"I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.
- Douglas Adams
Perhaps no quote better personifies the journey that I've taken over the past few years. When this whole thing started, I would have scoffed at the idea of going to WTM even once, let alone a second time after the 2013 course beat me. After the event last year, I posted about how I had to learn to deal with my expectations
, and I'll readily admit that I was disappointed with my performance in 2013. Even with a built in excuse, I knew that I had been beaten by that course - in the same way that we can't really believe the lies that we tell others. Even if others believe those lies, we can't fool ourselves. I've had to live with my disappointment for a year, and I went into this year's WTM with a more open mind about my expectations. I wanted to be on the course for 24 hours, and I wanted to go as far as I could, but I didn't feel the need to go for 50 miles until it became clear that it was an achievable goal (barring injury, of course).
The key was to separate the physical and emotional elements of the event. Once I realized that these two things were distinct from each other and could be accounted for separately, I became more sanguine about being unable to complete the course because of physical limitations. More succinctly, I was willing to let an injury make me stop, but I was unwilling to let my mental state cause me to stop.
So, how was my performance in these two areas? Physically, I can honestly say that I felt strong the entire time. Some of the obstacles required strength that I might have lacked (e.g. getting up Everest would have been very difficult), but none of the penalty obstacles were overly frightening. That's not to say I was comfortable. The setting and obstacles were designed to create discomfort, and the rise of the sandstorm in the middle of the night only heightened this. However, at no point during the event did I feel physically unable to move forward.
That leaves the mental issues associated with the event. I think the closest I came to giving in was when we took our long pit stop around 11 pm when the storm hit. We agreed that we would take an hour to see if the windstorm would let up. I took this opportunity to get out of my shorty wetsuit and catch a quick nap. I think if my tent and/or sleeping bag had been more comfortable, I might not have been able to get back up. Having said that, though, I don't think that there was anything on the course itself that ever came close to breaking my spirit. The Cliff jump might have, if the penalty loop was less feasible as an option.
What does any of this have to do with Douglas Adams, ending up where I need to be, or to Life, the Universe & Everything, though? I started thinking about this journey drawing to a conclusion with WTM 2014 (not that this is the end, just that the "season" has finished), and I realized that this was a pretty epic way to spend my 42nd year on this earth. As anyone who is familiar with Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will know, the answer to "Life, the Universe & Everything" is 42. Which reminded me of the quite about ending up where you need to be. The big things in life - you know, the things that make real differences in our existence - are rarely within our control. We like to think that we guide our own destiny, but the reality is that we are usually along for the ride. We can enjoy that ride, and end up where we want to be, or we can fight against the direction that life takes us and end up complaining about not ending up where we want to be. I've come to the conclusion that I want to enjoy the ride...and so far, I've ended up where I think I need to be.
I know that this seems like a good place to conclude this post, but I think that it's actually more appropriate to conclude with another quote from Douglas Adams...a quote that is highly appropriate given WTM:
"The knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss"