SpongeBob Zen: Joshua Tree CRHT, 3/2/2013
“Take it easy, stay positive, and run your own race…”
I say this to myself as all the other runners disappear into the desert before me within the first two miles. The worst thing I could have possibly tried to do on Saturday was to try and match someone else’s pace or set an arbitrarily ambitious one for myself. But I must say, it is a difficult thing to sit back and know you’re getting left way behind.
Far more time was devoted to surfing prior to this event than to the training miles it properly required to be faster. I believe I logged a total of 40 miles of running over the course of the month and a half leading into it, which would have been a far more appropriate weekly training goal.
So “Runner!” was not the proper label to apply to myself for this one; I hiked every step of it, intentionally, from the beginning. To try and do more would’ve been foolish and I knew it. I also became genuinely curious about how my pace walking would compare with those that ran.
As people shared target times and goals, I was more than content to say mine was two hours longer than anyone else was projecting, basing my 12 hour goal on a reasonable hiking pace. Food and water were based on 12 hours as well; if I came in faster, it would only be a bonus and the spare fuel would be a safety margin.
As for the time spent out there, alone on my feet…
It was the desert. There was sun, sky, heat, and sand. Reminding the mind to accept its lot, to not protest the miles ahead. Fortunately, this came easy on this trip. I settled into a steady rhythm and genuinely enjoyed my time on the trail, slipping in and out of daydreams and my immediate environment. There is no other life- no campfire and food waiting at the other end, no rest, no beds…All that exists is what I am doing now. And when all the fits of the mind start to quiet, now is usually not that bad. In fact, it’s good. A long walking meditation, the great hike as a secular pilgrimage. A time to remember what you’ve forgotten, a time to remember nothing at all. Sometimes great distances and time spent alone strip us down to the barest of feelings, and other times they are less harsh, peeling away the layers gently and methodically.
The hiking strategy paid off as the mile markers shifted from the teens to twenties to thirties…I found myself coming out the other end quite fresh, trekking poles certainly aiding in the final climbs on the course.
Food and water were more than adequate, never a moment of concern or anxiety over rationing. I have found that when one is in the desert it is far more comfortable to finish with an extra liter than to wish you had more. Weight be damned.
I rolled into camp last, in the dark, but my body felt great. 38 miles, 11:54. I could’ve gone on out there a lot longer, especially after nightfall, as this is my favorite time to walk in the desert. I suspect that in order to have shaved a mere 1 to 2 minutes per mile off of my time I would’ve likely suffered greatly in the overall enjoyment of the trip. Which leads me to wonder about the experiences I seek and how much speed should have a place in them.
Spirits and energy still high, hooting and smiling when I arrived in camp, someone laughed and called me SpongeBob.
I’ll proudly own that.
Interestingly enough, going into this event I was somewhat anxious to get it over with, assuming it would be a bit of a sufferfest, a burden to be lifted off of my calendar and conscience. But given the relative comfort in which I finished, I’m now craving more, actually thinking about doing longer distances, something I thought I was swearing off. It feels good to feel good; at this moment this is a powerful motivation to want to train more.
Thanks to everyone for the good times. And Sandra for the shuttle!