Friday, July 15, 2016
I recently read an endurance news article about “Why we do it” regarding this whole endurance riding business. The article talked about the spirit of adventure and what drives men (women of course included in the generic human term) to strive for great feats.
The famous quote about why climb Everest? Because it’s there.
The article suggested there are less flippant answers to the question of what drives us but included to fact that about as many people have accrued 1000 or more endurance miles as have climbed Everest and that fact intrigued me.
My regular readers might have noticed my blogs have become introspective recently. I’ve started to notice this myself.
There are a handful of reasons for this- many I don’t care to elaborate on but one factor is that July is the month the clock flips over. A new decade begins.
I’m turning 40.
Even if in my head I can say these numbers and dates are human inventions and the day before and after a birthday I will be the exact same person, somehow the significance still hangs on in a recessed corner that if I don’t at least acknowledge will continue to grow ignored until it becomes a monster.
When I approached 30 I made a commitment to run a marathon. I did finish a local marathon in a respectable time, and though I felt great about it I also thought “No one should do this too often! It will wreck havoc on my joints!”
About 18 months ago I made a decision to try to work up to a 100 mile endurance ride with my basically untrained horse ….
That timeline wasn’t set in stone but I had tentatively hoped it was possible.
After engaging seriously in the process I realize it’s not possible and that does not disappoint me because I know I am on the path to that goal and doing it in a responsible way to honor my horse and put the foundation in place to be successful. I’ve always thought big and I’ll take the time to do it right without regard to artificial deadlines.
Why do we do it?
Why do I do it?
In the 18 months I’ve been on the road to 100 I’ve been called reckless, selfish, fearless, brave, competitive, strong, a hero (I always feel like that is a stretch), driven, dedicated, confident, over-confident, capable, a dreamer, and others I can’t remember at the moment.
Are any of them true? Are they all true?
I spent some time in thought this week to ask myself:
Am I the only one who benefits from pursuing a personal goal like this? Is it a selfish pursuit? Have I been reckless? Am I confident and fearless?
I think of the interview with Dianna Nyad who swam from Cuba to FL. She relentlessly pursued that goal to prove to herself she could. She talked about the bigger picture of the team that makes it possible. That she couldn’t have done it without all the support in place and that the accomplishment was part of a team effort though there is only one swimmer.
That resonates with me deeply.
I am grateful constantly to my green to 100 team. I feel that support in every step I take toward the goal. I wonder sometimes why these people in my life invest in me so deeply? I don’t have a lot to give them- except my best effort and deep gratitude that I hope they always hear clearly from me.
My founding team is Sarah and Madison Wichers. They don’t even live locally but they’ve come to help me train, volunteer at rides to learn as much as possible to be able to crew for me as my mileage increases to more intense rides I will need help with. They are my first cheerleaders. They have believed in me from the start and their encouragement has sustained me more than once.
Susan came along to ride and learn and has brought family and friends on board to volunteer and crew, created a beautiful logo and team shirts, come to rides and has been by my side so the road is less lonely with her always positive spirit and eagerness to learn at least equal to mine.
My husband has never argued with the ride weekends away and watched my obsession with a new horse that I wanted to do things right with take often too much of my attention. Left behind with the house and dogs, he still showed up at the barn and helped unpack after a long weekend and made sure my truck and trailer were safe to go and thoughtfully gears me up at each Christmas and birthday. A passion he doesn’t truly understand but still gave love toward as much as he could.
My mother who reads my blogs and listens to my endless endurance chatter and knows me enough to send me a ‘Tevis dream box’ for my birthday with a card that entreated me to “never stop dreaming big and making goals and going after them“.
If I devoted a paragraph to everyone who has given something to me this far on this road I would lose my readers because this would go on forever. But I have to mention Madge who said “yes sounds like fun!” When I casually threw out needing a crew for the biltmore – my first 55. Carrington who has helped me with speed conditioning and always encouraged me while I was first training Khaleesi on my own as a greenie. Kate who has helped keep faygo on the trail allowing me to focus on my younger horse and even did a ride and tie with me last year. Laurie who has given me everything she has to use without asking a thing in return (from barn & boardingto buckets &butte). Tim who when here always sends me on the road with snacks and helped design a truck rack to haul panels.
Amy and Ricky who have taught me tons of hacks and crewed for me even when they had no ‘skin in the game’. Nathan who always lent a hand. My farrier who goes above and beyond at each visit to answer my questions and is patient even when Khaleesi is occasionally a handful. Dr. B who watches out for us at rides and always has a listening ear and complicated answers to my simple questions but always responds in kindness.
Lynne and Sally who have both become mentors to me in the sport and in life. Nette who was always there when I needed someone to get video so I could see what I’m doing wrong and always ready to have a glass of wine with the girls. Pam who gives generously of her time and knowledge to help me improve. Anette who always tells me she follows my progress and is my biggest fan. And that only comes short of the myriad of volunteers, vets and ride managers who put on these rides and get us through vet checks and helps us on our way.
All of this so I can ride 100 miles someday. And a feat that has been done before and will be done again. I am no Dianna Nyad.
But I thought more about this and there is something present in my personal often physical goals that I believe is central to who I am and does impact the world around me as well. At least I hope it is true.
Setting a large goal takes vision and then steps one after another in place dredging through the days you don’t feel like it and finding energy at times you don’t think you have any left.
In the same TED champion episode that includes the Nyad interview, an author said in all those people he studied who did big things there was something in common: they might have had a big end goal, but they focused intently on the small steps day to day. They are able to make the incremental steps that eventually makes the big goal come to fruition.
I believe there is a connection between physical, mental and emotional strength and toughness.
I have finally been able to start running again after a pulled muscle in April and I know an occasional hard run helps my mind and refocuses me. It pulls my emotional, physical and mental state into better balance. There is something about pushing harder than is comfortable physically that seems to help me find inner strength to do the things I don’t feel like in the rest of my world.
One accomplishment I am proud of is beginning a rural strings education program. It took some pretty big vision, the belief that I could fund it and the energy to inspire people to support it- then the day to day work of paper trails and grant reports and parent emails and meetings along with a myriad of other tasks to juggle along with teaching the students and trying to find new ways to encourage and inspire them to try. To do things they may not know yet they are capable of.
I do believe that my dedication to train for a marathon or to ride through snow and rain and heat, with a buddy or solo if need be… These things strengthen me to be more capable in other areas of my life.
I do not believe I am reckless or competitive as a rule. I only want to be my best at a ride and honor what my horse is capable of. And I have painstakingly done research and sought help where I saw others succeed to set myself up for the best possible chance for safety and success. I do the same with my music program- my growth is slow and built on building blocks I want to see in place before we expand. I have yet to ask something of my horse she and I were unprepared for.
Susan might have given me the highest compliment when she said of a very difficult 30 mile ride we had just completed strong: Jaime, I’ve heard people say this was really a difficult ride. But I can only say I felt 100% prepared for everything we encountered today and nothing seemed a challenge to me.
However, I have thought about how in some parts of life I can be fearless and brave- yet in retrospect realize other parts this is not true. In some things I have lived in fear. I have run away instead of taking on the challenge. I have not believed in myself and had no confidence.
Ironically chasing these big visions can become an escape from the parts of life that harbor the opposite me.
I have always believed our greatest strengths can be our greatest weaknesses. Maybe sometimes our strengths can also hide our weaknesses and allow them to linger longer than healthy.
I don’t always have the answers. And I can’t always control the world with my own perceived strength.
I also hope I can always be better. That is another facet of taking on a big challenge. To remind myself that I can learn and grow until I die. I want to be better every year. More balanced, more able to love and wiser in my decisions.
My 40s are upon me and I’m not afraid of growing older. I do not look on my past with either regret or a wish to return. I am always hopeful of a better future (my middle name is Hope actually- another gift from my mother) though my life has been full of fortune, joy and love already. I also know good times come and go and hard times are guaranteed. That is all part of life.
In the words of a song I think of often lately:
Keep the earth below my feet. For all my sweat, my blood runs weak. Let me learn from where I have been. Keep my eyes to serve my hands to learn.