To what does Gene attribute his surpassing himself in the Decathlon in A Separate Peace?
Gene attributed his success in the Decathlon of Devon's Winter Carnival to the completely uninhibited freedom the boys captured for that afternoon. For that brief span of time, they were able to escape the effects of the war, their impending involvements in it, and alll the cares and conflicts it created.
It wasn't the cider which made me surpass myself, it was this liberation we had torn from the gray encroachments of 1943, the escape we had concocted, this afternoon of momentary, illusory, special and separate peace.
For that period of time, the boys were able to act as carefree boys without needing to devote their efforts to preparing to assume their roles in the war. They didn't need to be planning which branch of the military they would enter, they didn't need to give consideration to what type of involvement would give them the greatest chance of survival. For that afternoon, they were still free to dream.