Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Let’s See How Far We’ve Come

The other day I hiked up and jogged down Black Butte. This hike is one of a few that I wanted to do before the snow flies (which could literally be any day now). The last time I hiked it was November 9th, 2010. In snow and wind all by myself. Actually I did hike repeats that day. The hike is two miles from trail head to the top with 1,600 feet elevation gain. The trail is relentless “up,” steep at times. My heart was beating out of my chest and lungs gasping for air within a minute. But that’s the way I roll. For some reason, I always like to push myself up to the top of things. I know there are people who are able to run this trail, but I really can’t imagine that. It’s just too far beyond my ability to comprehend. Those people are truly blessed. But then so am I, because I have the ability to hike with gusto and feel my heart beating, lungs and legs aching.

About half way up, the trail exits the trees along the butte’s southern slope. Views abound. I thought back to the first time I hiked this trail in 2006. I was still losing weight, not yet in good shape, and was terribly afraid of heights and open spaces after breaking my ankle slipping off a hiking trail in August 2005. That first hike up Black Butte was quite traumatic: when the trail exited the trees and the butte fell away to my right, I freaked out. I froze in fear, collapsed along the uphill side of the trail and broke in to tears. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be able to continue. Eventually I calmed down and was able to slowly move on, made it to the top, and back down. Today I power-hiked up, occasionally glancing over my shoulder to the stunning mountain views, and smiled. My, how far I’ve come.
Cupola at the top of Black Butte on 10/14/11

I passed two groups of hikers on the way up. My goal was to make it to the top, not just the top, but the cupola on the far side of the top, in less than 50 minutes. I made it in just under 48. Not bad for sucking wind today while recovering from marathons both of the last two weekends. Not to mention the 800 feet of elevation gain per mile on the way up. And stops for photos. My, how far I’ve come. I tarried at the top for several minutes, took more pictures, soaked in the view, and talked to a scurrying chipmunk who I’m sure hoped I had a treat for him. Then I turned around for the jog down.

The cupola on 11/9/10 - get out while the hiking’s good!
On the way down, I re-passed both groups of hikers, still on their way up. I was happy jogging down the trail with the beautiful views and the sun shining. My heart sang. And then 24 minutes later, it was suddenly over. Driving back to the highway from the trailhead, sadness suddenly hit me: “Oh no, what had I done?” Only 72 minutes of my life, and this wonderful experience was over. Maybe those hikers were on to something. I felt like I had not savored the moment enough. Sure, I was pretty pleased with my hiking performance, but fast time isn’t everything.

Almost everyone I know wants to get faster. Set a new PR (personal record). Pass a few people. Place in their age group. All kinds of runners apologize for or categorize themselves as being “slow.” Why? Isn’t enjoyment what it’s all about? While I too enjoy the occasional PR and passing people near the end of a race, I really don’t enjoy running fast for very far or very long. So why do I beat myself up because I’m not as fast as I’d like to be or once was? If I can’t take the time to slow down to enjoy my surroundings, take pictures so I can look back long after the experience is over and smile, walk and talk for a minute with someone during a race who is hurting or feeling discouraged, then I’m not running for the right reasons. This applies only to me. I won’t judge you if your priorities are different.

Don’t lose sight of how far you’ve come!
On the way home I stopped on the outskirts of the town of Sisters for a short trail run on the first part of the Peterson Ridge Rumble course. My body was pretty worked from my previous effort, and it didn’t really want to go. I slowly jogged down the trail at a 12–13 minute pace and laughed at myself out loud. Another good lesson today. The lessons have been coming fast and furious all summer. I guess they probably always have, but I’m finally opening to receive them. And then I drove into town and had a tasty bowl of meat chili. My, how far I’ve come.

Now I ask you: Think back 6 months, a year, 5 years, and appreciate just how far have you have come.

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