Interviewing Joe De Sena for the podcast led to each of us inspiring each other, which led to friendship, which led to him inviting me to his Vermont farm, which is where I am. Joe founded The Spartan Race, an obstacle course that grew a movement. This picture illustrates the community.
Several people I told I was coming up here knew about this farm and said, “You’re doing the Death Race?” But this weekend is an invitation-only, non-Death Race. There’s a 900-foot hill next to the property with steep, rocky paths. Starting noon tomorrow, people will do laps on it for 24 hours. They bring headlamps for nighttime, as well as what food, water, and other equipment they need.
How I inspired Joe: His episode isn’t posted yet, so for his environmental commitment, he picked up beach garbage near his Montauk home. While picking up, he stumbled on people helping a beached dolphin. The experience moved him and he associated it with me.
How Joe inspired me: We got to talking about exercising indoors versus out and I mentioned how I’d thought of taking my rowing machine to my roof for a while, but don’t like taking the elevator. Talking to him, I decided to do what I’d milled about in my mind for a while.
The machine splits into two parts, which I did. I carried the first piece, which weight maybe thirty or forty pounds, but more importantly is bulky and hard to carry, eleven flights up. Then I walked down eleven flights and carried the second part up eleven flights.
With all those stairs, I decided to take rowing lighter that day. Instead of my usual twenty minutes, I rowed thirty, then split the machine into two parts, carried one down eleven flights, walked back up, and brought the other piece down eleven flights. A few days later I carried a kettle bell up and down too.
Joe dug that fun—I think that I had found the joy in it. I also talked to him about my plans two days after our second recording and two days ago to swim across the Hudson River a second time—following my first crossing twelve years ago. My friend I swam with this time brought a camera, so I’m waiting for him to post his video before posting about it here.
The company you keep
The difference between talk and action compounds. People love talking about Game of Thrones, Grand Theft Auto, and the latest restaurant that opened. They bond with other people who enjoy what appears to me passive entertainment. I haven’t felt part of those communities because I can’t find the time or money to buy, subscribe to, and watch a TV, buy, subscribe, and play video games, or eat out.
Doing free things like swimming across a river or climbing stairs with heavy objects—and finding the joy in it—leads to connecting with others who do. Through them I meet others, like the guy they found I could ride up here with, whose Spartan journey started with him at 240 pounds not of muscle, unable to play with his son for running out of breath. He told me assembling his son’s Ikea bed exhausted him. Not long after finding the joy in moving around he came in fourth place in a Spartan event and got invited to compete in increasingly elite events and we met.
Actually, I paid $9 for the ferry to New Jersey to swim back, though could have paid about half that to cross by train or just swum both directions. Or even just swum halfway and back. And I paid $500 for the rowing machine about ten years ago. So my activities aren’t free. Once a lifetime I spend about what some do per month.
EDIT: I posted a relevant post
and recorded a relevant podcast episode
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