If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Reconnecting with joy

It's been a little rough on a few accounts. The breathing problem along with severe back pain took 3 days to calm down enough that I felt a bit more human, and a full week to move freely. On Monday, a week after my bail off Colorado Trail, I decided to go for Pikes Peak #7. That was my official week off, and though I worked the previous week once I got back home, this week the whole office was closed, so I was doomed to stay home with no plans and a full head of negative thoughts. The Pikes Peak went ok, I guess. Totally unexcited and with weak legs, it was my slowest in terms of summer ascends, although I was not breathing any worse that my normal "I am hiking a 14-er with nearly 8,000 feet of vert in 12 miles". Didn't help it was cloudy and no views, but I got my July in, continuing on a "every calendar month" streak, so I guess I am thankful.

The next day was hard. Not "sore-hard" or anything, but emotionally, I was a total wreck. It's only another week later that I realized why, subconsciously, I was probably such a mess. That was THE day I would have been coming off the CT if my FKT was to have gone on. That, and the fact I physically felt ok and wondered "what if". Anyhow, I cried the whole day, at random points. I snapped at Larry. I texted excessively to my friend Theresa, bless her heart. I was all but giving up on myself, in general, as an athlete of any kind. I was beating myself up for stopping, for my body betraying me, for me betraying my body...it was bad.

Next day, on Wednesday, I went to work and quietly added 2 weeks time off in September. I was going to re-bound and go after the attempt, again. Granted, I was already pretty seriously booked with appointments, but I didn't care, and I even in my mind was ready to quite my job. I stopped by REI and explored their only sleeping quilt as a lighter option (it was a bad option they had). I researched and searched other quilt options online. I re-packed my food bag - after all, I still had nearly 10 days of food left. I considered an option of going "normal" direction, from Denver to Durango, and contacted my friend Kristin to spend a night at her house (near the start), then wrote all water sources (fewer options as the summer wraps up) going Southbound.

That lasted all of 2 days. I thought about it hard. I didn't want to jeopardize my job - I won't die without it, but I also am not ready to retire yet and be bored out of my mind, nor do I want any other different new office and co-workers. I am too old for that kind of change. I didn't want to go "regular" route, even though it is a better option in terms of "easier" start with heavier pack at the beginning and slower change in altitude - and less driving for Larry to drop me off. I already did it this way, 3 years ago, and it wasn't "the challenge" I was biting a piece of. And I really, truly, didn't want to go in September, when the days are so much shorter, and the nights are so dark and long. I really hate (with a capital "H") hiking in the dark for so long. I mastered it last year on Collegiate Loop, but it was only 3 nights/3 mornings. Doing it for 11-12 wasn't looking appealing one bit, to put it mildly. Plus, I didn't want to drop $400 on the quilt I may never use again. The big thing was also - how much can I test Larry's commitment to support my crazy ideas? We moved here to explore the mountains, and here he is, sitting home waiting for me to complete some shit, while bound to the phone in case I need a bail.

With that, I took to maps. We tentatively have discussed a few things, and I looked closer at some. My office had two more closings upcoming for some sort of long weekends - one in the beginning of August, and one mid-September. I asked Larry to take vacation time on those, and picked 2 different loops to backpack together - in a much more coherent style, with 15 or so miles a day, lots of views, stops, flowers, fly-fishing, and early camping/late morning coffee. Plus, 14-ers. I said it a few times how I don't care to bag them, but it could be a good goal. Being quite an obsessive personality - eh, scratch that, a personality that is very goal-oriented - I like having an aim. So, that seems like an easy pick for now. We made plans. And I turned the page.  I put back my work hours, abandoned looking at CT pages, and started dreaming of enjoying my own backyard at a pace I wish for when I do my insane stuff - with a person I love.

We did a little hike in a new for us trail over the pass from home - and it was fun to go slow and see the views from the "other side". We should totally do it more often, I thought.


That weekend, we went to Lubbock to visit Harrison, and since it was mostly time between the father and son, I had plenty of time to contemplate and consider how to get in a place I want to push my training forward no matter what goals I come up with for the year(s) to come. While being struggling with that athlete chronic fatigue (OTS) for so long, I learned that I can do that without races. I needed to come back to it. To find the push, the focus, the determination. I ran both mornings - in that humid disgusting air I forgot all about (how did I survive 10 years in Texas?!?) - and I perused the hotel's gym, twice. It was a start.


Monday, I had a break-through. I went for a morning run - and I RAN! I felt like a runner, like I wanted to run, like I could. For the first time since before the 100 miler, I didn't feel the need to stop mid-way and gasp for air. My overall pace turned out to be brisk (for me) once I hit the stop button. I uploaded my Fitbit and realized, this is the first time my resting HR finally came down to normal. First time - since BEFORE the 100! Man, this is the very reason I wear this piece of technology, yet I failed to recognize that ever since June 5th I functioned totally busted in my systems, over a dozen bpm too high. Should have been a sign, I truly nearly got myself back into OTS. Thus the altitude effects far exceeding anything I expected for myself on the trail Duh...


On Tuesday, I did my 33rd Incline of year 2021. It felt like I am going to work (which, too, started that week, fully loaded with clients), but once at the top, as I pranced easily down Barr trail, the joy was slowly returning to me. It was enough of it that I texted two of my best girls - Theresa and Ronda - about that. I was slowly feeling something I lost...It was Wednesday that it felt like a come-back. I drove to my staple trail-head, and instead of coming up that dirt road I normally do there, I took a steeper side trail, and as I worked my way up, the heart started flattering, the legs - feeling stronger, and the emotions flooded. I didn't plan to go that long, but I took another trail, flew down, and did a run-around with such a soul full of gratitude - and the feeling that I belong. I was back, indeed. I still loved it, all of it, the mountains most of all, the single track, up and down, the effort, the views, running, hiking, life itself...It's going to be ok.


As for CT - I am going to sit on it for a year. I have been served a huge piece of a humble pie by the mountains I adore so much. I am not invincible, and the attitude matters. A lot has to come perfect to even attempt to think about it. My fitness. The health and strength of my back. Snow level in the winter, and the speed of the snow melt in the summer. Monsoon season timing. Vacation aligned with office potential closure (a.k.a. boss goes away on her own vacation). A quilt as a gift for Christmas. Other running goals I might find interesting. Larry's patience. Most importunately - my desire. My "why", the reason I would subject myself to such hardships for such a long time. Because, lets face it - there is a whole lot of suffering in doing it, no matter how you cut it. 

Billie Jean King once said: Champions keep playing until they get it right".

In the meantime - there will be lots of hikes with Larry, 14-ers, camps, runs, and workouts to keep it all together. I also have an upcoming fun crewing duty at Leadville 100! Plus, my honey is turning a double-nickel, so we've got a celebration to do! All of that will come in another post, because here, I just wanted to share that much: nothing changed, I am still me, I am ok.  

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