For several years I've been a secret admirer of Leor Pantilat, a man who spends a great deal of time thoroughly exploring the Santa Lucia Mountains in the Big Sur coast region of California (and beyond). There's notable similarity with my relationship to the mountains of the Northeast - something that I plan to keep up indefinitely. Only Leor does a better job of documenting and sharing his adventures than do.
But there's another reason he has my respect; having to do with following your own interests in favor of broad backcountry exploration, rather than using your talents for racing. Again, I'm not nearly as gifted a runner, but I feel that I can relate in that I haven't really found the enjoyment I was expecting from a trail race in nearly a year. I want to be internally motivated and satisfied - the secure zen-master unmoved by competition and external validation. To be the best Adam that I can be. But in reality, I'm weaker than that. Flawed. I have an ego. Sometimes I'm an asshole. And lately, more racing hasn't been the answer.
But in the backcountry there's no pressure. I can explore as fast or as slow as I damn well please. There's no one to judge, no one to keep up with, and no noise - in my ears or in my head. The social minefield of daily life can be forgotten for just a little while. Recently, I had the chance think over some of these things while visiting California for my wife to run Big Sur Marathon. I feel fortunate and privileged and the best way to express gratitude for the opportunities open to me is to make the most of them. So I did.