That feeling of reaching a summit, when those last few hundred feet of vertical struggle is over, there is a feeling of relief, humility, awe, gratitude, achievement – but it is brief, and after a few minutes, it’s time to turn around and go back the way you came. It’s not that the view gets old or that you don’t want to savor the moment, but the goal has been achieved and no matter where you sit, some pointy rock edge is jamming you in the ass – it gets cold and windy and chances are a storm will roll in before too long. Before the journey down the mountain is even over, you find yourself already craving another and reminiscing about the journey up, almost wishing you were still headed in that direction.
Is that why we constantly set new goals to go farther and harder and higher? Is there a near immediate return to our happiness set point? Much like nature programs us to forget pain, maybe it programs us to forget those emotional highs, and that is why we seek it out over and over like the rats and their sugar. If you’ve ever tried to hold onto that summit feeling, you know it’s like trying to hold water in your fist. It’s probably better that way or we might devolve into a population of amorphous blobs, all still psyched on that one peak we bagged long after our muscles have forgotten.
For the last several months, I’ve hit high after high after high. Life has been truly amazing and there was a lot of adrenaline in the equation with all the new and exciting change. There was a lot of change, but it was all positive — I was unleashed into the single life after nearly 8 years, I bought a condo, I got a more satisfying job, I took over an hour off my time for the marathon distance, I ran my first (hard af) 50k. And despite the biggest and most exciting challenge yet – the Mt Hood 50 miler – is less than 72 hours away, I’ve started to tumble down. Immediately after Dirty 30, I gained 5 pounds, which has stuck around despite my return to 40+ mile weeks. It may not sound like a lot, but it’s enough to make me feel really uncomfortable and want to pause my Tinder.
I’m straight-up struggling in areas that were going smoothly – I knew it couldn’t last and I appreciated every moment, but those times of upswing always seem to end too soon. This is what I meant in previous posts about wanting to create positive habits of thinking that would serve me when things inevitably started to slide. This is the time when all of those trail lessons I have written about are being put to the test. If you know me at all though, I don’t do particularly well in bad weather or windy conditions, so I’m back to flailing.
I always know when I’m deep in it because I have such a hard time getting clarity. If you have been reading my posts from the start, you can probably tell just by the succinctness of the post – or lack thereof. There’s a fine line between getting something out and spewing negativity that reinforces the dangerous self-talk that has been plaguing me. There is so much talk in ultrarunning about experiencing really low lows and it’s my curiosity about them, about seeing what I’m made of and coming through to the other side in a very tangible way – that underlies my desire to run further. From what I gather, it’s similar to what’s been going on in my head the last couple of weeks – just absolute garbage, the meanest shit-talking that no one deserves, especially not someone who is working hard, being honest, vulnerable and just trying to become a better person.
I’ve had some heavy issues come up and I wonder if it’s “easier” to fall back on old patterns because they’re a familiar form of misery, rather than facing some very difficult and scary new territory. On top of that, I’ve felt fatigued and sleepy for weeks – something I’ve never experienced. Then, just to add insult to injury, I’m 100% sure that I Tommy Boy’d a dude who at one point actually seemed interested in me until I tried to sell him some Callahan Auto Parts. 🤷♀️
Dirty 30 didn’t take me to those low places and I wonder if 50 miles will be enough to do it. Everyone says that when the lows come, to just wait them out, that they will pass, and to just keep moving forward. Well that’s exactly what I’ve been attempting to do for the last few weeks, but it’s just not letting up. It sure would be great to go into this race under ideal circumstances, but that’s not how life works. I had a great attitude going into Quad Rock and Dirty 30 and now I just have to accept where I am, forgive myself for not being perfect or able to fix what feels broken within my desired timeline, and just fucking go for it.
On one hand, I’m acutely aware of how fast life goes by and at times I feel that I don’t have a moment to spare. But the reality is, I can’t live a lifetime in a day and I can’t force my will on my body or my life – I have faced some big scary adversity in my life and have come out the other side with flying colors on the wings of a unicorn. It’s easy to forget sometimes, so I’m here to tell me, by telling you, that we will get through this low, it will pass, and in the meantime, let’s try to be gentle with ourselves and enjoy every fucking moment on that beautiful 50 mile course!