Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Fun Factor


Peloton instructor, Matt Wilpers concludes every workout with the phrase, "Train hard, train smart, and always have fun." Peering back on more than four decades of work life, I ponder the fun factor. To me this encompasses concepts of enjoyment, creativity, interaction, questioning, challenge, and growth. These are key to making something fun from my perspective.

2013 Start - Wes Peck photo
2013, was the inaugural END-SURE, 50k event (Extreme North Dakota-Sandhills Ultra Run Experience). The starting temperature was -10 degrees F. It did not warm too much during that bright, sunny day. After 25 miles, I dropped out. The following year I completed 100k (62 miles) in much better conditions. After that I began working into being the director of the event. Over those years of unpredictable weather, expanded distance options
2022 Event
(25k, 50k, 100k, & 100 miles), numerous participants, COVID-19, dedicated volunteers, off course runners, and hours of no sleep my stint as director has concluded. In short, the fun factor has dwindled. 

I have been involved in various aspects of pastoral care for most of my vocational life. Small and large congregations, short-term interim duties, treatment center and general hospital chaplaincy, on-call crisis response for two rural counties, and specialized consulting have provided enjoyment, challenge, creativity, interaction, questioning, and growth. For the majority of those years, the fun factor has been relatively high. Sure it went up and down, but overall it was engaging. Moving into the final portion of life (as defined by our society), I am reevaluating the fun factor. I sense it is a natural part of life. I connect this pondering to the Eriksonian Developmental Stages. I am by those parameters in, "Ego Integrity vs. Despair." I am grateful for my past. Now, I want to continue exploring life.

Hike scene in Nevada

Writing has held an interest for decades. Whether it was for a class, a presentation, or a publication I have enjoyed painting a picture with words. When I write the text can be edited, word searched, and rearranged much easier than when I speak. I have not been comfortable reading a manuscript in public when I am meant to address and engage a group of people. Thus writing is more creative than speaking, as well as forgiving.

Runners from England

Being outside in all seasons, exploring numerous locations, and using a  variety of modes of movement increases my fun factor. Sounds, landscapes, colors, and even traffic captures my attention and imagination. Opportunities to both watch people, as well as interact with them provides stimulation and insight.  I would rather participate in an event then organize and direct one. Or volunteering and leaving the decisions to another increases the fun factor. I am also comfortable and oftentimes desire being by myself for numerous hours. 

Time has become a special and even a sacred commodity in my life. The ability to set my schedule and minimize interruptions is gaining greater enjoyment. Saying, "No." to the requests which come my way is empowering and freeing. The health conditions which my wife is experiencing provide many unknowns and disruptions. Those are enough in this segment of my life.

It is another part of my journey in life. There are many aspects outside of my control which remain unpredictable. I have no illusions that I can direct the events of my life. However, I can choose how to respond. For today and into the future my response is to maximize the fun factor!

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Uncomfortably Challenged

Ryan in the Grasslands
In about one year, my friend Ryan (pictured left) will be in Alaska participating in the Iditarod Trail Invitational. He will be traversing 350 miles on the sometimes marked, sometimes visible, and always challenging trail on his fat bike. He won entry into this event in a drawing of the divisional winners and runner ups in the Tuscobia Winter Ultra. He has been searching out maps, watching online for hints and helps from this year's event, contemplating gear needs, riding locally in the brutal winds and frigid temperatures, and connecting with past ITI participants to prepare himself for this ultra adventure. This may be the first time Ryan has gone into an event with so many unknowns. He is an experienced winter, ultra distance athlete. Yet this is a longer distance in a new location with unique weather patterns and copious amounts of barren wilderness. 

In two weeks, I will be directing my final March ultra event for Extreme North Dakota Racing. It appears that two younger ultra athletes will take leadership of the event in the future. Fresh eyes and fresh ideas are always welcomed! One of my many quirks (for this event in particular) is to mark the course well. I want it to follow the established North Country Trail. Following the Trail is relatively easy when there is little or no snow. In recent years that has not been the case. The trail becomes lost underneath months of snow. This
Blaze on Oak Leaf Loop
produces great anxiety within me. I obsess about making certain it is within a couple feet of the Trail. Maps, painted blazes on trees, and GPS tracking makes it feel easier. Yet I still get frustrated when I cannot accurately and with certainty be within my established margin of error. 

Which path to take?
Lately my greatest challenge has been accepting uncertainty. This is not about aging, retirement, vocation, finances, or health. It specifically relates to my wife. She has a progressive, degenerative disorder that affects every aspect of her being. I want to do the correct things, say honest and encouraging words, and provide freedom while at the same time maintaining a safe environment. It seems easy in theory, but extremely difficult in reality. Which is the correct path? What happens if I veer off course? How many people will be affected by my choices? i know the basics. I have faced challenge previously. For many reasons this challenge feels different. 

Current Read
Recently I began reading "The Comfort Crisis" by Micheal Easter. There were many reasons why this book attracted my attention. One was its recommendation by another blog I read. I was struck by the discussion of a Japanese practice called, "misogi." It has diverse spin-offs from its original concept. What captured my thoughts was the broad concept of challenges which crush an individual's perception of comfort. As a person takes risks and confronts fears, stress and discomfort rises. As that person accepts and moves into the midst of stress and discomfort, personal resilience and improved self-concept are part of the results This happens even if the challenge is not completed. New vision and expanded views of oneself and the world replace previous structures. 

I am in the process. I am not certain of the outcome. Attempting to keep my anxiety in check and moving along the unfamiliar and uncomfortable path is where I am at today. The journey continues!