Thursday, December 3, 2015

The GNJR: Seven Lessons Learned

Besides having lots of fun and fulfilling a long standing goal, I learned a number of lessons on this run. A few of them are less than earth shattering. A couple of them, however, are heavy, or at least that is how I see it. And one of them I am sure you have never heard before. On the Great Noxapater Journey Run, I learned:

  1. Coffee is important. The day I didn't have coffee, Day Two, was my toughest of the entire trip. I don't know that the absence of the bean was the full cause of my difficulties. I do believe it was a part of my lack of energy and inability to perform that day.
  2. You can run and walk over 100 miles in five days and not lose weight. I didn't set out to shed pounds. I did, however, expect to drop one or two along the way. But I ate heartily whenever I got the chance because I was hungry and didn't want to bonk out on the road.
  3. Closely related to number two is, you don't need the gazillion calories and tons of fluid everybody says you must have in order to do ultra-marathon distances. Yes, you need calories and fluid, but I have a definite stance on the Replenish vs Replace debate. In short, the Replace group says you must match calorie in for every calorie out and ounce for ounce on all the liquid lost through perspiration and respiration. They believe you must do this WHILE you complete your event or you are a novice and perform only at a fraction of your potential. That group, by the way, is represented primarily by people who are selling products to help you do exactly that. Smell it? Don't get me started here. I could go on for pages about all the hydration stuff alone. Let me just say, only certified sissies fall apart if they lose a few ounces of fluid that are not instantly replaced. In fact, much of the hydration mania that has dominated the headlines and literature for the past twenty-five years is not only unscientific (although it claims science), it is dangerous. A far greater risk than dehydration is hyponatremia (too much water, sometimes called water intoxication). 
  4. Confidence is overrated. Really. I feel sure I am the only person on earth who will say that. After my run, my son, Forrest, brought a book by Scott Jurek (if you don't know who he is, google him) to a family get-together. I picked it up and began to read. Almost instantly I came upon these words. "Racing ultras requires absolute confidence tempered with intense humility" (Eat and Run). He is, of course, talking about racing as opposed to just having fun like I was. But the point is, with a little effort, I could fill up a few hard drives with quotations and stories saying essentially the same thing. What I am about to say is anecdotal. But so is everything else you will ever read or hear about this subject. I attempted the Great Noxapater Journey Run in 2013 with 100% confidence I would complete day one. I had done a thirty-miler a few weeks earlier. How could I fail? Day two was the question in my mind at that time. How would my body respond the day ofter a long hard effort? To my utter shock and amazement, I failed on the very first day. No amount of belief or determination or toughness could have gotten me any farther down the road on the extremely painful stress fracture I had been struck by. Fast forward to 2015. I had 0% confidence I would even make the distance on the first day, much less the entire journey. I had developed symptoms of plantar fasciitus a few days before the run, and I was sure things would go from bad to worse. I made it. All. Five. Days. Throughout the journey, my confidence was like a Yo-Yo: up and down. My success was not dependent upon my confidence.
  5. If confidence is overrated, what is the essential quality, the one that is not overrated? My answer to that is audacity. More important than confidence is audacity, the willingness to face down your fears and do battle with them. I have done that and failed. I have done that and succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. If you have a dream, don't stupidly believe that confidence will conquer all. But do have the audacity to try. Be willing to fail. Be willing to fail again after you fail the first time. Remember the old adage, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Life is not for sissies, and great challenges are not for the faint of heart. Only cowards have to be filled with confidence to begin the quest. Confidence is for cowards; audacity is for achievers.
  6. Life is struggle. The old man at the cafe in Ackerman was right. Without struggle we don't fully live; we waste the gift God has placed in us; we cheat ourselves out of an essential part of our humanity. I think that is one of the reasons I feel compelled to set goals and train and fight to attain them. It's innate in the human condition. When our falleness and our environment separate us from this aspect of our DNA, we and those around us are the losers.
  7. Never forget the importance of faith. I don't mean faith in faith as is preached from many popular pulpits today. That, in my opinion, borders on witchcraft. I don't mean faith in self which is the same thing as confidence. I mean faith in a personal God whose will is not always clear and whose ways are often beyond our ability to discern. Sometimes He gives and sometimes He withholds great favors, and sometimes we know not the reason for the gift or the withholding. On the Great Noxapater Journey Run, He gave to me greatly, and for that I am thankful.