On Enjoying the Little Things

Born in the USA, raised in Switzerland, originally Austrian, and graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations, Johanna only got off the couch less than a handful of years ago. Nonetheless, she’s trying to live out her newfound passion for wilderness, adventure, and an active and healthy lifestyle as best as she can. Currently based in Revelstoke, British Columbia, Johanna is spending many hours in the bike saddle for the Great Cycle Challenge Canada fundraiser, to which she has pledged to bike 2,000km throughout June. Last year, she finally realized her dream of becoming an ultra runner and got hooked. The goal for this year is to participate in a 50-mile race and to keep on building on those foundations. Really, she’s got adventures on her mind, scars on her shins, and many miles on her shoes. Johanna’s Blog: jorunswild.com

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I have no inherent talent for most of the things I do. I am a slow runner, a mediocre mountain biker, my skiing technique is average at the very best and, admittedly being afraid of falling and exposure, I get gripped way too easily. All in all, progressing quickly in any of these sports doesn’t exactly come easy to me.

Abbott Ridge Glacier National Park.

Sure, I have decent endurance. But that doesn’t compensate for a lack in fast-twitch muscle fibers and technical motor skills. Yes, I can ride over 100 kilometers on a bike and I can run around at a slow pace for hours (when I’m not sidelined by Achilles tendonitis). But those aren’t exactly technical skills. Just watch me try to ski something technical or clear a rocky and steep section on a mountain bike; it’s not exactly flawless.

Luckily, I am not too competitive – at least I think so. Thus coming to terms with being a mediocre amateur comes easy enough. Yes, I do a lot of stuff. Yes, I move lots. But just because I do it does not automatically mean that I deserve praise for being “good” at any of it. At this point, I’m pretty sure I’d never place on the podium in an ultramarathon nor will I ski the gnarliest and most technical lines. While definitely a hyperbolic statement, it does feel as if there is almost an infinity of people out there who actually excel at what they do. Raw talent, years of training… You name it; they got it. I, on the other hand, do not.

Mt. Green Summit. Glacier National Park

Instead, I figured that I should relish in this lack of talent and natural ability. I am no freak of nature. And, honestly, it is likely good for us to enjoy doing things we are not particularly good at. Life is not a contest. Just because you are putting up a sweat and exerting yourself doing something you love doesn’t mean you suddenly have to strive to beat everyone else. Sure, I am as guilty as anyone using my GPS watch, Strava, and the like. I try to not let it get to me, though. Mainly, it is a handy tool to track my personal progress and to feel that extra bit of accomplishment we get from sharing what we’re up to with friends.

It is important here to make a distinction between getting better and striving to be the very best (like no one ever was). Of course I want to improve my speed, my strength, my endurance. And I love to struggle and challenge myself. Sufferfests are pretty awesome in their own, mind-altering way. But more than doing it in order to beat someone else, I do it to make myself proud of how far I have come. I want to improve, within my realm of average ability, to achieve happiness and confidence. I want to grow. I am an ex-couch potato who has already come quite a ways. But I want to go even further, just to know that my body and I are indeed capable of going places.

Keystone Trail

In that sense, I have really been enjoying those little improvements here and there. When I’m out on the mountain bike, every little technical section is an achievement deserving celebration. And I still relish in the feeling of accomplishment of having finally managed a single double-under, rope skipping. It was only one. But it was my very first one. Ever. And I had been trying for months.

For someone who got off the couch only a few years ago and who is out there not for podiums nor breaking records but simply for the heck of it – the sheer thrill and joy of adventure, the feeling of stepping out of the comfort zone, the intrinsic reward of progressing and being able to explore off the beaten path -, every little achievement deserves (and should be) cherished. It is, after all, an account of your personal growth in life.

I’ve got average skill and that’s cool.

I’ll never be a champion and that’s okay.

But I have passion and grit and I think that’s more important on any given day.

About the Author

Born in the USA, raised in Switzerland, originally Austrian, and graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations, Johanna only got off the couch less than a handful of years ago. Nonetheless, she’s trying to live out her newfound passion for wilderness, adventure, and an active and healthy lifestyle as best as she can. Currently based in Revelstoke, British Columbia, Johanna is spending many hours in the bike saddle for the Great Cycle Challenge Canada fundraiser, to which she has pledged to bike 2,000km throughout June. Last year, she finally realized her dream of becoming an ultra runner and got hooked. The goal for this year is to participate in a 50-mile race and to keep on building on those foundations. Really, she’s got adventures on her mind, scars on her shins, and many miles on her shoes. Johanna’s Blog: jorunswild.com

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Comments

3 Responses

  1. Johanna you effectively echo my athletic experience. I am only recently athletic (in my late 40s…better late than never!). In the last 5 years I have experienced fitness gains relative to me. My goals are simple in running and biking…to finish the race, without injury and not feeling horrible. If I can check all of those boxes off, the experience was a success. Extra credit for my kids seeing their mom reach a goal.
    There’s something to be said for slow and steady consistency and defining successful races, as you mention. Good luck in your future endeavors and thanks for the affirmation!

  2. Johanna, thank you for your clarity. I am now in my 70’s, began loving trail running in my 50’s and feel as though I am continuing to grow in skill. Steep downhills still bring out the dread in me, but also make me dig deep for concentration. I strive to hit goals personal to me and have a wonderful experience doing it.

  3. I love this! I feel the same about myself and this resonates with me. Sometimes it’s hard to always be slower or not as good at something, but that also might make me take time to enjoy what I’m doing even more. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

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