March 23, 2013
Race Report - Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco 2013
I believe in shamanism.
I believe our world is not only the sum of its physical parts; that there exists a spirit world in and around us. We are not solely amazing flesh machines, we are also animated by a spirit, an unseen force and a presence that defines not only ourselves but everything else in the universe.
I spent the last couple years discovering my body. But what started out as a pretty straightforward plan to improve my health and my physical fitness has transformed into an amazing journey of discovering the marvels of my capabilities and the ones of others. Helped and inspired by fellow adventurers from all shapes and types, I’ve experienced moments of indescribable grace at the very edge of complete exhaustion, mere instants from rebirthing with a renewed will and an energy that can only be explained by some unseen source, by something more than what the sum of my body cells can achieve. I embarked on the journey of mind over matter; I entered the spiritual realm of endurance running.
While I was exploring this new path, I also started experiencing the world in a different way. I started connecting with others in a manner that is as hard to understand as it is to describe. Moments of grace at the brink of unbearable fatigue and pain create an invisible, unbreakable bond between those who share them, something akin to instantly becoming soul brothers and sisters. I have the privilege of sharing such bonds with numerous extraordinary people, and they have made me richer than I could ever have imagined.
Last year, one of these bonds was broken. It was a powerful one, too, and its severance hurt me in ways I cannot put into words. I had just spent a little over a month with Micah, I was not even completely back, mentally, from the Canyons when I learned he was gone. It broke my soul.
In the following days, I went to see my Medicine Woman. At least that’s what I call her. The papers on her wall say “osteopath”, “chiropractor” and many other things, but I know who she is. As I entered her little office and started my treatment, she gave me the strangest of looks.
“Parts of your soul are missing.”
I broke down. Unable to speak, I tried to mumble an explanation of what had happened, but she stopped me. She didn’t need it. She treated my body, that day, but she also started treating my spirit. She explained, and demonstrated, that these connections I described not only exist, but last forever. She comforted me in showing complete understanding of what I was going through, and she guided me on a path to realizing that the only thing that matters in life is connection.
This connection, this strange bond that I first observed in my ultra running experiences, is what makes us true humans. And it has become for me an objective, a guide for living the rest of my life.
I traveled down to the Canyons in February, just like I did last year. Only this time, I had to deal with the fact that I would not stumble on my friend, catch up to what our lives had been since we were last together and go for a beautiful long run in the Barrancas.
I am grateful for the long days spent all alone, in silence, between running, sleeping, cooking and reflecting. I was lucky enough to have all the time needed to do these things over and over again until, slowly, they started to make sense once more. Until I could realize that I still had purpose here, that I was still connected, that the pain I had been feeling for a year now was gradually making way for some measure of peace, gratitude and a yearning to keep going forward.
I was not forgetting. I was processing.
When the tribe of Running People started gathering, I was elated to see familiar faces and new ones, but most of all to feel available and eager for new connections; to not be shut, wounded and afraid. I was free, present and open.
Days of running free, laughing, cooking, sharing and connecting led me to race day, between bouts of frantic work and magical moments only the Canyons can bring. And on that unique morning, before first light, I stood there once again, surrounded with love, friendship and community.
I didn’t hit the road alone. I carried with me two very special connections, two unexplainable bonds to share the adventure with. Two souls also in search of meaning. I had the strength, resolve and determination of a Tiger and the reach, depth and expanse of a Tree.
The magic of the day unfolded and rewarded me with joy, passion and amazing feats of will. My joy was sharing about 6 miles of running with Jovian, a young Raramuri from the Los Alisos region, and seeing my friends Augusto, Donald and Olaf running free in the Canyons. My passion was witnessing Michael, Stephanie and Zac enter the world of ultra running with such elation. The amazing feats were those of exhausted runners keeping on, among which my friend Scott, but mostly Tom who literally broke through shackles of despair and defeat to rise up again and triumph over everything, including himself. What an incredible day to be alive.
Being reunited in the spirit of the Mas Locos, under the lead of Maria and Josue and the watchful eye of my friend the White Horse provided much needed energy, inspiration and hope. But this time around, it provided one more thing, one I had direly needed and sought since that fateful day, almost exactly a year ago.
It provided healing.