In my last post (“The Art of Bipedal Travel”) I alluded to having a “project”. Now, climbers are well versed in the concept of projects: tackling a climb that is just out of reach of your current abilities and working on it consistently to eventually complete it over time. A project requires you to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses, to break a seemingly unsolvable problem down into smaller parts, each of which you rehearse over and over again until you are confident you can link them together in a single effort.
Recently this project-type approach has become very visible in trail running. Consider Kilian Jornet’s record breaking run on the Matterhorn or Anton Krupicka’s attempt at linking fourteen of Colorado’s peaks higher than 14,000 ft (4300 m) in 100 miles or so of extreme mountain running and scrambling. Jornet spent weeks camped at the foot of the Matterhorn, running up and down every day, learning everything there was to know about the route before eventually breaking Bruno Brunod’s record (3 hours and 14 minutes) by over 20 minutes. In a similar fashion, Krupicka spent a huge amount of time scouting lines between peaks, conditioning his body and his mind for a continuous push. Ultimately Krupicka failed in his attempt. To him though, not completing the route was not what was important, in a sense it wasn’t a failure at all, and that is what makes projects such a powerful and wonderful entity.
The rewards of a project are hidden in the process. It is the moments along the way that are the sweetest, the small victories: a more direct and rewarding line here, a PB on a big climb there, getting a spanking from the mountains and gaining perspective on your place in the big scheme of things– all these things and so much more. Projects are about discovery. You learn and grow, mastering yourself in the context of a physical and visceral challenge.
Projects are personal journeys. They can be big or small, as long as they are important to you. Not all of us can sprint up a huge mountain or run non-stop for several days, but we can all find an endeavour that takes us slightly beyond our comfort zone. Whether it is dipping under a certain time at your weekly 5 km time trial, or running up “that hill” without walking once, or completing a challenging mountain traverse; the key is that it forces you to work consistently and with focus. The goal is to emerge as a better person – regardless of if you were successful or not.
George Bernard Shaw said that life is not about finding yourself but about creating yourself. So I challenge you: find yourself a project (whatever it may be) and work at it. Seek, learn, analyse, improve, grow, create a better you.
As for my project…I’ll tell you about it next time.