Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dominate Adversity

Everyone faces adversity in certain points in their lives.  Sometimes it can be a very dramatic life-or-death situation and other times it may not even register as a significant event in the moment.  I love stories of people overcoming adversity.  People who in the face of overwhelming duress, find the fortitude to stay committed to a course of action or a goal and in the end are triumphant because of the immense mental strength and fortitude it took to persevere.

Amy Palmiero-Winters running at Badwater last year just 10 days after completing WS 100

This is probably also part of the draw for me to continue to push the envelope with running ultramarathons and seeking out challenging physical circumstances and situations that require mental stamina.  I always seek to push myself to that moment where physically things are becoming very uncomfortable and mentally there is a decision to make regarding the current adversity.  Do I fold or does my mind, body, and soul go beyond previous limitations and soar to new heights?

I had plenty of chances to cave after running hard early in this 50 miler

I watched the movie 127 hours for the first time this week.  I never read the book and I saw limited coverage of Aron Ralston’s story when it actually took place in 2003, although I was aware of the general particulars of his story.  Uh, wow!  Of course it is completely hardcore to cut-off one’s own arm under any circumstances.  I think we all would like to think that in a similar scenario we would have the tenacity and pure guts to do what Aron did.  I do not believe that kind of resolve is very common at all.  From the very beginning he took a very measured approach to his situation and kept recalculating his options all along the way.  Of course he did have a number of freak-out moments.  Who would not in this situation?  127 hours is a long time to be alone with your thoughts under this kind of duress. 

I have not read the book yet, but James Franco did a great job in a fantastic adaptation.

As a thrill-seeker, I found myself relating to Aron’s sense of wonder and adventure about the natural world.  I have scurried about my apartment in very similar fashion grabbing this and that while packing for an impromptu adventure on the weekend.  I love taking pictures of these adventures from unique perspectives.  Stuff you do not get to see if you are couch-bound.  I hope I never am in a similar situation where my life is on the line, but if it is, I would like to think I would have the courage to persevere as Aron did.

Being at the right place at the right time is no accident.  Explore your world!

Adversity and courage come in many different shapes and sizes.  Lisa Smith-Batchen running on a broken foot for over 1,200 miles of her 2,500 mile journey across the United States last summer was an incredible display of tenacity.  This picture of her finishing in her home town in Idaho last summer still gives me goose bumps every time I see it as I absorb the depth of her commitment to her cause and the mental strength it took to endure and overcome every physical barrier along the way.    

This pic was in my last post as well.  I take much inspiration from what it represents.

People we bump into during our everyday comings and goings are facing struggles we will never be aware of.  I use my local Starbuck’s as my home office away from home.  Sometimes it is good to have a change of scenery and people watch while working on my laptop.  There are lots of regulars I have come to know and the staff at MY Starbuck’s is great.  Cool people all with amazing tales to tell themselves.  Do you know how sometimes you meet people that emit this great energy and light?  One of the barista’s at this store is just such a person.  Her lightness of spirit and general joy is unmistakable.  Over the past few years we have become good friends.  She is also the mother of 3 very young boys.  About a month ago, Trish confided in me that she had a degenerative ocular disease that was going to leave her blind within a short number of years.  She had to consider various paths of treatment including intense chemotherapy.  Through it all she remained her usual vivacious self.  Ultimately she decided not to take the path of no-return involving chemotherapy.  By choosing this path she knew the odds were pretty good she would end up legally blind unable to see her children as they grew up.

This pic tells you all you need to know about Trish's attitude in life.

I have battles of my own.  None are life and death thankfully.  Currently my Achille’s tendon has been bothering me pretty badly.  After lots of ice and rest the last few days, it felt pretty good this evening as I headed out the door for a very gently run.  I planned on doing about 7 miles very easy.  2.5 miles in and it started to feel a bit tweaky so I shut things down.  I turned for home, cut the pace to almost nothing, and resolved myself to enjoying a brisk walk home in the fading daylight of a beautiful day. Put in the proper perspective, all is good in my world.

It was a beautiful evening just to be out last night.

I thought about Aron and Lisa as I walked home tonight and the strength of character and courage they and people like them display in these scenarios.  Now I am not about to tell you that I found the courage to finish my run strong tonight.    I did walk it in the rest of the way home.  But an amazing thing happened in the last couple hundred yards of my journey tonight.  As I approach my apartment Trish the barista comes bounding across the parking lot of the grocery store next door from out of no where.  “I am not going blind!”  she proclaims.  A miracle!  Alternative treatment options worked and she was given a new diagnosis that she no longer has the degenerative condition that was going to rob her of seeing her boys grow into young men.  I have no doubt that if she had gone blind she would not have changed a bit.  Her spirit and joy for life would have persevered through it all. 

The adversities and stories of triumph of others always remind us that no matter how difficult our own circumstances are there is always someone who was dealt a worse hand and was able to persevere.  Remember, when things are at their very worst and the storm clouds are the darkest, you must keep going.  It is beautiful on the other side! If you quit you will never get to experience that break through moment of pure joy and bliss.  Ironically, the break through moment for Aron came when he broke his arm so he could get on to the business of cutting off his already dead arm and get on with his life!

I cannot do a post about courage and not include an image from my favorite movie.

Will you be ready to act when the moment of truth comes for you?  Will you have the courage to seize the moment and break through?  I wish you all strength and courage for all of these moments of your life.  This world needs more Aron’s, Lisa’s, and Trish’s to inspire us.