rRacing The Spirit Toward Stillness

by Coach Steve Ilg, cpt/uscf/ryt 500
author/Total Body Transformation

This morning, Wednesday…the south fork of the Rio Grande as she purrs past our campsite…

I suppose it’s the sanest part of me that naturally gravitates toward these serrated skylines of granite, sandstone and sun-splintered early morning rapids and ripples.  Perhaps the most redeeming quality that can be associated with this incarnation known as ‘ilg’ is that which has been undeniably attuned with Sacred Appreciation to the whirring symphony of hummingbirds, aspens quaking, and splashes of trout surfacing through snowmelt waters.

In my first book, The Outdoor Athlete (1985), i wrote, “Through the discipline of training, life bears many dreams.”    Yet the daily discipline of training also bears something more oblique, yet even more vital than the Sacred Sweat through which warriors like you and i connect again and again, multidimensionally and perhaps through multiple lifetimes….and that is the requirement for decompression.  For recovery.  For what i call,  Sacred Stillness.

For the past 3-days,  i’ve applied my general fitness onto my road bike and tested my legs and lungs against the top-most layer of sport-specific cyclists from across the nation during the 41st annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic here in my h(om)town of Durango, Colorado.  The first day, 197 competitors within my Age Group raced 47 miles to Silverton, Colorado which mandates an ego-withering 6,600′ of climbing over a 10,640′ warm-up hill known infamously as “Coal Bank Pass,” before hammering up the final 10,940′ notch of Molas Pass and then swooping like an osprey into the cheering crowds of the tiny mountain hamlet of Silverton.  Accompanied by winds gusting toward 50 mph on Molas,  I relied on my mountaineering and Furnace Creek 508 ultra racing experiences through Death Valley in order to merely stay on my bike within the raging wails of wind.   I finished in 50th place on my 50th birthday!  My time of 2:48 was awesome, considering I completed the entire race using only one leg, as the buckle of my left shoe busted minutes before the race start.  Race days are notoriously Shiva (The Destroyer) terrain;  crises on Race Day are frequent, often humorously absurd, and always extracting our highest spiritual equanimity to deal with them.  Which is precisely why i, for one, keep toeing Start Lines.  Doing so, maintains the monument of my moment-by-moment ability to respond to the spontaneity of the warrior’s UniVerse.

The next day featured a 45-minute downtown criterium.  The Start Line was stacked with fresh-legged racers that did not compete in the pre-fatiguing Road Race.  They were eager to cash in on the glories from a throbbing, cheering mass of cycling aficionados.  The urban racing scene was in juxtaposition to yesterday’s pilgrimage through the high peaks on a spectacularly scenic mountain highway – closed to cars! – along a paved thread through glittering peaks.  Today?  It was cycling pandemonium as the mountain bike racers were interweaved with us ‘critters courtesy of specially built over-passes and back alley re-reroutes all of which were created and somehow pulled off by the race organizers.  I finished 20th place at the mercy of the anaerobic monsters that live and thrive within these turbulent high-speed, high-skill asphalt waters.

The final day was the Time Trial…the Race of Truth.  No peleton. No drafting.  My start time was early morning.  Perched upon my Amitabha red Cervelo, the 17-mile ribbon of cold, shady road which lay before me in 35-degree air.  So much of what i teach in High Performance Yoga™ classes i applied during the 41-minute effort along the race course…flat spine, engaged core,  mentally softening into the physical pain, maintaining drishti (steady gazing), applying Mantra (mind-protecting technique), and always keeping connected to a Sacred Purpose, even when the hurt and doubt is intense.

Ananda dances past the crux of Mr. Breezy, in my precious Penitente Canyon which i helped develop in the early nineties…

By the end of the three days of painful pleasure,  i ended up 11th among all racers who contested and completed all three days.  That, for me – as a Wholistic Fitness™ athlete and a father of a 4 year-old?  Pretty stinkin’ sweet.  Most satisfying however, was the fact that all of my students set new personal records while the others covered the podiums with peak performances.  And yes,  the majority of them are on MAP Amino Acids; my mainstay secret weapon for cellular fitness.

Road cycling has changed over my decades of racing.  There are racers literally ‘buying their ways onto the podium’ with wheelsets alone that 10x ‘normal’ ones like mine and today’s roadies have seemingly shrunk wrap their entire bodies into whippet-like physiques just to race bikes.

“For to me,  sport-specificity is far easier attained than wholeness…”   the Ilg Clan…as captured this morning in Penitente Canyon by WF Master Student, Padma

Yet, at least for me, cycling and cycle racing will remain just one aspect of my Wholistic Fitness™ practice and i’m fine with spending a fraction of the time on the bike compared to these other racers.  For to me,  sport-specificity is far easier attained than wholeness…a wholeness which includes long, regular periods of staying off the bike and merging into other sports, other pursuits, and most of all into the Sacred Stillness.

Blessed be thy Sweat,
Blessed be thy Stillness….

coach steve ilg
owner/founder  www.WholisticFitness.com

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