Pyramids and Sand Mandalas

October 25th, 2011 by Stacy

Gretchen recently wrote a really nice piece grappling with the fleeting nature of contentment and the urge to achieve more. A few days later, AJW also wrote a really nice piece comparing and contrasting Tim Twietmeyer’s 25-year body of work at Western States with Kyle Skaggs’s 2008¬†Hardrock. Thought-provoking stuff, to be sure. In describing Kyle’s race AJW used a term that caught my eye:

By contrast, in the early spring of 2008, Kyle put his life on hold, moved to Silverton, and over the course of 5 months whipped himself into the best shape of his life. He learned the nuances of every climb on the Hardrock course and internalized every rock, twig and creek crossing. Then, with the calm and deliberate focus of a monk (emphasis mine), proceeded to run what could go down in history as the perfect race.

Not knowing Kyle personally and given the silence from and about him since the race, I’ve always chosen to think of his 2008 Hardrock not as a supernova but a sand mandala. In this way of looking at it, he painstakingly built a masterpiece of expressive mountain running and then, rather than try to preserve or extend it, swept it up and cast it into a river. The race and its preparations were an accomplishment of supreme mental and physical discipline; eschewing competition thereafter an act of profound humility.

The time Kyle ran is probably the least interesting part of it for me. I suppose the record may, in some way, be necessary to the story. But¬†I honestly would have a hard time caring less about where Kyle’s Hardrock fits within the competitive history of the sport. To me, it’s more beautiful and inspiring as a symbol of the transcendent possibility of loving something completely yet without ego, of the drive to realize our human potential in full acknowledgement of the impermanence of existence.

2 Responses to “Pyramids and Sand Mandalas”

  1. Gretchen says:

    Beautiful comparison, Stacy. The mandala to Kyle’s race, I mean. in that light, it would seem he doesn’t struggle as much with contentment as I.

    On this Sunday’s 7-hour run through Desolation Wilderness, Betsy spent plenty of time convincing me of the merits of throwing my name into the Hardrock lottery this year. With that in mind, I’d ask you to please not write any more posts romanticizing that race. No more fuel to the fire, please! ;)

  2. Stacy says:

    Thanks, Gretchen. Certainly I am drawn to this interpretation of Kyle’s race for its aesthetics and romance, but I don’t mean to imply other ways of looking at it, or looking at racing generally, are inferior. There’s nothing wrong with building another mandala, right?

    And I’m not sure there are more inspiring ultrarunning mandalas than Hardrock.

    I guess the nice thing about the metaphor is it maybe helps keep the focus on the lessons and blessings of the training process and is a reminder to beware becoming attached to results.

Leave a Comment