It’s now been about five months since I attended the First Descents rock climbing camp in Moab, Utah. Not only did attending the camp make me more aware of the struggles that everyday people might be facing, but it made me truly appreciate my own good health and relative good luck in life. Being there was a harsh, yet beautiful reminder that life is short and we should all endeavour to live every single second of it as if it were our last.
As I’ve mentioned a million times before, while I was there I met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever been fortunate enough to cross paths with. I heard story after story after story that would yank at my heart strings one second and have me rolling on the floor with laughter the next. Always a party, but never a pity party…ever. And throughout the whole of the experience, I’ve made some fantastic friends who I’m pretty sure I’ll have for a very long time.
To bring you up to speed since the camp, after I returned from Moab I had resolved, dedicated myself, promised or whatever you want to call it, that I would do something to help support these incredibly meaningful camps. But more so, I wanted to give back a little of what I personally got from the experience. That being the case, I chose three events to tackle which would sort of a metaphorically represent the things I observed, learned and took away from my week there.
The three events were to climb a scary peak or two up in the Bugaboo Range of Canada (done), run an unforgivingly steep and leg/lung busting hill climb type event up in Steamboat Springs (done) and finally, run another torturous trail marathon as the finale. Well, here it is mid-September and I’m only three weeks away from toeing the line at the last event.
I’ll admit this project was a little more difficult than I expected. Not so much the training part per se, but balancing everyday life with being in a constant state of training. Normally I just have one event at a time to focus on and I’ve done this long distance running gig long enough to know how to efficiently do it. But it’s been interesting and oftentimes challenging this time around to try and squeeze all three of these events into one training regimen…in such a short period of time. Fortunately some of the training has overlapped (hill climb and trail marathon) and I could use one part for the other. Nevertheless, I’ve amassed a ton of trail running miles over the past weeks and months and now I’ve finally started my taper into the last event. However, this homestretch into the final event of the project honestly leaves me just a little bittersweet.
Though I’ve never done one single fundraising event in my entire life until now, this project has meant enough to me that I’ve been able to stay focused and keep on running and climbing, even on the days when I didn’t feel well, ached from the accumulating miles or days when the weather was absolutely dreadful. And yes, even though I’m a long-time, extremely dedicated long distance runner, there were admittedly a few days where I simply just didn’t want to run. But it was on those days where I’d think about everyone at that camp and what they’d endured, and are still enduring in some cases, and I’d stop whining, put my running shoes on and head out the door. Not once at that camp did I ever hear any complaints about being too scared, being too tired or being too “injured” to get out there and just get it done. In fact, it was just the opposite. Every day, regardless of how everyone felt, they’d push beyond their own comfort zones, both mentally and physically, and take life to a completely different level.
So, yesterday I did the longest scheduled run of my training, a pretty quick, but uneventful 22-miler. I sometimes dread those final big-distance runs simply because I’m usually pretty exhausted by the time they roll around and my motivation is sometimes sagging just a bit. But, I always do them and am always happy/relieved after they’re over (relatively). But despite being exhausted and even being a little injured this time, I was really looking forward to this one. Let me explain.
A few weeks back, a friend from Chicago, whom I’d met at the Moab camp, told me that she was coming to Colorado in the capacity of “Camp Photog” for another of the First Descents camps, one being held here in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was obviously a total no-brainer decision for the folks at First Descents. Number one, Caroline’s been to camps as a camper so she knows what it’s all about. And number two, she’s a remarkably amazing photographer and more than qualified to deliver the goods. You can check out some of her work at http://ccbinsights.wordpress.com/. Anyhow, she fortunately agreed to fly out a couple of days early and hang out with us here in the Boulder Valley before heading up to the camp in Estes!
To make the situation even better, for me anyhow, she is in the latter stages of training for the Chicago Marathon which is being run only one week after the marathon I’m doing. Well, since both of us needed to do long runs over the weekend, we sort of meshed our training schedules for a quasi joint long run. Let me also add that this is the very first time in more than 28 years of running that I’ve actually shared, or wanted to share, the experience of my final long training run with anyone. It’s always an extremely personal day for me and I truly like being alone with my thoughts and reflections as I punch out those long miles..almost a ritual and meditative experience of sorts.
When this meshing of our training schedules starting coming to fruition, the normal trepidation I have about slogging through that last 62-mile week of training sort of evaporated. One of the very people I wanted to tackle this project for in the first place was now joining me for what I generally consider the pinnacle of my training. It was like the entire First Descents experience and associated project was coming full circle for me. In no way could I have asked for a better scenario to play out. Thanks Caroline. It truly meant a ton to have you here.
Getting that last long training run wrapped up before the marathon is always tantamount to lifting a huge burden off my shoulders. Yes, I’m still a little beaten up, still a little injured and still pretty tired from the weeks and weeks of big mileage, but at least I know I have a couple of weeks of relatively low mileage and extravagant rest days ahead to take care of most of the normal pings and pangs of long distance trail running. Still a long day of racing ahead, but that’s what it’s all about.
Oh yeah, and here’s one more little tidbit before I end. When I finish the actual race on October 3rd, another friend from the Moab First Descents camp, April Capil http://www.aprilcapil.com/, will be here from San Francisco waiting with Donna at the finish area. Again, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to wrap up a project that’s meant so much to me. That’ll certainly be a huge emotional boost to know that they’ll be there waiting for me as I slog up and down every vertical foot of that “full-on mountain marathon course”, but more on that in about three weeks!
Climb high. Run long. Paddle far. Live big.