This past weekend I skipped out on the apoca-eclipse chaos in Oregon to travel to Boulder, CO, for Timothy Olson’s Run Mindful Retreat. For those of you that are not familiar with the sport of ultra-running, Timothy is a legend, one of the best known ultra-runners in the world. Alongside his wife Krista, Timothy has developed a retreat-style experience for folks who are curious about adding a sense of mindfulness into their daily routines. Timothy has also been a source of inspiration for me as a runner since I began running on trails back in 2012.
Tucked away in Four Mile Canyon, just west of town at the Boulder Adventure Lodge, myself, along with a group of 15 or so, settled in for a few days of running, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness. The timing of such an experience and adventure could not have been better.
This weekend was not a running camp in the classic sense, with big miles and big vertical gain. We didn’t come here to out-do each other in mileage, drop each other on climbs, or set Strava KOM’s (which is nearly impossible in Boulder because of the number of elite athletes that live here) as is apt to happen at many running-type camps or training weekends. Sure, running was a major component of the retreat, but it certainly wasn’t everything. There was so much more, including workshops, content, and conversation about the idea of creating a useful and sustainable mindfulness practice along with the benefits of such a routine.
Since becoming sober, some 3.5 years ago, the practice of meditation and mindfulness has come and gone in spurts. Perhaps it’s because of my all-or-nothing mentality. I’ve tried several times to implement a solid meditation practice into my daily routine with varying degrees of success. Earlier this year I even threw myself into a self-induced 21 day challenge, to try to form and create habits around the idea of mindfulness. It worked for a while but eventually my mind got the best of me and the habits that I had formed slipped away over time. By attending this camp, my first organized mindfulness/meditation retreat, I was reminded of the how and why behind the importance of such daily practices, along with their affect and impact on the vitality of one’s soul. Certainly, the running component added to my motivation and curiosity. My soul had been aching for such a practice. I just needed the right time, space, and community to bring it all together.
I’ve got a big race coming up in September, Pine to Palm 100, one that I’ve put 100% of my heart and soul in to preparing for. Over the past couple of months, as the event draws near, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly more attached to a result, for an event that I haven’t even participated in mind you, which has led me to feel a sense of self-suffocation. This has been my Modus Operandi since X-C ski racing as a kid. Every single time a race approaches for me that I want to do well at, I become my own worst enemy by focusing on the outcome; the what-if’s, the should’s, and the dreaded notion of destined failure. Even though I loathe these feelings I have not been able to shake them from my mind for the better part of the last 25 years. Insanity, right?
A big reason for why I chose this retreat, at this particular time, was because I knew, based on my past, that I was going to eventually lead myself down the rabbit hole of thinking about the outcome of said impending race. In anticipation of Timothy’s camp I was hoping to get the opportunity to trip up the mechanism that is my mind and the ever-present practice of future-tripping which still remains pervasive in my life. Now that I’m here, I can safely say that my intuition in forecasting the timing of attending this retreat was spot on. Sometimes my intuition does play in my favor. Maybe I should learn to trust my gut more.
Here is a snapshot of just a few of my take-aways from the retreat:
– Run from a place of love, gratitude, and compassion, rather than fear and anger.
– While in meditation we use the breathe as an anchor; in running use your footsteps as an anchor, still keeping in mind the integrity of the breathe.
– Accepting pain – In running, and life, the acceptance of pain can move the process forward of getting through said pain and thriving on the other side.
– Vinyasa Yoga – dude, you know this helps so much, try and get back into it upon returning to Oregon.
– Acceptance is the key to bringing balance to my emotions.
– Managing my reactions to distractions – be aware and observe my emotions but don’t feel the need to react, as I have in the past, based on my judgement of those emotions.
For most of my athletic life I have raced and trained from a place of fear and of not being good enough, fast enough, or elite enough. I’ve known this about me for a long time. I wish to try and break that cycle as I can now see the value of taking it back a step and returning to the love of the process. Sure, I train to compete and the hope to do well, but recently, mostly since I began running, I have tended to push so hard, sometimes above my limits, while being obsessed and attached to a particular result. Once again, I find this type of mindset unsustainable and unnerving. After this weekend I have been reminded that there is a way to perhaps change this mentality: Return to the breathe, live in the moment and accept the moment for what it is, right now.
I know that being in Boulder this past few days has not cured me of the crazy side to my mind. I understand that there is no magic bullet or pill that I can take to all of a sudden “achieve” a state of mindfulness. Perhaps this was the mistake I made earlier this year when attempting to improve my sense of mindfulness. However, being here, around like-minded people, has truly helped reinforce the fact that if I take what I’ve learned and begin to implement it on a daily basis, that perhaps life can be easier, softer, and a bit more enjoyable. More than ever I am willing to try.
Today, this new information and sensation is fresh, and I know that I won’t be able to implement everything all once, as much as I’d like to. That being said I hope to re-visit these notions in a few weeks, after Pine to Palm, to see if I am still fueled and conscious of what I learned this past weekend. Change is possible, but it’s a process. And to respect that process can mean that I have to take into account the positive personality traits that have brought me this far.
Talk is one thing…action is another.
Thank you to Timothy, Krista, Bob, Deborah, Keith, Matt, and the RAD crew, Kelly and Morgan, for putting together an unforgettable weekend.
To learn more about Timothy’s Run Mindful Retreat please visit their website: https://adventuremindful.com