This last Saturday...well yesterday, I helped Erich during the Leadville 100 by pacing him from mile 50 to 72.5. Some might ask what pacing is? In fact, when I joined Erich at mile 50, this being his first 100 miler, he was like "I've never had a pacer, I don't know what I need". Hahah! Luckily I have done a 100 miler (4+ years ago...sad) and paced (2 years ago...Emily at Leadville...happy), so you know, I'm an expert (not). According to me, a pacer is just someone who runs with you during the hard parts, keeps you eating, drinking, moving, and mildly entertained. They are just a "more" sane person along for the ride and usually trot along beside or behind you. When I did Moab 100, they were my saviors. Michelle, Tony, and Keith still have a special place in my heart from that one day.
Running along with Erich, he was doing very well. He is somewhat of a glutton for punishment and I asked him at one point why he was doing this race. He said that he searched out all the hardest endurance races in the world, made a list, and is going about doing them. What a man after my own heart. So he had done the Leadville 100 mountain bike the weekend before, and here he was pumping through the run. To ease your suspense, Erich simply gained steam through the race (in comparison to others), although his speech did get more and more slurred and quieter, and he busted a major move going 23:23 and earning the coveted sub 25 hour buckle...by a long shot. At one point around mile 60 he asked me if I thought it was possible for him to go under 25, and I was like "Heck yea". He did more than just that and his performance inspired me.
So, I got to run 22 miles out in the woods. Okay "ran" is glorifying it a bit because at least half of it was power hiking, but all the same...I moved along the trail for 22 miles with him. It's really rare these days that I get to do this and the only reason is that Erich is coached by Muddy and the guy needed pacers! Huge thanks to Mikki as well for pacing him for 14 miles after my 22.5 miles were up. Mikki is really one of the most selfless people I know and she's always happy to run all night in the woods with a complete stranger who's already run 72+ miles that day.
We ran along rather quiet for some long stretches of time...quiet for me, since I usually won't shut up, and I got to tune out a lot of the distractions of life. When you are in the woods there is a lot of air. It's clean air and smells like pine and there are no cars, and not many people, and it's peaceful, and the colors are easy on your eyes. During trail running you mostly focus on where the heck you are putting your feet and it's a hard enough task to keep your brain busy, but mindless enough to cut out most all judgement, or nervous thoughts. It's easy on the brain, meditative, rejuvenating. I needed this. I've had a really tough last few weeks and I've been searching for that sense of calm and peace and just couldn't locate it. My compass has been really off.
Out there in the woods I felt like I got my ducks back in a row and Mikki and I talked the whole ride home about it. Granted it was 2am and we were pretty loopy, but sometimes those are the best conversations.
What is it about some days in our life? This was my ahh-hah. Most the days of our life, they just go. Poof, gone, no memory. We go through the motions just grinding through. Maybe we do it peacefully or calmly, but they still leave almost no mark. Then there are some days in our life, yesterday was one of those for Erich, that you will never ever forget. It's just one day, just like the rest, 24 hours, just like the rest, but you will tell stories about it, you will savor it, and live it over and over for the rest of your time on the planet.
I think that most people don't have a lot of these days. They are few, the marriages, the birth of children, some of the devastating days. But those days, when you do get them, they are the first sentences of the chapters of your life. That opening line. When I look back at my life that's what these days are for me. With them came new awareness, about myself, about my journey, about my purpose. They foreshadow where I was headed. They are hardly EVER destinations, but more new beginnings of a new way of thinking and living.
Recently my chapters have been long. The highlight days have been more few and far between. The chapters are more developed, but they are long, and sometimes not heading the direction I hoped.
Getting out there on the trails yesterday reminded me that these big important days were always why I seek endurance sports. These experiences, however hard and brutal they may be have been the stars in my constellation, the highlights that form the picture. So to get off my lazy butt, I used this website to find hiking boots and went off on an adventure.
And out there I realized that I want more stars, and I want a more detailed picture. I want to get back to my roots, and I really don't like how sore I am today from my little jaunt in the woods yesterday. It was like a wake up call out there, a reminder of where my heart lies. Not just in ultra running, but training for and executing some hard gnarly days, record book days, stars in my constellation. And when I think about it that way, it's easy to see the muck. It's easy to see the times when I've gotten off base, and now I understand why those things have caused me so much angst.
Right now I'm training for Hawaii, my 5th in a row, and for 5 years it's been my North Star, the dominant star in my galaxy, the one that everything else revolves around. But very clearly I knew out there on those trails yesterday that Hawaii will not be my North Star for much longer. Where am I headed exactly? Well, Kona for now. But then, somewhere neat and cool and different and fun. Towards other stars to enhance the constellation of my life.