Skating for 24-hours straight. This is the next thing on my agenda as far as major, tangible challenges go.
Some of you may have heard of it. Maybe some haven’t. “The Ultra,” in the context of our little skateboard community, is a 24-hour skate-for-distance. You could call it a competition, but far more would call it a challenge. The true competition is against distance, time, and oneself. The particular race that is coming up is the Ultra-Skate at Miami Speedway on January 20th, roughly three weeks away. Here’s the facebook link for event information: https://www.facebook.com/events/453971684710234/
Andrew Andras set a world record, topping Paul Kent’s infamous 254-mile skate where he dehydrated himself to the point of pissing blood (apparently his kidneys were rubbing together…live and learn, eh Paul?), with a 261 and change-long skate at this very same Ultra-Skate at the Miami Speedway just one year ago. Andrew showed that preparation, training, determination, nutrition, and loving support make for a winning combination, and it’s looking like this year he is on track to quite possibly set another record.
Not everybody is Andrew Andras or Paul Kent, however. Not everyone has a shot at breaking records. Yet many people are taking on the challenge, regardless. What is it that drives them toward such a level of self-torture? The reasons are foggy at best, and I’m sure we all have our own mix of them, but I’ll at least try to explain my own perspective, and who knows? Maybe it will help you further define your own. Or maybe you’ll just continue thinking I’m crazy. Read on anyway. Getting into the mind of a nutball can be entertaining!
Dylan Baist-Bliss on a Pantheon prototype “Embryo”
When you’re blasting down a hill at 50 MPH, the goal is clear…Get to the bottom in one piece! Maybe get to the bottom as fast as possible, but also in one piece. The rush is immediate, the sense of accomplishment is quick but lasting, the threat of pain is there, but if you’re within your limits, you’re playing pretty good odds. It’s easy to see why people get so hooked on downhill. For most people, it’s not as easy to see why people get equally as hooked on skating over massive distances. Much of the adrenaline factor is out the window, the threat of pain is imminent and lasting, and it can end up costing a lot of money just to provide your body with fuel to continue moving. Basically, when you’re traveling to an Ultra-Skate, you’re paying to suffer. And why?
Rick Schorr, 2nd place at 2013 Ultra-Skate in Miami
I guess what it really comes down to is perspective. And this is the hard part, because perspective is this ever-changing, ever-evolving thing, and in order to actually complete such a massive, daunting task of performing any activity at all for 24 hours straight without stopping…well, you really have to perform some serious mental training and establish that perspective–that purpose–solid as stone and able to weather the inevitable storm of your brain telling you that you should stop, over and over and over and over and over again. And I think by establishing a seemingly impossible goal that will require more energy than you have the ability to really realistically conceive and then putting that on the table and saying, “I’m going to do that,” what we’re really doing is training our minds to be able to push, no matter what…indefinitely. Or maybe even training ourselves to change that feeling of pushing into a feeling of flowing. To change our perception of work entirely.
Without getting overly existential, which may have already happened, I just want to take a moment to explain the significance of perception. I can already feel myself getting sidetracked, but trust me, if you haven’t gone there yet, you’ll be glad you did. You see, science is constantly developing new ways to explain our Universe, and one thing that constantly keeps popping up in my mind is this awesome experiment that puts some quantum physics theories to test and shows us a really awesome and important thing about perception. It’s called the “Double Slit Experiment.” Here’s a fun video that is totally worth watching if you haven’t heard of it:
So hey, that’s a big can of worms. We’re just taking a little peek inside the can and closing it back up for another day. But basically what this all boils down to, in my opinion, is that we ARE energy. That matter is energy. Einstein said it himself, right? E=MC². And the simple fact that we are observers and we are interpreting energy with our consciousness–our points of accumulated and stored observation–allows that energy to be perceived as matter. And we interpret energy by converting waves of various frequencies through our observation “machines.” Our eyes “see” electromagnetic radiation, aka waves, from 390nm to 700nm (basically red to purple). Our ears “hear” pressure waves from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. It is generally assumed that “notes” lower than 20Hz are “felt” rather than “heard.” There are even hypotheses out there that explain taste and smell as forms of vibration sensory, whereas we used to explain these senses through some sort of molecular lock and key function, which science has has had a hard time proving. The interpretation of these vibrations, from sight to scent, all happens in our accumulated observation storage machines called our brains, which are really just collections of neurons that fire at each other and form associative patterns that we call thoughts. And the accumulation and storage and association of these thoughts is what makes up our perception! What this means is that how these neurons fire is equally a part of what makes up our individually perceived realities as the input itself which we are constantly interpreting.
So my goal going into this thing isn’t going to have anything to do with any records. My goal is to try to find a way to mold my perception and change work into flow and then to hold onto that feeling for as long as possible…hopefully the duration of the event. My training has been as close to non-existent as it’s ever been, and I’m already finding that my body seemingly has limits. Maybe I’m due for a major wake up call. I had a minor one the other day when I took my first run in about 4 or 5 years just to see how my body felt, and I pulled both my calves after about 15 minutes of exercise. I was running way too fast; I guess I deserved it. Turns out there’s a physical element to this afterall, but I’ll tell you what. Before that happened, the legs were churning like butter and I was feeling good. So…I’m going to stretch next time, and maybe not run in my Vibram Fivefingers on concrete on the next run. My goal over the next three weeks will be to focus on training my muscles to work without injury. As long as they can do that, whatever distance is covered by means of skateboard at the Miami Ultra-Skate will be a mental game. And that’s really what I’m after. It’s not about seeing what I’m made of or proving to myself or to anyone else that I can withstand more than the next guy. It’s about further training my mind and perception for life after the “race”–about turning work into flow, and holding onto that feeling, indefinitely.
Surfer on Mavericks – photo, Shalom Jacobovitz