I've been finding inspiration all around me. In this case, for personal athletic endeavors. It comes lately from two very distinct and divergent directions.
On trips I'm guiding, especially the recent spate of Whitney Winter Expeditions, I'm taking people well beyond their comfort zones. They rise to the occasion in an unfamiliar, strenuous and difficult environment. These folks are digging deep, going "all in", going balls-to-the-wall if you will. Incidentally, only such euphemisms seem to adequately describe the phenomenon I'm talking about. These clients I climb and ski with give themselves a rare combination of opportunity, motivation, and oversight that allows them to express their full potential. They have dreamed of the trip, accepted the challenge, given up hard-earned dollars and time off, trained as best they know how, and then put themselves in the care of a professional.
Climbing mountains is brutally physical, especially for the inexperienced. It is also very insecure feeling for the uninitiated. As a guide, I can do very little to mitigate the absolute volume of work required. Nor can I fully alleviate any of the insecurities and uncertainties associated. I can, however, provide a true and valuable margin of safety for climbers pushing their limits. These folks end up faced with a significant personal challenge and the peace of mind that they can give themselves fully to that challenge. The result is inspirational athletic performance after inspirational performance. I get to see clients regularly surpass anything they ever expected they could do. It's rarely "pretty" and always enlightening. I envy and respect these performances in the mountains- doing that which is difficult and uncertain and unexpected, and doing it with precious little prior experience.
As mentioned, I recently completed a binge of Mount Whitney trips. Specifically, 5 4-day trips in about 6 weeks spanning March and April. As I came up for air at the end of that period, jonesing for my own adventure, I thought I wanted what my clients had. I thought I wanted to similarly work myself. However, I soon had the opportunity to watch our friend Jeff Kozak express a totally different kind of inspiring athletic accomplishment. Annie volunteered to run an aid station at the Bishop High Sierra Ultramarathon and I got to help out. Jeff holds the record for the 50 mile course, runs like its his job, and came cruising through mile 26 this year way ahead of the pack. He was clean, fresh, lightly laden and knew exactly what he had to do. Despite "not feeling it", Jeff held his lead, won the race, and was sitting around at the end drinking beer and looking clean and fresh and on top of his game. He puts monumental and directed effort into his training. He has years and miles of experience plus a careful approach to planning that allow him to express the potential of his training and running predisposition. Folks at the back of the pack in the same race looked far more haggard and frantic, and had far more stuff hanging from their packs and bodies. And they still didn't win.
I wanted to be like Jeff- top of my game, smooth and in control but still performing at a high level, doing something difficult and doing it very very well. With inspiration from these two different angles, I made myself the time for a grand adventure and went and did something difficult. Maybe I'll tell you about it...