Five, or so, years ago I had a chance to meet you but I had no idea who you were I passed on the training. Then someone gave me a copy of Extreme Alpinism and to be honest my first read was little more than a quick skim. Back then I was still looking for the "easy way" and while I did train, I had little direction. Last year I discovered Adventure Racing. It scared the shit out of me, because I think I had bought into the great lie, and bought into it whole-heartedly. No where near my childhood dreams. Now I find myself wanting to run to the mountains every weekend, wanting to scream, wanting to smash the image in the mirror, a dull reflection of what I did to myself. The hardest realization was that I had only to blame myself. I recently read "Twitching" for the first time. Since then I have read the essay four times. In high school I knew what KMFDM was. How gradual my assimalation has been. And how violent my deprogramming is turning out to be. Thanks for letting me finally put my finger on the feeling that has hautned me over the past year. I think your training program and training philosophy are what so many people are lacking in their lives.
I deployed to Iraq equipped with a shiny new Ipod and 6 months of last years workouts from the schedule loaded into my calender. I have only completed three weeks worth of training, but already I feel stronger than I have in a long time. And I love it. I finally see what it means to have fulfillment in training, not only in the end, but also the journey. I still find it hard to forget the goal oriented ways of the past, but I think that goals are needed to some degree.
One problem I have run into is a lack of people willing to train with me. Have you ever encountered this, maybe in your early years of training? "You're crazy!" "Yeah Right!!!" "Fuck that, today is back and bi day" How have you dealt with loneliness climbing, or even much less, day after day in the gym? And how do you really know when you are being truthful and not mind-fucking yourself when you are by yourself? And how do you do it safely?
I like racing. At first I just wanted to finish but, now I want more. I always want to do better. Better than myself, better than the guy that is beating me, better than everyone's expectations, even my own. Being in the military, people often ask me "Why would you pay to go run?" and to be honest it is this attitude that has held me back for years. Now I think I am ready.
Some e-mails are tough to answer so I put them off. They sit in the In-box. Every now and then the moment is right, or something.
First, thank you.
One of the reasons we started the gym (three of us, begged/borrowed and second-hand gear, free space) was because we were sick of being around those "back and bi" fuckers who were dragging us down. Being a little bit more fit than them was enough when we trained in their gym but that "little more fit" was still so far below our own potential we had to get out or stagnate. What a waste that time was. I was better when I trained alone, and when I was really good at ignoring others (got harder to do as aged). Time training alone always includes self-exploration, maybe even a spiritual component, and I think that's why we perform better or feel better or have better results when we do it: mind and body are thoughtfully engaged, together, at the same activity.
Which is another reason we started our own place: to include a level of psychological pressure we could not achieve in the globo-gym but that we had all experienced outside, away.
In a certain era the "loneliness", more precisely, the aloneness of soloing, or the long runs and ski tours done by myself fueled me. I thought I had found THE way to my own self-improvement and evolution. Then I shared a few experiences with climbing partners or training partners during which I surpassed myself, and bettered my own expectations. In retrospect I recognized that my partner had higher expectations of me than I did of myself and I automatically adjusted - upward. That being the case I knew I was the one holding me back. Alone, it's easy to develop a limiting self-image. We do and are what we believe we can do and be. Simple. The race, the partnership, the friend - all can drive us to higher levels of performance and (I hate to use the word for fear of it being misunderstood) spirituality. And once we overcome a particular self-image - no matter what the stimulus or influence was - we adjust to the new level and keep growing. There are still many, many good reasons to train alone. I just don't do it all of the time anymore.
On those days I try to build whatever safety there can be into the choice of activity or route. If the avalanche danger is high I go to the safe Nordic si track instead of going ski touring. If it's too warm to ski I take the fixed-gear bike out. If it's too foul altogether then it's the gym. I think safety is easy to come by when you truly believe that all training is aimed at a particular purpose: sport or work. And getting hurt training is about as stupid as it gets. Why would I risk getting hurt preparing to do the thing when an injury might prevent me from doing that thing altogether? Idiots for whom performance in the gym "matters" are the ones who get hurt training. I say don't win in training, win on the fucking day. Which might mean taking more rest than some other guys, or having the discipline to do the recovery workout when you need to even though they are going balls-to-the-wall around you and calling you a pussy for not joining them ... If you are in it for the long haul then what you do today or next week are one small, small part of the whole. It's consistent and appropriate stress that causes changes and progress, not the quantity of gut-wrenching, on-hands-and-knees-at-the-end workouts you do.
Take care, be smart.