I wrote an article for a ski patrol newsletter recently. It was specific to patrolling but I think the idea can be applied to ultrarunning, race directing, and life in general. I’ve modified it slightly to make it appropriate for this blog.
In my previous life I used to be a rock climber. I enjoyed all kinds of climbing from bouldering, to multi-pitch cracks, to big walls, to sport climbing. Climbing, like most sports, requires attention. It is different from the other sports I’ve done or do in that it could consistently focus my attention without much effort on my part. Tie in, start climbing, and I could be right in the moment immediately, not thinking about what I was going to have for dinner or issues at work. This is generally a good thing as climbing is a serious activity that requires one to control emotions while also executing athletically, with potentially serious consequences for errors.
But, sometimes that focus can be a detriment. One of the mental techniques I used to employ, thanks to author and climber Dale Goddard, was the concept of zooming in and zooming out. When doing a difficult move that required complete concentration and focus I needed to zoom in, ignoring everything else. All of my attention would be focused on the tiny edges of rock my feet and hands were on. But spending all my energy executing single moves could have resulted in missing good rest opportunities or not knowing where I needed to clip the protection. Should I climb above the pro, clip, and then come back down and rest? This type of attention, while equally important, required zooming out, or changing the focal point of my lens to a perspective a little farther away from the tiny edges I was standing and holding onto. Finding that perfect combination of zooming in and zooming out is when I would climb my best and what I always strived for.
I pulled out this climbing reference last weekend at a senior patrol medical training session where the emphasis is on managing medical scenarios with multiple patients and/or distracting bystanders. Not sure I did a good job articulating it, but I wanted to get the point across to the candidates that this technique could be used when leading multi-patient scenarios. Zooming in for their assessments, when listening to patients, or splinting a broken bone. Really paying attention and focusing. But they can’t stay zoomed in indefinitely as they have other things going on which also require their attention. Zooming out to make sure they have a plan for the whole scenario, and evaluating if it is working or not. Is the other patient crashing? Do all their helpers have a job, and are they working efficiently? I suggested that they needed to be able to zoom in and zoom out many times during their 20-minute scenario. It’s finding the right combination of the two that is the tricky part.
Can this same technique be applied to ultrarunning, either training or racing? How about race directing? Or life in general? Are you good at plugging away at the day to day minutia without paying attention to the bigger picture? Or perhaps you can’t zoom in and focus long enough to concentrate on the now?
What do you think? Who’s zooming who? Or is that whom? Should I leave this philosophical stuff to AJW?