Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Crazy Switch

Blogging is an art. Irrespective of how technical your writing, the art is the peeks we have into another world and another perspective. Josh is courageous. Not only does he write exceptionally well, but he has allowed his readers into his private world of Tourette's Syndrome with grace and courage. I am privileged to share with you some of his thoughts.


When I crossed the finish line after my final High-School Cross Country race, I fell to my knees and puked.  My teammates had all finished far ahead of me—they were all runners, as opposed to someone who joined the team because the most attractive girls in our school all ran cross-country.


"How do you feel?"


When I could breathe again, I said, "My new goal is never to run another step.  Ever."


They thought I was joking.  I thought I was serious.  We were both wrong, sort of.




I hate running.  I always have and I don't expect that to change.  But I love competition, particularly with myself.  That, and a severe case of Tourette's Syndrome which basically turned me into a hermit for a long time, brought me back to physical culture and physical challenges again and again.


I was talking about this with David Whitley, a former professional wrestler and current performing strongman.  I was babbling on about why we all do the things we do.  Why we push ourselves in the ways we do.


I look at the madness here on Dash For Freedom, and just about all it of makes me smile.  Not just because it's inspiring or goofy or insane—it's all of those things--but because it's all so familiar, even though this isn't my sport.


"It's like we all have the same madness," I said, "but it manifests in a lot of different ways.  It fascinates me." 


"You're taking about the crazy switch," he said.  "Everyone's got one.  When you flip it on, it feeds off the same pool of energy, but you never know what's going to make sense to someone when they turn it on.  Everybody needs something different, but for the same reasons."


I believe it.  I do.  Whatever it is that creates the need for us to test ourselves and challenge others—to excel and to grind our teeth and just see what we're capable off—it comes from the same place.  I know it. 


We feed off of the same things. There are people out there who climb, lift, wrestle, cycle, throw, jump, tackle, sprint, marathon, parkour, tumble, swim, motorcross, dive…on and on and on.  And they all have one thing in common, besides the craziness, I guess:


They're all alive.  They're not just breathing and sucking wind and thanking their lucky stars that they survived another day. 


They're alive.  They have purpose and they don't apologize for the things that drive them.  And their purpose improves them.  Their improved bodies lead to improved minds.  All of these things lead to a stronger, better individual.  And as each individual improves, their capacity to improve others grows as well.


They're alive and they help others to live. 


Is this too grandiose of a sports metaphor?  Not for me.  And if you read this blog, I suspect you might see something here that sounds familiar to you as well.


Flip the switch and come to life.  The more frequently, the better.



About the Author: Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World's Strongest Librarian, a blog about living with Tourette's Syndrome, kettlebells, book recommendations, buying pants when you're 6'8", old-time strongman training, and much more. Please subscribe to Josh's RSS Updates to stay in touch.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The spirit moves

The beginning of the year is the time to look ahead and set some milestones. I finally finished the coffee table book covering my Freedom Trail adventures (Dash4Freedom) and now I wait for the initial copy for final checking. I have started to actively look for an event or goal to get me off my lazy butt.

Part of the energising came from spending an hour or so chatting about the Freedom Challenge with Alex Harris - a reknowned South African adventurer. We pored over maps and discussed the nature of the race and I felt animated for the first time in a long time. I loved re-living the adventure and remembering the routes and challenges.

And while I doubt I'll do the event again (but never say never), I realised how much I enjoyed mountain bike touring and exploring. Just talking about the various sections of the race inspired me to look at some weekend trips and with it came the jolt. I have to get fit. A casual 125km ride isn't going to happen comfortably on my current programme of no riding!

So there are some ideas brewing and I'll be summoning all the other riders who lust after open spaces, sandwiches, no time constraints and a spirit of adventure.

This brings me to The Crazy Switch. A guest post from Josh Harnegane who writes as The World's Strongest Librarian. He is an amazing guy and his post will be up next - don't miss it.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Passion or Die

I love the internet and I love that people share the information they find appealing. I was reading today and it was an extremely funny tongue in cheek article. Its a double whammy cos the comments are as funny as the blog post. One of his readers shared some information on PASSION which I found insightful.

I lifted a paragraph from the relevant blog (Psychology Today - check it out) to share with you along with some random thoughts.

In sum, passions make life worth living but need to be pursued in ways that sustain themselves. That passions can entail sacrifice actually define them as passions. They are healthy when the sacrifice is as freely undertaken as the activity itself and does not undercut the goal of the passionate activity. That passions may strike others as irrational is irrelevant in describing them as harmonious or obsessive, healthy or unhealthy. After all, passions are personal and what matters about our passions is whether they make sense to us.

On a personal level, my passion has always been around leisure activities as it is for most people. We choose to do something that validates, us, challenges us and has positive outcomes. As far back as I remember, physical exercise and reading have been my passions. The nature of my sport may have changed but it is a thread that remains unbroken. It has ranged from extremely competitive and dedicated to totally recreational. It has experimented with fringe sports to mainstream.

Somewhere along the line, it may even have been obsessive passion. I look around at friends and fellow travellers and the most interesting people are the ones who are excited about something. They have a level of commitment to a project or a goal or a process and that makes them alive.

Of all that I have experienced, canoeing was the most demanding and rewarding. Cycling runs second by a long way which is perhaps the reason for it not constantly challenging me in the same way. Although, The Freedom Challenge was a soul pursuit and invigorating beyond words. A huge goal which left everything else as an anti-climax.

Harmonius passion vs obsessive passion. Which one are you?

Please don't tell me that you are neither!

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday again

Monday again and we are already spiralling to the end of January. I hope this year goes as slowly as 2009. Usually the years fly by. I was once told it has a direct correlation to your age. As a 5 year old, a year is a 5th of your life, so its huge. When you are 80 (I'm not), its a much smaller percentage of all your living. (I hope you are/have lived!)

I use the same parallel to account for my on going inability to remember things. My head is just too full of stuff to assimilate more - thats my story and I'm sticking to it.  And so I wonder what this year will bring. Its not really panning out in any definite form but my sense is there is a lot of upheaval for many people. Spare a thought for Haiti and the damage to an already impoverished economy.  As an aside, members of the South African rescue unit (who also support The Sabie Experience mountain bike stage race) took 52 hours to get there. No control tower meant no planes could land. Later, air controllers flown in could not move the planes grounded there because of a lack of fuel - so other supplies couldn't be air lifted in. What a mess and strength to the people trying to make headway and those trying to survive.

But moving on. The limbo I feel is echoed by many of my friends and so I content myself with spinning instead of riding and building up my running to acceptable distances. Its a bit of a waiting game and in times past, I would have tried to force outcomes. Now I am content to let things emerge.

It sounds like a cop out but I dont have the energy to spare for any more. Do I make sense here and are you feeling disjointed too?

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Another decade - where does it go?

So it's 2010. Here in South Africa, it's an important year for all of us as we host the Fifa World Cup. The cynics amongst us think it will be a disaster whilst the optimists are buying tickets so they can say "We were there!"

Having been to Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final amongst other events, I've been there and they are memories to cherish. It sets one apart to be experience a huge and rare occurrence. So I'm buying my ticket - are you?

But those are details for mid year. This year started with Fat Boy camping. Instead of monumental hiking with large packs for days on the top of the Drakensberg escarpment, we opted to take the large tent, the gazebo, the camping chairs, the cooler boxes, lots of G&T and blow up mattresses. Luxuries indeed. Injasuti is a stunning location at the base of some challenging passes but we were there to admire from the base and stretch our legs on leisurely walks.

Now you would think that such a location brings peace and quiet into one's soul and it is a god given opportunity to reflect on the year that's been and to anticipate the next. Damn the raucous students who partied until all hours.  I'm surprised their car tires didn't rupture and their tents collapse under the strength of the negative vibes from every one else in the camp.

At least the morning was quiet as they slept off their hangovers and I know I wasn't the only one looking daggers at them when they staggered around the next day. Most of them left that day leaving us with space and quiet with which to contemplate some serious mountains.

On the last day, I summoned some energy to do a trail run with my as yet, untried trail shoes. The Myth and I decided to do a 6,5k run/hike to the top of the closest ridge. Off we went and it felt good. Climbing up a short mound, we came across a majestic eland which sauntered off as we approached. Turning right at the junction, we came around a corner and there was a herd of about 50 of the beasts. Magnificent.

A crawl up a steep ravine through a beautiful indigenous forest brought us to the summit welcomed by the call of a red chested cuckoo (or "piet my vrou" in local lingo). A quick jog down, pack up of tent and a final swim in the Injasuti River ended a very relaxed welcome to the new year.

I think I might find some mojo in trail running. We shall see.

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