The temperature outside is a rough sixteen degrees, though it is more tolerable now that the wind has died. A thin carpet of new snow covers the earth and my car windows, meaning this is the day I get to use the once-a-year windshield scraper I carry at all times. It does not feel like your ordinary day of reckoning, but there is a clock ticking and a few issues that need to be addressed.
I knew in my gut that I needed to come to Mammoth. The first draft of the new book is done and I will make my wife a track widow this coming Saturday, as the new season starts. So the window for shutting down is small, just five days. But I am obsessive when I work, throwing myself wholly into a book or a season at the expense of my own sanity and health. The New York Times backs me up on this, showing that we perform at a higher level when we set aside the need for balance. Or, as legendary Colorado distance coach Mark Wetmore likes to say, "be lopsided." My makeup is such that I have no choice but to be lopsided. The total solitude of writing a book is my jam, and I can lose myself into the written word for literally hours at a time. Once I start, the "move" bar on my Garmin gets completely ignored. Few things make me happier.
The same holds true for coaching. Once I leave my bunker and drive down to the school to coach, those next four hours are a period of complete focus. Every aspect of the workout gets my full attention. Being around my team, with their many personalities, is a wondrous opposite to the solitude of my office. When I get home I shut down completely — no phone, no email, just conversation with Callie. Then I go to bed early and get up at dawn and do it again. It's all internally motivated and all a form of bliss. But the totality of living days of maximum effort takes a toll. Thus I am in Mammoth.
For three nights in a row I've slept twelve hours. For three days in a row I haven't done a lick of exercise, other than the mental cooldown of reading for hours at a time. The cold weather helps, giving me an excuse to sleep late and stay indoors. But I'm too aware that this level of exhaustion of which I was completely unaware needs my attention. Sometimes the act of being lopsided can be a sort of power, a whipping of the mind and body in the manner of the Apostle Paul, leading us to accomplish that which we did not think possible. Sometimes, however, being lopsided can be equally destructive. Let's just say back in those wilderness days when I partied, I partied to win.
I have ideas for a new book to be written in between the history books. There are no bunt singles in publishing, so it would be best if it sold a few copies. What I have in mind is travel and memoir — not the most reliable sources of blockbuster. It's taken me these three days of shutting down completely to be even cognizant that I wanted to write a book like that. The mind needs the energy to wander, and it's no mistake that my friends who seem to be the most creative have the propensity to be completely lopsided when they are creating and also the most lopsided when it comes to rest. One friend from the television world compares energy to a bathtub: you can do great things when that bathtub is full, but once the plug has been pulled and the water leaks out you need to take as much time as needed to refill the tub again.
I will leave here tomorrow and drive straight to practice. The time for shutting down will be over. If I am smart I will stay away from the bunker for a few weeks — journaling, letting the mind wander, growing creatively strong again. We'll see. I'm not compulsive in all I do, but I enjoy doing it. To live a life immersed in the things I love to do best is a true blessing. So I will enjoy this last day and night in Mammoth, loitering barefoot in the condo in my sweatpants and "Suffer" t-shirt, trying not to get too unbalanced. It's not a time to think consciously — not of goals or next books or to-do lists — because it will go by too fast.
In these moments that are the opposite of mental and physical rigor that bathtub is being refilled. But I'm going to wait a long while before getting lopsided again. For now, it's nice to feel balance.