Thursday, 26 May 2016

Is the Freedom Challenge similar to Fight Club?

What do the Freedom Challenge and turn of the century movie Fight Club have in common? Apart from shared initials, nothing! But the rules of fight club are interesting and might be of interest as they apply to the Freedom Challenge.

The characters in Fight Club are a bunch of bored directionless societal drones who have lost their sense of purpose and make their way to Fight Club in search of meaning which, in time, decays into barefaced anarchy. A Freedom Challenge participant is anything but that. Most are riders who have a very clear sense of who they are and what they would like to achieve. Very few have been duped into pitching up at the start line with no idea of what is about to unfold. I use 'very few' rather than 'no one' because I can think of at least two riders, who, (mis)guided by a keen friend, turned up for the Ride to Rhodes and had their heads scrambled by the time they got to Ntsikeni on day three. Once there, they threw in the towel and haven't been heard of since. I guess they did fulfil at least one of the rules of Fight Club - 8th Rule: If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight. And fight they did. I suspect they are still licking their wounds.

The 7th rule of Fight Club might apply; Fights will go on as long as they have to. The FC rules state the maximum finishing times for the various races; RTR is 8 days and RASA 26 days. Those are extremely generous cut-offs and very few people have either one of those as their ultimate goal. Practicality and ambition have proven to impinge on those limits. I recall one rider who ran out of leave and had to abandon his ambitions of getting to Wellington so he could head back to the office. Others have set tight personal goals that have been dashed against the rocks of bad weather and unrealistic planning resulting in their resolve leaking out on the trail. Rule 7 would serve a rider well when they are standing in a puddle of their own failing resolve.

Rule 6 is ridiculous - no shirts no shoes. Completely impractical, but I am still scarred by the image of Marnitz riding up from the Grootrivier gorge wearing nothing but his riding shoes and a backpack. He would have needed to shed his riding shoes to comply fully with Rule 6.

Rule 5: One fight at a time. Sage advise. Face each challenge as it happens. Fretting about how you are going to get up Lehana while walking up Hela Hela serves no purpose save to drain you of the emotional energy you need to face the task at hand. Each day, and indeed each portion of each day, has it's own unique challenges. Deal with those as you need to. As you conquer an obstacle take time to savour the achievement. After patting yourself on the back you can turn your attention to what needs doing next.

Rule 4: Only 2 guys to a fight. When you start out on your race you need to pack two versions of yourself. Firstly, who you are. Secondly, the person you want to be in a months time as you sit at home or in the office and reflect back on your race. When you are overwhelmed by the events of the race and are ready to call it quits haul out the other guy and think about how you will feel about that decision in a few weeks time. I'm not suggesting that there aren't legitimate reasons to quit, but it's sometimes hard to sift through the fog of pain and doubt to identify a genuine reason that will prevail as a solid reason when you are back at home without your finishers whip or blanket. Quitting spawns a monkey that clings. As the year drags on it taunts. Then it starts talking. It always says the same thing - "We have some unfinished business!"

That leads into Rule 3: If someone says "stop" ... or taps out, the fight is over.
The second guy you packed needs to sleep on the decision before confirming that the fight is indeed over. My experience is that a good nights sleep and perhaps an easy day or two does wonders in restoring flagging resolve. A year is a long time to marinade in a host of what-if's.

Rules one and two of Fight Cub are the same - You do not talk about Fight Club. Clearly there is no direct parallel with the Freedom Challenge. If there was, then I have been breaching those rules for the last ten years. We need to supplant those two rules with two more appropriate rules. So, the first rule of Freedom Challenge is to make sure you make it to the finish and get your Blanket/Whip/Windmill.
The second rule of Freedom Challenge is to MAKE SURE you make it to the finish and get your Blanket/Whip/Windmill.


Aileen said...

Love this analogy. The clinging monkey is always one of my biggest motivators to finish those soul searing adventures.

Brad Roets said...

Very nice... And pack a spade, because so many have no idea how deep you need to go. Thanks for this, Mike!