Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hiker Attempting

Records are made to be ignored.

Upon hearing the news that Josh Garrett pushed off to have a poke at setting a new Pacific Crest Trail speed record on June 10, I took a nap.

I'm in training after all, and if you're in training you keep to a schedule, or otherwise it's all wasted effort.

Effort. Man, that word gets used a bunch, doesn't it? It's getting so bad that whenever I hear someone say "effort" I just start yawning. Blame it on the training, or blame it on me, but that's what happens. Maybe I'm getting older, or maybe I'm getting wiser, or just maybe I'm approaching my peak fitness -- I don't know, but it must be one of those, and I think the answer is behind door number three.

You don't get to this level without planning, and planning is what I've been doing a lot of, because it's so effective at conserving energy. You could say that planning is the better part of valor, right after running away, but running away is way too much work for the payoff it provides, so I think I'll promote planning to the number one position and forget about running entirely.

Even the thought of running makes me and slide down in my chair and reach for the remote, which is always nearby since I learned that it's never too early to catch an old movie, and it's so relaxing.

In 2011, Scott Williamson set what is apparently the current PCT record of 64 days, 11 hours and 19 minutes, or 41 miles a day (66 km). Garrett will have to shove his way past that by doing about 42 miles a day (68 km). I expect he'll exhibit a fair bit of panting behavior while he's at it, skinny vegan or not, and no doubt he'll be looking at his watch a lot. Sounds like fertile ground for whipping up a case of carpal diem syndrome, which is like tennis elbow without the little white outfit, and affects only the watch-bearing wrist as it gets stressed through increasingly frantic attempts to grab more time out of the air.

I gave up on watches decades ago, about the time I realized that working was too much work. If you get up early enough to make it in by 8:00 a.m., they expect you to look busy for hours, and all too often they want to see what they call "results", other than your satisfaction and having spent a day worth living. Well, I eventually had enough of that, and dumped both the job and the watch, at about the same time, and it was a decent decision. Now I never get out of bed before I wake up. After that, I take what comes along. And I do some backpacking.

I too am contemplating a long hike, and a record attempt of my own, if I can get organized, which is why I did the planning and what got me into this training regime. Which is to say that my record will mean spending the longest stretch of time ever on my chosen trail, going the fewest miles per day it is humanly possible to do, or less, and avoiding towns and resupply points whenever possible. And the point of all this is to find those things that cannot be found. Some things have to come to you, and you never know what they may be until you find one of them crawling into your lap, or up your pants leg, or until you happen to look up and see one of them silently flapping by with a dead rat hanging beneath it, as happened this morning, right near where I live, which I never would have seen had I been killing my life by doing something productive.

In other words, there is nothing like waiting to stimulate the mind and invite random miracles. Most things are shy. Most animals, all plants, and the vast majority of experiences, which require a proper invitation and a show of respect before they tentatively come around to introduce themselves.

Another way of saying this is that you pass by anywhere only once, no matter where it is, even if it's your own doorstep, because each and every day and exactly all parts of that day are unique in themselves and will never be the same today as they were yesterday, or the same tomorrow again, which is why, for those of us who have tried this and that and some of the other, turning off the ignition and coasting to a stop brings rewards you can't find any other way.

After a while, after a stretch of stillness, after the novelty of anticipation wears off and you start to get bored, you begin to see what is actually happening. You understand that what you thought was only a smooth and undifferentiated background is actually not that, but an infinitely rich foreground, and all that rushing around and heavy breathing and shouting that is labeled "Urgent!" is only a collection of mere intermittent distractions that flicker briefly and then diminish to a distant tinny buzz before vanishing entirely.

Good luck, Josh. May all your trails be straight and free of roots, your days sunny and cool, and may you live long enough and well enough to reach your goals, to achieve everything you are reaching for, so you have time to return when you no longer care about that, when you can wander aimlessly inside infinite time, and be startled by what you realize is looking back at you from the forest.


Hiker Attempting Speed Record On Pacific Crest Trail While Raising Awareness For A Cause