In the Footsteps of Greatness - Chapter 5 (Excerpt) THE BEAR!

In this chapter I encounter a bear that changes the game completely. Thanks for continuing this journey with me!

Chapter 5 - The Bear

(I met a friend named Demian on the trail and we camped together this night. Sometime in the dark of night we awoke to find a bear trying to steal my food. We fought it off, and thought we'd won. But we were wrong.)

...Dawn came without further incident. The morning was unseasonably frigid, and the twilight just before dawn is always coldest; so though awake, I remained huddled in my quilt with only my beanie capped head protruding as the sky slowly lightened. Living without real shelter for days on end offers a unique perspective and connection to the natural world. Temperature and light become tangible forces that shape decisions, influence mood, and provide succor or suffering.

Eventually I unzipped my tent and stepped into the freshness of the new day. I rolled my shoulders and turned my head from side to side to work out the kinks that always come from a night spent on the ground. Then I strolled to a nearby tree to relieve myself and marveled at the billowing steam I was creating. Why is it that certain things never cease to capture our wonder and imagination? I have to admit I find pee steam fascinating, just as I will stare awestruck at down pouring rain. I laughed at myself. Free from the constraints of society my brain was supercharged to solve any of the great mysteries of life, and here I was admiring the magic of my urine.

As I made my way over to my food bag, I instantly noticed that something didn’t feel right. The bag was still hanging in the tree, but in the morning light it looked lifeless and vacant. My heart squeezed hard and my scalp tingled as stress endorphins shot through me. Walking closer, it became obvious that we had tragically misinterpreted the situation the night before. My food bag was swaying listlessly in the soft wind, empty, a clean cut right across the bottom. The ground below was littered with the ravaged remains of my food. The carnage cut an impressive swath and the bear had been hungry and thorough. Nothing remained. In fact many non-edible items were missing, swallowed or stolen by the brute. I stood there for a full minute, frozen in disbelief and slowly creeping dismay. I was so laser focused on completing this trip that my brain didn’t know what to do with this new information. For those first few moments I was quite literally incapable of accepting this new reality in which I may not be able to keep moving forward.

....Part of me wanted to test myself against those odds and to refuse to accept the changed circumstances, but a larger part of me knew what I had just said was pure truth. Jen and I have talked on more than once occasion about the difference between being tenacious and being stubborn. There is a small but important difference, and it’s one that plays a key role in endurance sport.

  • Tenacious - tending to keep a firm hold of something; clinging or adhering closely.

  • Stubborn - having or showing dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something, in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.

Both states of being light the fire that pushes you toward your goals, but only tenacity allows for adaptability. It is a key step in the maturation process of an athlete to accept that there are times when changing course is the best option. This was absolutely one of those times.

Next week - Chapter 6 and figuring out how to get back...

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