Saturday, January 22, 2022

Birthday Presents

Almost start time
 I began my 67th birthday leaving Rice Lake, WI pulling a gear packed sled on a snowmobile trail. Seven hours later in Birchwood, WI, I decided to end my 160 mile adventure in the Tuscobia Winter Ultra. Little did I realize that awesome gifts awaited me. This winter ultra, its race directors, and I have a long relationship. I have volunteered, attempted 75 miles on bike (earlier version), completed 80 miles on foot, and attempted the 160 mile distance on foot. My completion rate is abysmal. My fulfillment rate is astronomical.

After the Covid-19 cancellation in 2020, I wanted the 2021 version to enhance my completion statistics, as well as my confidence. I began event specific training in August. This was not haphazard training. I was under the guidance of Kate Coward of Full Potential Performance Coaching. From her website, "You want to harness your full potential and like me, be your personal best...I believe most people will never know their full potential...I help athletes train their mind and muscle to reach new levels of performance." I knew Kate from previous winter ultras. She has been and continues to be successful in ultra endurance events in all seasons and disciplines, as well as in her vocational endeavors. Her personalized training plan and video conference support were excellent!

Kate + Ryan at start

You may wonder with the aforementioned training and experience, what happened? Without great detail or boring rationalizations, here is my perspective:

  • I was fearful of what was ahead. My pace was slower than expected. My perspiration was greater than I anticipated. The realization of frigid darkness (below 0 degrees F), sleep deprivation, trail conditions, and resting in a -20 degree F sleep system had me reevaluating my desire.
  • I had 20-25 miles to go before I would again find a place to get out of the elements (a bar along the trail). I would be placing myself and possibly others in jeopardy if I could not continue. Part of the event is making personally responsible choices.  
  • The time on trail allowed for contemplation not just physically, but on a deeply personal level. What was my motivation? Would completion provide the boost I believed I needed? Was I seeking to become something/someone or realizing more completely who I am and embracing that reality? How would I justify and cope with the embarrassment of stopping so soon? 

In making the phone calls to tell the race directors of my decision, as well as my friend, Ryan to come and pick me up I realized the event could continue to provide an experience. I offered myself and my vehicle to assist others who dropped from the event. Christ and Helen (race directors) eagerly accepted my offer. 

2022 began by cheering Ryan at the start of his 160 mile bike ride. (He won the event as the first person and first male in the bike division) Then I had the honor of escorting three unique individuals from their particular end points back to Rice Lake. Listening to the stories of their lives, this event, and their perspectives over the many miles back to Rice Lake was a tremendous and unexpected gift. In loading a bike into the van's cargo area and a rider (whose glasses unexpectedly broke) into the warmth of the passenger seat, Chris (race director patrolling the course on snowmobile) said to the biker, "This is Tim. You will never meet a nicer guy." I did not give his statement much attention as my focus was on the participant and her particular needs.

Not only did Ryan win the 160 mile bike category, but Kate came in as the first female on bike and second overall. (Kate is coaching Ryan, as well.) Ryan, in the drawing of the 3 category winners (160 on foot, bike, and ski) won an entry into the Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska. Following the notification of his prize, Christ sent this text to Ryan, "Congrats Ryan. We are especially stoked that you won the 160 and the ITI entry. You (and Tim B) really epitomize the kind of people and culture we hope to cultivate at Tuscobia. You are always respectful of others and the event, willing to help if needed and just seem to always be enjoying the experience!"

On the trail to Birchwood
I may not have reached my full potential as an athlete. Or maybe I reached it years ago and I am seeking to recapture something elusive? This is not a reflection on Kate's coaching capabilities. I believe my full potential is not in the realm of athletics. My skills and passions are in relational connections. I have success as a caring and compassionate person, providing who I am to others. In hearing that the race directors trust my skills and abilities to serve their event reinforces this snapshot of myself. My personal connection rate is much greater than my athletic completion rate. Priceless birthday presents were gifted to me as supremely as a winner's trophy. 

in the words of noted explorer Edmund Hillary, "I have found that long expeditions are rarely as much fun as short ones."