Health goal for 2023: Living with Intention
In the first week in January I traveled to a bikepacking camp in Idaho. Seeking to start off 2023 with a frame shift and something quite literally completely out of my comfort zone, I signed up last Fall for the Fat Pursuit 60 km fat bike event and the bikepacking workshop in the week leading up to the race. This was a 3-day camp teaching cyclists how to plan and do expedition (meaning multi-day or long distance) bike racing… in the snow. The workshop was super cool, and to read a recap about it, please check out my post about the workshop here.
What perhaps surprised me was how much the lessons I learned apply to life as much as the do expedition racing. And going into 2023 I wanted to share some of those key themes I gleaned from our amazing teachers and fellow campers with you.
I think all of these guidepoints point to the biggest takehome message for myself, which is to live with intention. Do things with intention. Be aware. Be in the moment. It is so easy to just do things automatically. To drink my morning coffee out of habit, but not even know I’m drinking it, much less enjoying the fact that I have a warm cup of coffee to start the day. I may get outside to walk, and then get pulled into answering emails on my smart phone, and miss the owl sitting on a tree branch above me. I may mindlessly fritter away time on my news app, and somehow never have time to add strength training to my routine. I may eat to comfort myself or procrastinate doing something in the evening rather than eat for my health and to feel good for the long term. Awareness and living with intention were the overwhelming signals I kept sensing throughout the week.
Along this theme, here are some other lessons learned from my 50 hours of the Fat Pursuit Workshop.
- Pack with a purpose. As Rebecca Rusch says, “Organization wins.”Leading up to the workshop. I was working on cramming a lot of items into my life stuff sack: pre-holiday clinic and ICU rotation, program planning meetings, building a patient informational website, holiday planning and celebrations, and training. And on top of that tackling the packing list and bike and gear prep for my trip to Idaho. It felt chaotic and that chaos was reflected in my first iterations of my packed bike “kit.” To race effectively, you need to choose what you are going to take and only take what you will use (not the piece of clothing you’ve never even worn), and you need to put it all in order so you know where it is on the bike, otherwise you waste time and energy. When I streamlined my packing list while at the workshop, suddenly I had room for food (rather important in an expedition). Similar to an expedition race, life seems to get cluttered sometimes, and when it does it’s hard to find what you truly need and work/live efficiently. So choosing what you truly need, and truly need to do, and organizing around that can help you live with purpose.
- Build systems. When winter expedition racing there are essential systems of clothing (4 insulated layers on top, 3 insulated layers on legs). It’s about using layers effectively so that you stay dry because sweating will lead to getting cold. It’s all about having systems and deploying those systems as intended. Not taking 2 minutes to stop and add or shed a layer in the moment may make the difference in finishing your race. What are systems you can use in life to get closer to your goals?
- Set goals and be honest with yourself. If you’re planning a 200 km race, what is your realistic goal for a finishing time? And then how does that break down into different segments of the course? And then how does that impact your water, fuel and how many and what type of calories you’re carrying? And then how will you pack your drop bags (bags that will be at the few aid stations along the course for your own resupply)? Doing any sort of big event starts with first getting concrete with your goals and then breaking it down so you know if you’re hitting your midway goals to make it to your finish line.
- Keep moving. Quitting is a disease. In ultra races, it will get hard. And everyone at one point or another will have to “embrace the suck.” That — and the growth that comes from getting through the challenge — is why many of us toe the starting line. But sometimes people will want to give up. They may be racing right next to you and start to mentally falter. Their negative energy, grumbling, and decision to stop or quit can make it easier for you to quit yourself. So know that going in, and avoid the negative energy like the plague. Conversely, a smile or positive word can go a long way and maybe even help someone not give up. Similar to a race, the impact of the energy we put out into the world is palpable at work or at home. We will face challenging times (as an ICU doc who worked during the pandemic and blogged about it a fair amount last year, this is still in my close rearview mirror), and the energy we put out to and take in from others will matter. Be mindful of the energy you take in from and put out to others.
- Don’t get sucked into another person’s ride/decisions. You have your plan for 200 km, but when someone else passes you early in the race, it’s easy to lay chase and go after them. They don’t stop to make water (you melt it with a stove from snow), so you don’t stop to make water. But there is a problem with this: they are not you. And you don’t know their plan or their abilities. They may be headed to burn up every match in the first 1/4 of the race. And, by laying chase and giving up on your own game plan, you now may do that too. Make sure you stay on your path and not the path of others.
- Fill your spirit cup. Instructor Kevin Emery taught us that when you start the MSR WhisperLite stove, to prime it you have to let a little gas out into the wick in the spirit cup that sits below the stove. You then light it to prime the stove and heat the generator coil before you turn on the burner to get that smooth blue flame. You cannot light the stove without those key steps. Similarly in life, in order to sustain your fire you need to fill your spirit cup.
- Ride Forward. Do your work. I love it that race organizer and instructor Jay Petervary calls the race the Fat Pursuit. He says it is because outside of the fastest riders, not everyone will be “racing” to win the race. Some are aiming to complete it. Some are doing it to overcome something in life — maybe an injury or another setback. Some are doing it just to seek the flow state. But common to every participant, is that everyone has something they’re pursuing. And in so doing, we all ride forward. Things happen in a race. Don’t spend time perseverating on the past. Just learn from it, ride forward and do your work. That will get you to where you need to be.
- Be good. Our instructor Rebecca Rusch’s mantra that she shared with us is also the name of her Be Good Foundation, devoted to building vibrant, healthy communities through outdoor activities and events. She created this nonprofit to allow her passion for her sport to be a vehicle for change. These words are a potent reminder that in whatever we do, just be good. The words are not “be perfect” but be good. In racing and life, in each moment, if we do our best with our best intention, well, that really is all we can ask of ourselves.
As you enter the new year, what are your goals? What are the finish lines you seek, and how will you get yourself there? Hopefully this concept of doing things with intention will help you get where you want to be.
And if you’re reading this later in the year, it doesn’t have to be January to be setting goals and work on intention. We can start over or frame shift any day anytime we choose.
Wishing you a year of living in a way that fosters health and joy.