born to Run. The book is so multi-faceted that there are many reasons to love it. There were a couple facets specifically I found fascinating, but what I wanted to share -- and it’s probably a subject the author didn't explore enough because it's kinda mindblowing -- is the concept that love & compassion makes ultra athletes great. Love. Not just the love of running, though that is part of it, but this sort of undirected, unmanipulated joy. And that this feeling taps into our true instinct as humans and running can get you there because it too is an instinctual and natural act for humans. The Running Instinct is an interesting theory explored in book, but I was blown back by the pureness of how great runners self-clicked into this universal grove; a sort of latching onto a thread. The author dived deep for a minute, but kind of retreated, but still it made eye-opening sense to me in beyond-the-conscious-mind kind of way.

Last year, when I was more focused on cycling and spin, I imagined myself channeling Lance Armstrong when I hit the hardest parts of my workout. Corny, I know, but there is no other athlete who can power triumphantly through some rough shit. I think Lance could muscle his way to any kind of win or achievement, and when I would gasp for air in my measly hour spin class, I would picture his face powering up the Alps with unfathomable focus and mind-boggling determination. This would yank me through like I was on a pulley. But this year, all 5 days of this year, I wonder how much joy he feels when trying to drive a stake through his opponents' hearts. He might feel a lot, and Lord, I still love watching him do it, but I guess I more wonder if this is my personality. I wonder if powering through it brutally makes me miss something important about it all, or if the powering is a temporary response to trick our minds and bodies into survival and it can't be kept up because it is joyless, and probably not sustainable because of the joylessness, not to mention the physical limitations. There are not many things I admire more than determination, but looking back at my athletic history, I realize that I have never aspired to an at-all-costs level of determination and victory. I was really good at basketball because I loved to go the courts and shoot for hours. I loved the camaraderie (and shit talking) of pick up ball. I did love the cheers when I busted someone out. But the minute it was suggested that I buckle down and become great, to play on a team that would get me noticed, I secretly cringed. I made excuses. I fucked it off. The fun drained and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t go for it. Oddly, I look back and realize that though I was competitive, the desire to rip everyone else down to be first was never part of who I was. It made me uncomfortable. And until very recently, I thought this lack of killer desire was what made me a failure as an athlete, ultimately. I'm still sort of wading through my feelings about all of this, but this year I've decided to explore my deeply-buried runner instincts. What is that all about. I am seriously drawn to the whole idea. I have always been very attracted to the test of personal will, much more so than the intent to clobber an opponent. I do think, in general, that we are much tougher than we think we are and the idea that athletes push this to the limits in personal ways, moves me. I imagine myself now to be Scott Jurek who is featured a lot in Born to Run, and is quite possibly the greatest ultrarunner in the world. He is the example of the compassionate champion. He is a vegan, he doesn't own a car -- he and his wife commute by bike -- and though he has won most 100 miles races he has competed in, he has been known to stand at the finish line and cheer until the last runner comes across. He runs with joy and a gentle, but unshakable determination that matches Lance's ferocious one. I can only imagine how 50 miles or 100 miles breaks someone down to the most basic and instinctual sense of themselves. And for Scott, and many other runners profiled in Born to Run, it turns out to be joy and love. Jurek allows himself, through running, to be a mirror of all things good about the human spirit. I want to tap into this too; a sole physical endevor that connects collectively.

I took my regular spin class this morning. When the workout got hard, I didn't Lance my way through it. I didn't bully my mind. I didn't stop pushing, but I embraced the pain. I intended to love the hard push, and maybe I didn't gush for joy over it, but I was ok with it. It wasn't breaking me entirely so I intended to enjoy the process of the break-down/build-up. I used to believe that when I can simply break through the hard parts, the good things await especially the sense of accomplishment. I believe that a lot still, but I imagine that sometimes the good doesn't come at all in the end, and that, so obviously, the good is woven mostly in the doing and the pushing. We know this, right? Easy to forget in a way that any road less traveled is easily forgotten; the earnestness is a pain in the ass sometimes.

Here's a Charles Bukowski quote. This quote was an inspiration to a top ultramaratoner in Born to Run (who happens to be a woman):

"If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is."

So, back to sunrises. It's all a wonder, isn't it? The anticipation, the actual thing, the afterglow, the staying still and reflecting all that we dig up and hook on to everything else. My future running instincts didn't know so much was riding on them. But, here I go anyway.


Michael said...

YOU absorb and reflect. Thank you. :)

nola said...

I really like this conceptualization ... I'll have to think on it more.

Also appreciate the lack of desire to crush others - I so get that. As soon as I get to that point, I quit. And I am sure this is not a personality flaw, but don't know how else to conceptualize it in our competitive world. I don't want to be #1 - I want to be successful to me. And I'm not real fond of games with losers - regardless of whether I win or lose.

madness rivera said...

Thanks Michael. Happy New Year!

Y'know, nola, sometimes I have a very slippery grasp on what it is I'm feeling/saying about all of this. I know I know -- on a an instinct level - but on the surface sometimes I lose it. I'm thinking a lot more on it too. Also, I do like to win, but I don't mind not winning. But I really don't do anything any more where I'd "win" so, who cares! haha. Happy New Year, girl.

Jinxi said...

Wow! That was a beautiful post. Thank you so much for what you put out there! It is soaked up, enjoyed, and loved by so many!!

You make me smile!

Happy New Year.
xoxoxo, Jinxi

Kristin C. said...

heart bursting with inspired thoughts...thank you!

Don't Get Mad Get Vegan! said...

a thousand times yes.

Marigoldie said...

The channeling thing totally gets me through. I haven't focused on any one person but on champion athletes in general. Do it to it.

Anonymous said...

I love that quote. And I think you are on to something. That post had such a nice pay-off. Thanks for the time you spend creating great things to read.



Kellie said...

Madness, what a fantastic post and near to my heart. After 4 years of endurance events and so many people saying, "Kellie, you have so much potential." or, "Kellie, you have an upside." I always replied, "My desire is not to be at the top, my desire is to have fun and inspire." I have to admit passing guys in an Ironman on the run fells good but that is just "woman power :)" but never once do I pass someone or when someone passes me and not provide words of encouragement. It is about the comradeship. I have moved to ultras as the competition in Ironman has gotten me down. Too fierce and I miss the plain joy of being out on a race course with people that are there for the joy of the sport. So 2010...here we come...let the sunrise! Love ya Madness and thanks!

madness rivera said...

Thanks so much, my peoples.

Ug, Kellie - so glad you commented here because, really, if there is anyone I actually know who embodies what I'm trying to convey in this post, it's you. In every photo I've seen of you competing, you are smiling. Seriously, to this I aspire. Not to mention get my mileage up. HA. You have been my huge spark and unintentional coach for my running bug, and I'll be rooting for you during your 2010 ultra schedule from the trails. You are The Truth!

Michelle said...

This idea is something that is encapsulated so elegantly in another book I'm reading, "Marathon Training for Non-Runners." When the going gets tough, the (psychology professor) authors exhort you to "try easier," to tackle adversity joyfully rather than with grim determination. YES! "Try easier" is one of my new life mottoes for this year.

Seriously, I could talk about BtR for hours. I wish we could have a transcontinental book club meeting about it.

madness rivera said...

I love all your running book rec's. I have ChiRunning in the queue, and I'll def check this one out too.

And dude, let's talk about BtR, right here, since we don't have the great book club idea in the works yet. There were SO many things going on in the book, right? So, let's start with the top four things that have stayed with you. Here are mine:

1. When I'm running, I think A LOT about Easy, Light, Smooth, Fast because I love the idea that even if I only get easy then that's pretty damn great. I'm on easy, working on light.

2. Jenn Shelton. I think about her a lot for some reason. I loved her wildness and pureness, in a way.

3. The way Scott Jurek lives his life.

4. The barefoot concept. I tried on some Vibram FiveFinger things. The store didn't have my size and I'm not sure I could deal yet because I've been mainly running trails. I tried on the Nike Free but still didn't like it much. I told the sales guy, "It still feels like too much." He said, "Yea, it's still a shoe." haha. I have these Puma trailfox shoes that I wear to kick around in (I like the way they look) and they may be simple enough to work this concept of not correcting the foot. Still experimenting. I think I would run well in some Nike Rifts too thought the durability would probably suck ass. P.S. Micah True is on facebook. hahahahahhaa