Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Walking into the yoga studio at the Tahoe Yoga and Wellness Center is like walking into a room full of calm. The empty room feels slightly warm with leftover energy from the previous class. Bare feet connect softly with the smoothness of the bamboo floor, and yoga mats are quietly rolled out toward the center of the room. This is my favorite part of cross training, and an essential part of my taper. My yin yoga practice is the savasana (final meditation pose) to my season of training.
In Monday’s class I was struck by a number of comments from the instructor. These are the same remarks, more or less, that he makes in every class, but this time they seemed to me to hold a sharp relevance to the act of running a hundred miles.
In yin practice, the postures are very passive and held for several minutes at a time. Thus, it takes special effort to contain the mind, to keep it from wandering, to stay present. My teacher spoke of the freedom of presence. It struck me as odd at first that something so challenging—staying present—could hold freedom, until I realized that staying present simply means letting go of everything else—all the other cares, worries and responsibilities that are outside the current moment. That freedom was something I also found in the last, painful miles of my previous 100 mile run at TRT. It was a fearful way to discover how to appreciate the moment, which I’m certain is what made it so rewarding.
He also spoke of having acceptance, no judgment, and of simply acknowledging what is there and allowing it to be. These may not sound like important ideas for running, but I think they are critical to dealing with things like pain and fear—things I’m certain to encounter when running a hundred miles.
Last month, when I came crashing down on my ankle and everything else subsequently crashed down around me, I spent the long limp home doing some serious thinking. I thought about what was really important in my life, and asked myself what were the things I wanted most desperately. It turned out, running a bad-ass 100-miler wasn’t even on the list. It was a good dose of healthy perspective.
Sometimes though, it feels like the only thought on my brain for the past six months has been what will happen this Saturday. I realize this is in large part because it is much easier for me to focus my thoughts and actions on an attainable goal rather than on the more difficult questions of life.
So, as Saturday approaches, I am still asking myself what I want out of this experience. Why am I going to this race? Is it for a challenge? A sense of accomplishment? Always, I hold this sense within me of needing, wanting, pushing for something more. Something. Sometimes I think I know what that something is, and other times that’s the whole point—to figure it out. At least running is one something that I know how to do.
I’d like to take some lessons from the past year and focus a little less on the concrete goals contained in numbers—numbers that tell time, splits, pace, place. Numbers that tell good or bad. I’d like to focus a little more on the abstract this time around. I’d like to be present, without judgment or expectations. I’d like to accept my best effort for whatever it is. I’d like to experience the freedom of letting go of everything but the run itself. I’d like to channel the calmness of the yoga studio, to bring that meditative state to the trail and balance out the excessive motion of running—the perfect harmony of yin and yang.