Headlights

It was a beautiful, clear night with just a slight chill in the air as I pulled off of Interstate 40. A deserted back road stretched out before us as like an endless runway winding into the distance. As I turned the car north, towards the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, my headlights were the lone source of light for as far as I could see, piercing the darkness in front of me.

The back seats were folded down to make room for the small mattress that Dad was sleeping on. Even with his steady breathing and occasional snore over my shoulder, I could feel the vast sea of solitude stretching out to the edges of the horizon.

There is something about driving in the middle of the night that soothes me. I enjoy the stillness. I yearn for the quiet. Driven by my need to work hard, and exacerbated by my initiative, my days have steadily become increasingly overloaded. Even when I take time off, I’m constantly pondering the past, present, and future of two small businesses. My phone and email still have to be answered and attended. My mind is constantly cluttered.

But as I drifted through the black abyss of the desert night, solitude wrapped its noiseless fingers around my thoughts like a soft, familiar, warm blanket. While the rest of the world slumbered, my mind was free to wander and unfold in comfortable silence.

That same sense of quiet seclusion is part of what initially attracted me to running. For as long as I can remember, every waking moment of my life has been filled with a continual barrage of endless thoughts and streaming consciousness; an obsession about thinking. Constant, endless scenarios, subjects, and consequences to be examined and reexamined.

Neither running nor driving have ever calmed the raging rapids of my constantly flowing thoughts. Just the opposite- they tend to unleash my contemplations. During normal, everyday activities, I’m forced to focus on the task at hand, keeping my bright ideas and imaginations at bay on the outer fringes of my awareness. Coaching a class, watching athletes move, discussing brewery operations, and making business decisions all demand so much of my attention, that I have no choice but to ignore the fleeting visions and discussions at the corners of my brain.

I discovered that I could release the dam of my thoughts through the act of running. Because running was mutually exclusive with just about any other activity, I could freely let my thoughts wander. Running became my release; my method for unraveling the large, tangled ball of thoughts I had developed over the course of the day. While on a run, I would be able to explore any notion or scheme that had been denied to me by the demands of the day.

As much as I love and believe in CrossFit, it has never been able to fill this particular role for me. Besides the difference in time domains, the intensity required by CrossFit has always precluded me from any thought other than “Holy shit, when will this be over??”

And so, as we pressed into the stillness of the night, I embraced the quiet solitude and relaxed my mind, allowing my conscious to pour out into the darkness. There were no phone calls, no emails, no pressing tasks that required my attention. I was completely free to explore the brightest recesses of my mind.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon in the small hours of the morning. As I walked to the edge of the overlook, a cozy updraft from the canyon floor warmed the chilly night, carrying fragranet aroma of some unknown desert flower with it. The black abyss of the canyon stretched out before us, so massive you could feel its enormity without being able to make out any of its details in the darkness.

I’ve been to several different continents and experienced some beautiful night skies in some very remote areas.

But I’ve never seen so many stars or such a gorgeous night in my life. I can’t even begin to describe the beauty, as words would never do that scene justice.

Dad and I remained silent for some time, soaking up as much of the darkened landscape and the sea of stars as we possibly could. Eventually, Dad shuffled back to the car, rummaging around for a bit before he produced two beers from the cooler. We sat and admired the stillness for a while longer before some photographers quietly started setting up to capture dawn. We all watched the sun rise in complete awe.

As we started making our way through the various overlooks of the South Rim, I reflected on an observation I had about Brian Mackenzie. I’d just spent several days with him working on endurance technique, programming, and planning, and I’d learned an incredible about, both about CrossFit Endurance as well as CrossFit in a broader perspective.

But the one thing that stuck with me wasn’t anything he explained to me or had me do.

When we went out into the surf to practice open water swimming and sighting, Bmack brought his surfboard with him. After we were finished (in other words when I was completely smoked), he said “Cool- just hang out here for a second, and I’ll be right back.” He paddled out into the water, caught a few waves, and we headed back to the office.

It wasn’t more than 10 minutes. He caught maybe 3 waves. And he really never said anything to me about it.

What was left unsaid was probably the most important thing I was reminded of on the entire trip. Make time to do the things you love. Don’t get so wrapped up in the struggles of your life that you can’t step back and enjoy the truly beautiful moments.

I’m a very lucky person. I’m fortunate enough to do what I love for a living. I get to share my passion with people on a daily basis.

But that does not make me immune to the perils of being a small business owner. Truly loving my work doesn’t prevent me from laying awake at night worrying about growth, finances, and contentious decisions. I’m driven to pursue excellence in all that I do, and in that reckless abandon it’s easy to get wrapped in stress and consumed by the obsession.

As I attempted to soak in the beautiful expanse of the Great Canyon, I was struck by Brian’s ability to balance the passions of his life. 10 minutes. That’s all it took.

In our overworked, ultra stressed lives it’s easy to forget to take some time to enjoy all that we have. But it is so, so important.

None of us are so busy that we can’t spare 10 minutes to do something we truly love.

Like going for a run. Or writing. Or grabbing a coffee with a friend.