Monday, February 2, 2015

That Thing... The It.

Yours truly, well into a previous addiction. El Cap in Yosemite 1999-ish
By: Jason (Hey I got lots of writers now, so I'm using a by-line!)

I was recently watching a rock climbing video, as I still have a voyeur's love of climbing. It's just that I don't particularly want to get off my butt and actually CLIMB anything, but watching it?

I'm okay with watching from the couch.

Something was brought up in the video that piqued my inner dialog, and it shed a dim LED headlamp deep into my memory of my climbing days.

There was this thing, that climbers don't really like to talk about. It's the thrill of putting it all on the line and walking away no worse for the wear. Climbers will tell you how safe they are. They'll refuse to cop to the reality that they're putting themselves in any real risk.

They are lying: to you, and to themselves, if they really believe it. I watched with great sorrow as many acquaintances died or very nearly died. They'd missed tying a knot, they'd had gear rip out of a crack sending them into ledges, avalanched in an approach gulley. They'd gotten caught in a deluge and froze to death hanging on a rope.

Outer Limits in Yosemite Circa 2001
There's this dark aspect to climbing, that doesn't get talked about - because admitting to it creates a tacit reality that "THAT THING" is a part of what you're involved in. Admitting it is a bit too much to rationalize.

Where in the world am I going with this? Okay, let's get to the link here: there's a part of disc golf that is "there" (for lack of a better word) for many of us. It's there for me. It's not life or death, it's not risking our lives to prove something - but it's this thing, this drive, that takes our path to a different place.

I am not a guy who thinks that playing once a week is enough. I don't feel like I play casual rounds. I'm always working on the game. If I'm playing solo, I drop discs in the worst imaginable lies and force myself to dig myself outta a bogey. Leave 5 putters around every basket, everyone has to go in or they all get reset.

I find joy in mastering difficult things. I believe that at the core of my never-ending trek into the field, that it has become nearly an addiction. I find such satisfaction in cracking a pure shot that rifles across a field that I can't help but smile and laugh sometimes. It's as if those hours spent re-proving and im-proving myself are required.

I know that makes sense to many of you.

What concerns me to some degree, is that I tend to have deep feelings for sports. I dive into them with nearly reckless abandon - and then as quickly as I fall for them, I find myself looking for challenge elsewhere.

Climb it, ski it. Alaska 2011
If I am completely honest with you, there's a climbing gym that recently opened not too far from my house. That conversation in my head sounds like this, "Do you really want to give up disc golf? Because you know that there's only room for one mistress in your head."

I have a very nice full-suspension mountain bike sitting idle in my basement to drive that point home. I've got back country ski gear that is resting in a closet. Climbing ropes, harnesses, crampons, avalanche beacons - all inventoried and un-abused.

I haven't set foot in the climbing gym. It's not worth the risk.

Let's get back to this dark corner of our psyche that takes us past the casual rounds and into the battles to play our very best. It could be argued that it's a need to compete, but I find a major fault in that - because I'm not a tournament player, and I only play tags through the non-winter months, maybe once a week.

You could argue that playing with great players might kindle the fires of ruthless self-improvement. I think there may be something to that as well, but what then do you say when you're beating your friends? Do you lose the passion? And full disclosure, I am by no means beating my friends very often! My brother has a 2014 Gold Mile High Tag that was hanging on my bag just a couple weeks before retirement, just to prove that point.  But if it was about simply winning, then I'd have hung up my discs.

It's not normal to feel this way, that much I know. My friends can take their "hobbies" or leave them. They see me as a bit of an oddball with my obsessive focus. Even my buddies who like to run marathons have a hard time understanding me.

I believe that I was just born with an inordinate helping of stubborn determination. I've come to grips with it. I try to balance it with my "regular life" and be as present as I can be when I'm with my family. I can be productive at work. But it lurks there, constantly buzzing like a florescent bulb, gently nagging that "it" is out there.


A little more knowledge. A feeling of hitting the acceleration just right. That perfect flight that will hover, arcing just so, holding like it's suspended in space, and then breaking to the ground just at the spot you wanted.

Putting together a gorgeously executed round.

Adding some fuel to that invisible tank that will propel you. It's the will to continue whether there's a finish line or another mile to travel.

Saying "I love this sport" sounds too trite and maybe it's not even true. I love improving and I think it's okay to let that be.

Insane passion gets you to some cool places. Pika Glacier AK 2011


  1. I've got the bug too.

    I think the thing that sets disc golf apart from some other things is that there is so much room for improvement. McBeth said in the last disc golfer magazine that he won't feel like he has this game figured out til he gets 18 birdies or better every round. With different environmental factors, so many different courses and discs,and different throwing techniques there is a ton of depth in any direction you want to improve.

    It's a great game for people who are more competitive with themselves than with others. Playing with others, especially those better than you, can shine a light on aspects of the game that you have either neglected or didn't know were possible and give you even more fuel to improve.

    Gotta love it.

  2. Great byline Jason! I have those feelings as well and sometimes lots of irons in the fire that need tending.