Monday, January 26, 2009

Comfort in Being Alone

Oh just wait a minute...I don't mean being alone...alone away from my family. Comfort in being alone...while away. Yea, I know...deep stuff.

My time so far in Athens has been good. After picking up the 100-scratch Kia rental car from the Atlanta airport yesterday and driving 90min east to Athens, I finally got situated on the tiny Navy base embedded within the cool, small college town of Athens, the home of the University of Georgia. After a brief trip to the grocery store to pick up my staples (Kashi cereal/cheese crackers/bars, wheat bread, PB&J, bananas, a bag of tiny little oranges, and some apples) and some dinner, I crashed. I awoke without an alarm in the 4 o-clock hour and christened my new travel espresso pot and for a few minutes, it actually smelled like home as the Lavazza Blu espresso brewed. Ahhh....the sweet aroma of fresh-brewed espresso. With a college campus so close, I figured I'd have to head that way for a run since it would be well lit and plenty to look at in the early morning hours. I mapped out a course on USATF's website to figure up the mileage and time and hit the shorts and a short sleeve VR Training tech tee. (oh how quickly I forgot that when I awoke yesterday, it was 8F outside in Ohio!) With a meeting time, on the first day of class, of 8am, I grew very nervous when I was still at least 2 miles from the end at 7:02am. I picked up the pace and turned the last stretch into a tempo run. All I had with me was the image of the computer screen of the course in my head and a soggy hand-written turn-by-turn copy of the directions. Luckily, the class is a 5min walk from my room so I was still able to squeeze in a shower and still get my bowl of Kashi cereal for breakfast. I ended up with 7.8 miles in 1hr, 4min and felt like a million bucks.

Oh quickly I forget the subject of my post, that being one of comfort. I quickly discovered today that when outside of my comfort zone (ie: home with family, running the trails with friends), I quickly withdraw into my own very-alone world...much like the majority of my life has been. It's not depressing nor is it wrong. I find peace and comfort in dwelling on those things that bring me comfort, even in the absence of those things. For me, I found a movie to go see (Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino") and a local coffee shop to hang out at for awhile (Jittery Joe's...see pic on left). I had the chance to catch up on my final subscription to Marathon & Beyond. I found this quote's yet another way to frame how I pick the "next great thing" and also a way to simply live life:

"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people."
- Randy Pausch

I have found that when people who don't know me find out that I'm a runner, often ask if I've run a marathon. There was once a day where I wanted to let everyone know that "I'm a marathon runner!!!" Heck, I had a license plate frame to advertise it. Today, I almost don't even want to have the conversation. Once started, it's going to lead to my current schedule and my "crazy" endeavors. No one gets least total strangers don't...and there's no way in the world I'll be able to answer the question "Why?" so why even bother? I'd rather just run and not participate in the self-absorbed part of it all. Now wait a minute, don't go critiquing me for having a blog. That's not the point of my blog. If you've been around here for awhile, you know that. I think the ultra-running community is much the same way. Ultra-marathons aren't big on prize money (and most have none), not big on age groups, and are rarely glitzy and glamorous. They're more about the experience of the entire event, both personal and that with fellow runners and volunteers. It's a humble community, albeit a few, and this makes being a part of it even sweeter.

Happy Trails, everyone!


Clara said...

I like that quote a lot. You're right, I hate having the running conversation with other people...especially about the ultas and what not. I like to blog because it's like a support group and keeps me motivated...holds me accountable. Don't you worry!

Kim said...

Nick, sometime you and I need to sit down and have a 2 hour talk!
When this post ended, it seemed like it was only half-formed, I was waiting for the rest of the conversation!

I think, what is great, with the ultra community, is we don't have to talk about it. (Kind of reminds me of "Fight Club".) The other runners know what you mean. "Only a 50K" is not really an insult, but neither is it more than a good accomplishment on a given day. It's not extraordinary; heck at the BT50K there were 30+ other people, including sick you! that did better than me. But non-runners don't realize that. It's kind of *cool* that they are in such disbelief, but we're so out of their realm of understanding it is easier just not to mention it.

Jeff said...

I like that quote too. It's in his book The Last Lecture which I read not too long ago. I highly recommend reading it if you haven't and the whole lecture video is available on YouTube.

Nick Billock said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I no longer feel so "alone"!!! Ultra-runners, unite!