Back At It
Like A Bad Habit
6 months ago I was in a hospital bed questioning everything I was working towards. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Is it worth it? These questions flooded through my mind washing away my confidence as it wreaked havoc on my psyche. Feeling totally lost. Confused. Scared.
But I got out of that bed. And when I went home to rehabilitate I never stopped asking myself these questions. But I did begin to get some answers. What am I doing? I am doing what I love. I am living my life to its fullest capacity as well as I can. I am learning to love life! Why am I doing it? I am doing this for me. Is it worth it? This last question was the hardest, and I have yet to know what the correct answer is. But I look back on my experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything, these life-shaping moments. I am reminded of the serendipity I have witnessed, flooded with the conversations I was privileged enough to share and the fleeting acquaintances I’ll never forget. I remember it all, I’m proud of this adventure that I have chosen, and I realize this momentary hardship is only another chapter in my never-ending story. Once I had these incessant questions soothed for the time being, it was time to get back to work.
I’ve never been the most patient person, least of all with myself. Taking the time to heal was quite a challenge for me, but I knew it was of the upmost importance if I was going to get back to bagging peaks for breakfast. Although the recovery period would push me out of a comfortable time window to achieve my immediate goal of hiking the Arizona Trail, I set my sights on a new goal. I’d run my first marathon.
Although having hiked many a 20+ mile day on the Appalachian Trail, I had never run farther then a 5k. I also no longer had my trail legs from being forced to chill — and I mean chill hard for a few solid months while my body aches healed. I decided this would be the next goal after hiking a section of the Sheltowee Trace, completing the John Muir section. I asked my buddy Phil, who hiked 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail with me before getting sucked back into the workforce, if he’d like to run a marathon with me. Once he agreed, it was go time.
In the typical Warren and Phil fashion we chose a trail marathon that was only a little more than a month away. The elevation profile was intimidating. And of course we didn’t start training immediately. Why? Cuz’ lazy. When we did begin we were running 5k’s. After my first few runs I was feeling totally discouraged and in way over my head. Throughout the training I wasn’t able to shake this feeling. Phil tried to help with encouragement, but I just didn’t have the confidence in my body that I once had. And it ate at me. But I continued to train. Although every part of me was saying “No! You can’t! Stop now! You’re wasting time, and this hurts!”. There was another voice, faded and soft but still there whispering in my ear “ Only you can stop you, nothing else. You CAN do it. You WILL do it. Just keep going, no matter what just keep going!” I chose to listen to that whisper. I wasn’t sure if I believed it or not. But I just focused everything I had on that thought. Channeling my inner Thomas the Train “ I think I can I think I can I think I can.”
Race day was upon us. We had made the road trip from Louisville, Kentucky to Ithaca, New York. After many miles, tolls, and a quick snooze in an abandoned lot near a hotel, we made it to the starting line.
I was honored with the most excellent racing bib, the legendary 69. Phil and I looked at each other and laughed. It seemed Red Newt Racing was in on our joke, our sick and strange joke that we had played on ourselves by signing up for a 26 mile race with a month to spare and little training. We lined up. It was early, the air was cool and the sky was cloudy. I had no expectations for how this race was going to play out. I was fairly confident that I would finish, but at what cost I kept wondering to myself. My only goal was to get as much enjoyment out of the race and trail as possible and just look at it like a long day on the AT. The scenario I set up in my head was this: I just absolutely had to make it 26 miles to town because I was slack packing and their was townie food trail magic waiting. A lot of people might not understand that mind set. But my fellow hiker trash definitely does and knows that a hiker will do just about anything to get to some townie food.
We were off! Phil in his excitement for the start left me in the dust right off the bat. The first mile had my legs aching with lactic acid build-up. I had to stop and stretch against a tree and shake my legs out. As I did this, a group of three runners ran past me talking about how they’d be seeing a lot of that (referring to me taking a break so early) because “people don’t know what they are getting themselves into.” I quickly got back on the trail, caught up with Phil, passed those 3 runners and never saw them again.
13 miles in was when I knew we had it. We were maintaining our pace extremely well, passing tons of people on the uphills with our power poles of destiny aka trekking poles. I felt great. I felt strong. I felt CONFIDENT! I WAS BACK BABY! Phil and I sang songs and chatted about random things, made jokes and laughed loud. A smile on our face the entire race. All of a sudden we were 23 miles in. 3 miles to go! Phil let out a woop of excitement! We passed lots of people that were walking at this point. Our spirits high, we made our way toward the finish line. I was unaware my butt could hurt as bad as it did, and with each step I was on the verge of a charley-horse in both of my hamstrings. But we kept the wheels turning.
With the finish in sight, Phil says we should sprint it out. I don’t have anything left in my tank and I curse him for the idea. He says it again, and I become so frustrated that I yell an obscenity and take off as fast as I can like a bat out of hell. Now Phil is cursing me while he makes up the few steps I had on him. We finish the race hand-in-hand, raised in celebration, grins on our face from ear-to-ear. WE HAD DONE IT!
The plaque was cool, and the free pint glass and beer were nice, but what the Cayuga trail marathon had given me was so much more. It gave me back my belief in myself. That whisper is now a thundering voice. Just try and stop me!