Lessons of the pink mohawk

I have a pink mohawk. It is pretty fun. Before I got it, I thought about it for a long time. Wasn't it too drastic, what if I didn't like it, what if it didn't turn out well, what would people think, blah blah blah. But then I shrugged my shoulders and went for it anyways. And lo and behold, the earth didn't shift beneath my feet, my husband didn't divorce me and my mom simply responded "I am surprised you hadn't done this sooner". In fact, I found that I really loved it.

I just returned home from a 3 week sojurn in Colorado. I was there preparing for the Leadville 100 on August 20th. But that is not going to happen. I knew 3 100 milers in 10 months was ambitious but I was questing for my limits. Limits sought, limits found. I am just thankful that I decided to pull the plug BEFORE I started the race and buried myself so deeply that I might never recover. 

Ultrarunning is a hungry beast. Photo by Galen Burrell

Ultrarunning is a hungry beast. Photo by Galen Burrell

I came off of Western States, tired and satisfied. The tired lingered but the ultra culture encourages a more is more/it is never enough mentality which leads up to driving onward in an unrelentless fashion that can be quite unsustainable. Before you are done catching your breathe at the finish line, someone is asking you "what is next?". Because there is no true pinnacle, no one race, no Olympics, there always is the next thing, the next goal waiting for you to chase. But running yourself into oblivion or injury serves no one, proves nothing. I want to run for a long time and sometimes that means remembering that I don't have to do it all now and I don't have to force it. Ultrarunning is a hungry beast, unsatiable, always asking for more.

It is the pink mohawk that has taught me a few things. It is the pink mohawk that has let me change directions, DNS Leadville and feel nothing but calm confidence in my decision. Here is what I have learned/been reminded of/given perspective on:

  1. Impermanence/ Mutability. When I finally decided to get the pink mohawk, the greatest diminisher of fear was realizing that if I didn't like it, I could change it. I could shave it off, I could color it differently. It is a bunch of dead cells hanging on my head, it is not going to last. And so should we see life. Everything will change. Right now, I feel like crap because I have asked my body for too much. So I have to change my goals. That's life. I don't like how I feel right now, so I am changing it by letting it go. 
  2. It is a lot less of a big deal than you think. I think we can all get worked up about thinking things matter way more than they actually do. We think people care. But that is just our ego getting all worked up, people are too worried about themselves to be thinking that much about what you do. I thought I was doing something wild and crazy by getting a pink mohawk and as I mentioned above, my mom simply said "I'm just surprised you didn't do this sooner." I could get all worked up thinking that the ultra world will think less of me if I don't run a race, think I should push through to prove something, but honestly, no one is really going to give it much thought at all. The people who really matter support me whether I have straight boring hair or wild and crazy pink hair, same for running.
  3. Who you are is not defined by your hair (or your goals). I didn't get pink hair and become a different person. I didn't opt out of Leadville and become a different one either. I didn't change my values or go back on my principles. Too often in ultrarunning or sport I see goal odyssey, in which people define themselves by their goals. I am not defined by my goals, just as I am not defined by my pink hair. I read an awesome book on my drive home called "The Antidote" by Oliver Burkeman. He suggest you act like a frog: "you should sun yourself on a lily-pad until you get bored; then, when the time is right, you should jump to a new lily-pad and hang out there for a while. Continue this over and over, moving in whatever direction feels right." I pursued my limits this year, sought to see how big I could go. I asked myself what was possible right now. Asked and answered. Time to jump to a different lily-pad, a different goal- whatever feels right. In goal odyssey, you can over pursue your goals. Since I do not believe my goal of running Leadville defines me, I can walk away, knowing at some point in the future I can come back to it.

  4. Effectuation. Effectuation is looking at what you have then seeing what you can do with it. I looked at my short head of hair and insatiable desire to shave my head (a lifelong itch a wanted to scratch) and thought, PINK MOHAWK!!!!! If I look at my current reservoir of resources after finishing Western States 100 and spending the summer traveling, not resting and moving rapidly on to the next goal, I will see that I am very low on physical, mental and emotional resources. Seeing what I have in those departments, I can see that running 100 miles is not something I can do with those reserves. I went to the well and the well was dry. So what I clearly need to do is refill my stores, build up my available resources to expand my potential for what I can do. 

Now, I eat, sleep, recover, run when I want, pick new goals when I want. The color of the pink mohawk will fade, will change and I will have a new opportunity for fun self expression. Right now I enjoy it for what it is and I will welcome it when it is time for something new.