“With unsuccessful climbs, the splendor of the mountain is undimmed, or even enhanced.”
- Bill Tillman.
If you don’t totally immerse yourself in the situation or objective, then there’s a good chance you will be completely miserable. There’s a readiness you need to level up to, both mentally and physically. Hurdles you need to overcome, although some are out of your control entirely - such as weather, or wildlife.
For me, at least, there’s a mental barrier to hurdle at the start of a race or an event. I try to ease my mind away from the inside voices such as, “…You’ve totally got this!” and “…Yeah right man, you haven’t run more than 4 constant miles in over a month." - ugh, I know. I try to listen to other conversations and generally try to keep my mouth shut, keep a positive attitude.
The countdown is over and it’s our time to run free. Soon after the start we form into a line. Shortly after that the trail tilts abruptly skyward and the line dilutes. Gaps are formed between the runners, accepting their position while marching up the first climb. I lose sight of the leaders, but I can still hear them. I’m quite out of breath and already gasping and questioning myself.
“Probably went out too hard”, I tell myself. “Need to be more patient”.
My feet are sliding every which way on the snowy trail. Some new high-end winter shoes I picked up a couple days earlier are proving to be better at splashing in puddles with the kids than running in mountains. I have microspikes on and still wait for some purchase with each stride. Perhaps it’s the conditions? The snow has turned sugary and loose. My stride is reduced down to a sobering hike. I start to get cold.
After a couple switchbacks I can hear a few of the leaders chatting and laughing above me again. The conversation is rather casual - I picture them nonchalantly jogging up the trail, each sipping on a cup of hot coffee. My ego is totally crushed, yet I’m intrigued by their level of fitness, experience and training. I get inspired to get better at this sport, while paralleling doubt of my own ability levels, and the training I did to prepare for this - which wasn’t much. I let out an exacerbated sigh as I visualize future preparations.
“ -1º with the windchill up here on the summit” says one of the volunteers as I stand on the summit. My mind drifts into summer months; running in shorts, cars with no AC and sweating while stopped at a red light.
15 more miles into the event and the temperature plummets further on the peaks. The sky is perfectly gray. The wind is relentless. It’s cold. One of my feet has turned into what feels like a solid block and I can’t feel anything from my ankle down. It feels like my foot is asleep, but frozen. Like a spring turned into a rigid post. I accept the situation and decide to withdraw from the event at only 5 hours into the 12 hour time limit.
For the third time at this event I’m leaving unsuccessful and with battered pride. However, I continue to have a clear and bright vision of the overall task and continue to dream of completing the event I signed up for. An event left undimmed, light shines bright.