Friday, July 14, 2017

He Died Doing What He Loved

Dale Matson

How many times have you heard that phrase? Sometimes what we are known for can be our undoing. For example, Dean Potter dying in a wingsuit was just the last activity in a long series of death defying activities he engaged in. It was reported that he died doing what he loved.
A good friend of mine Joe Schlereth ran 10,000 miles one year preparing for the Western States 100 mile endurance run. He finished 3rd behind Ann Trason and Tim Twietmeyer that year. That is more than a marathon per day of training. How did he stay injury free? How do you maintain a reputation for that kind of mileage without eventually injuring yourself? Joe’s favorite saying about injury was, “Run through it”. I suppose it would be a good epitaph for Joe some day. I had the pleasure of pacing him from Foresthill to Green Gate at Western States one year.
Mica True, aka Caballo Blanco, real name Michael Randall Hickman was a trail runner made famous in the book “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall.
“Caballo Blanco left the lodge at about 10 a.m. He was seen along State Highway 15. The sun was a hot yellow beam when he entered the wilderness.”
He did not return and a three-day search ensued.
“But once nearer the body he knew instantly it was a corpse. True was lying face up, his eyes glossy, his jaw open. Flies were busy.” (Ibid)
“The others also forced themselves to look. True’s body was reclining on an outcropping of small rocks and boulders. His legs were in 10 inches of water, and his arms were against his chest, the right one down, the left one up. One of his shoes was off, and nearby was a plastic water bottle, two-thirds empty.” (Ibid)
Mica True’s autopsy indicated heart disease, specifically cardiomyopathy. It was said, “He died doing what he loved.”
I have Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) diagnosed by a cardiologist using an angiogram. I wanted a definitive diagnosis for why I didn’t seem to have the energy I once had. I got a definitive diagnosis and stents to boot.
I am a recovering cigarette addict and alcoholic who decided to begin running as a substitute. 30 years later my lifestyle and even my identity have changed. Running and hiking have been a panacea for me and it is difficult to cope with the anxiety and uncertainty of daily life. Do I play it safe and limit my activity? Do I avoid the things that gave me a new identify and great joy? Exercise, which once gave me a sense of peace, has become a new source of anxiety. Did I push myself too far, too hard today?
It distressed me to read about Mica True when he died. I suspect he knew there were problems and chose to ignore them because running was too much a part of his identity.  Like Joe Schlereth, the identity we establish has the possibility of being our undoing also.
If I am found dead along a trail someday please don’t say, “He died doing what he loved.” Like Mica True and Dean Potter, I died doing what I had to do.    


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