Friday, January 11, 2008

I have just finished reading No Shortcuts to the Top; Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks by the American climber Ed Viesturs. I love climbing books. I'm not sure what the pull is as I am not a big mountain climber. I have tackled huge physical and mental challenges in my life, but none of them put me out of reach of the daily lifeline like high altitude climbing does. I'm fascinated by the all consuming passion to get to the top, the drive, teamwork and organization that defines an expedition and the dreams that are fulfilled literally one step at a time.

As an athlete, and as one who has been pursuing dreams and goals for over 20 years, I relate to the all consuming passion to climb, for while I have never been the most obsessed runner out there, my life has been running and training for almost as long as I can remember. When I hit 40 last April, I thought that maybe some magic age-related psychology would kick in and that I would start to feel less passion. Maybe I could kick back a bit, eat more potato chips and drink more wine. All that happened is that as time has gone by, and as my children Maia and Ross have appeared and added a dimension to my life that didn't exist before, old dreams have faded into becoming a part of my history. Whereas there was a time that I obsessed about making the Olympics, I now understand that this one goal will not happen and I have gently let it go. So now, at 40, I took a month off after New York City Marathon and was soon training again, building a foundation for another year of racing.

As an elite athlete, the pursuit of high performance racing goals has to naturally run it's course. While I still won races outright in 2007, this year, I have my sights set on not only crossing the finish line first, but having some fun competing within the masters category in which I now find myself. Some athletes find the desire to compete wanes once they can't run as fast as they did when they were 26, or when they stop consistently winning races. When I look forward to 2008 and consider some of the races that I can include in my calendar, I get excited.

My life long dream has been to be a runner and triathlete. I embraced fitness, health, racing and goal setting at a very early age and most of the decisions in my life revolved around these passions. Fortunately, running and triathlon have no age date on them. Competitive spirit and goal orientedness are character defining attributes, and ones that probably become more refined as we mature. I lived my dream yesterday when I went for a 30 minute easy run along Lochside Trail in the pouring rain. I lived my dream when I took off for an hour into the canyon behind the resort in Mexico where I was vacationing with my family. I ran along dusty tracks where huge green cactus sprouted up around me and Vultures soared overhead on their vast black wings. As I ran to the top of one hill I felt compelled to stop for a moment and look back to the ocean that stretched fuzzy and blue far in the distance. I could feel the heat and the dry air and, because I had stopped, I saw the most amazing insect with iridescent blue-turquoise wings and curly black antennae. Taking a deep breath, that moment defined my life as a runner at least as much as the Olympic Trials in 2004.

While many dreams are tangible and linked to specific goals, like climbing Everest or competing in Hawaii Ironman, dreams are also the way we have chosen to live our most fulfilling lives. The dream IS the joy of doing what you love everyday and finding personal meaning there.