In 2009 I did another ultra marathon, a couple of trail marathons, a few 30k trail runs and I can’t even remember how many trail half marathons…and these only count the ones that I actually paid an entry for, not the ones I did on my own. When I run that much, it really doesn’t seem all that hard to train because I sort of just stay in a perpetual state of “trained”. It’s pretty cool (at least to me) that I can wake up any Saturday morning, lace up my Montrail trail running shoes and know that if I want to go out and run a casual trail marathon to start the day, I can, and do from time to time.
2010 started out sort of the same way in that I had a couple of hard, winter trail races on the schedule for January and February. However, I’d decided before the turn of the New Year that I would back off a little from the running this year and maybe ice climb, rock climb, snowboard and mountain bike more. As I said, it started out that way, but something happened along the way and as most of my well-intentioned plans to “take time off from running” go, the plan got derailed.
I did get some awesome ice climbing in this year, been hitting the rocks pretty consistently, ripped some big turns in the deep powder and have even ridden my mountain bike from time to time. Then, all of a sudden, my little world got shaken up in some respects, and I find myself back to what I love, running…running hard.
I have my standby places that I retreat to from time to time to clear my mind…Taos and Moab to name a couple. I can go there and camp for a few days and always get my chi back in order. While I am never opposed to dropping everything and saddling up the Tacoma for an adventurous road trip, this admittedly does take a little time to execute. When I need that quick fix of chi repair though, its trail running that I always turn to. I can do it by myself (which I prefer), I live in the Rocky Mountains (unlimited possibilities) and I can go as long and/or hard as I want within a few minutes of my house (convenient).
In the past few weeks I’ve become so aware that life is short, too short for me anyhow. There is just so much that I want to experience. So much in fact that it overwhelms me (and in turn overwhelms Donna). I always find myself filling my plate with more and more travel and adventures before the next one on the list is even finished. I love living that way! But what made me so much more aware of this brevity of existence is learning and seeing firsthand how randomly cruel life can be.
About three weeks ago I met some amazing new friends at a camp for young adults with cancer, and when I say amazing, I mean amazing in every way. Despite the cruelties that life had dealt them, they truly still live every day to the fullest. I love that so much. And spending a week with them really made me start thinking about my own life and what really makes me happy. Well, what makes me happy (in addition to all the people in my life) is long distance trail running, climbing, snowboarding and mountain biking. That’s why I decided to partake in this crazy trifecta of lunacy that I talked about in an earlier post. Stoked about doing that by the way.
But while I was there I was sort of overwhelmed, to the point of getting out of my personal comfort zone and I couldn’t seem to get my normally “Zenned out” self back in order. Don’t get me wrong, I was overwhelmed in a good way, 100%, it was just that I didn’t have a lot of extra time during the days so I didn’t run, process my thoughts and get my head clear from day to day. I did climb a little, but mostly for the work I was doing (photographing) so I wasn’t really all that dialed in. After a week, I was actually kind of swimming a little mentally and emotionally.
When I got back to Colorado I was absolutely crushed with things I had to do, take care of and figure out. I ran a little that first week back, but not much. There was just too much. And then, wow, then I talked to a very dear friend of mine and she was telling me about some very difficult medical issues she’s dealing with. And when I say difficult, I mean really tough. Fortunately, she is equally as tough and is managing…how is beyond me. But she will get through this, I know. She even told me that despite the difficulties, she refuses to give up the things she loves and still does them. She said, and I quote, “it gives me life”.
When I heard that, everything I learned at the camp the week before started to come clear. We all have a need to escape to the things that make us happy and “gives us life“. The guys at that camp escaped to Utah and were able to push the reset button for a week and hopefully take home a fresh perspective on things. My other friend finds respite from her ordeal in her love of the outdoors. Whether modern science can “prove it” or not, being active and doing the things you love is healing to the mind. I personally live by those words daily and now I’ve seen it in all its glory in other people as well.
After hearing my friend’s news, I have to admit it was completely devastating to me. Like I said, she’s going to come out of this, I know it. But thinking about her ordeal had my head spinning out of control. Once that happened I really had only one option to help get my chi and mind back in order…run. Everything else could just take a number because I was running come hell or high water.
During the following week I ran just a little longer than I normally would midweek, but when the weekend came, I knew that the 12-14 mile trail runs I’d been maintaining wouldn’t be near enough to adequately think things out. So I drove up to my favorite trail, laced up my shoes and I ran…for hours. And when I was done, I felt better and had some answers; answers about my week at the camp and hopefully an answer for my longtime friend.
I love my long trail runs. They can push my physical and mental limits to the max…and often do. I can be alone in remote places for hours and think things out, without distraction. I can immerse myself in the simplicity of nature and revel in its beauty. I can laugh and cry on my own terms. It’s my therapy. It restores my chi.
Deciding to back off from running a little was a mistake.
The answers always come in the long run…