Al Alvarez defined feeding the rat as:
“the need to get out, to test yourself, to flush out the system, and, above all, to have some fun.”
To feed that gnawing sensation in the pit of your stomach that drives our motivation for getting out and challenging ourselves, testing our limits and to quell our fear of missing out.
This summer has been quite an eclectic mix of sports and activities, work and life balance but what has been apparent is that everything I have been doing has been enough. My rat has been fed and, after this weekend, is in a food coma snoring away.
ArgenTrail – a last minute trail race
As I sit and write this blog my body is doing its best to recover after a last minute race entry at the weekend. Running nutter and Argentiere local, Georgie, messaged me a link to a new trail race in the valley, the AgenTrail – a 25km course with a total of 1,600m of climbing. Though I have been running more this summer, I am really no runner but this distance and profile was something I thought I could handle. My legs were feeling good after a beasting running around the hills in Aosta the weekend before and so I thought ‘what the hell!’.
Signing up last minute, as the small group of runners huddled together at the start line – we were only 250 people, which for Chamonix is very low-key – it was nice to see a load of familiar faces. It is one of the things I love most about Chamonix, and the place I call home, the people here are all into something; be it running, climbing, cycling or something else, everyone is very committed to their sports but also keen to throw themselves into something out of their comfort zone too.
I’ve not run up around Argentiere much but the course was amazing and somewhere I will definitely go back to. Starting with a flat 5km, it was quite a shock to the system as the leaders flew out of the gate at a crazy speed – I feel I do better slogging up climbs than getting the legs really moving on the flat. After the first section the course was made up of a figure of 8 loop with two 800m climbs and descents passing through town for a feed station at the halfway point. Never too long, the climbs gave way just in time to avoid it all getting too much and, before I knew it, we were descending back into Argentiere and the finish line in time for lunch. Having recently misplaced my GPS watch I had no idea how far we were running the whole time nor how long it had all taken and so was a little surprised I was back in the time I was – 3 hours and 23 minutes.
The atmosphere at the finish line was brilliant – recent storms had receded giving us a perfect blue bird day and the camaraderie and adrenaline from flying around the trails gave a real party and festival vibe to the Sunday morning and, as I walked away back to the car, I felt my rat had been fed again.
A summer of so much and so little
People ask me ‘what have you been up to?’ and I am regularly a little stumped as I don’t feel I’ve been doing much. It feels like days go by where I’m stuck at my computer or just bouncing from coffee shop to coffee shop with mountain days sprinkled in between. But one thing is for sure with this summer, I’ve been getting enough of whatever it is I need. I’m really finding balance in my life and that is making me incredibly happy and content.
In February I made a very deliberate and conscious decision that I wanted to stay in Chamonix and that this was my home. That change in mental state altered my perspective here and the results have been greater than I anticipated. I’ve found a peace I’ve been lacking and with that peace, I have found an ability to relax more and just let what is, be.
The fear of missing out has subsided – I’ll get my chance, one day; the rush to get things done has eased – there is always tomorrow; and, an acceptance of the good and the bad that makes up any town has settled me.
That is not to say that I’ve done nothing. I’ve completed, and smashed, my first proper ultra race, I’ve climbed another of the 6 Great North Faces, and I’ve found my rock climbing flow. The difference is the peace I’m finding after each accomplishment – I’m finding myself truly satisfied and content. I wonder if this is the reason I will never be truly exceptional at any of these sports – I don’t have the hunger necessary to excel and to keep pushing but hey, I think I’m doing ok..
The biggest aspect of my life I have been missing, and what has clearly started to return, is balance. The balance in my professional life, personal life, and general emotional state.
As the summer draws to an end and I’m starting to get psyched for the winter I’m finding myself motivated and excited for the future, ready for what is to come, and in a position to shape it how I want it.
Here’s to feeding the rat and realising enough can be enough.