Running. I just can’t quit you.

My legs felt heavy on the trail this morning. It’s day two of an admittedly arbitrary new trianing schedule and it already wasn’t going well. When I reached a bench overlooking Redwood Regional Park a mile into the run, I glanced at Strava, and was surprised to see a pretty respectable average pace. I’m not too into speed and don’t pay much attention to those segment things, but I like seeing my effort transformed into numbers and little trophys.

I settled down a bit and told myself to slow down after that. The run didn’t feel great, but that’s often the case. No big deal. Nothing hurt. Nothing ached. I’m just shaking off the cobwebs after nearly a year off from running regularly. And that’s ok.

Last spring while training to run the Annapurna Circuit, I was constantly struggling with back pain. Then one weekend I was with Dan on an attempt to tag the summits of Williamson and Tyndall in the Eastern Sierra when my back had finally had enough. After that, I spent weeks not being able to much of anything. I went to doctor after doctor and didn’t get any answers. It’s hard to explain what I personally mean by “running” to doctors. (No, I don’t want to jog around Lake Merritt.) And it’s even more difficult to explain that I know the kind of pain that comes with running and I can push through it. (Grand Canyon, anyone?) But this wasn’t that. Something was wrong.

I gave up on doctors and started seeing an accunpturist and swimming laps at the community pool. Then I started climbing again, slowly. Climbing can be surprisingly easy on the body. I could pick routes that weren’t steep and when my back hurt, I could stop. After a couple of months I was working on a steep 11c in the gym and even managed to team-solo Laurel Mountain and hobble to the top of Cloudripper before winter set in. But I was so slow. I wasn’t able to run and I definitely wasn’t training.

Selfie at the top of Cloudripper. That was a slog of a day.
Getting up Laurel wasn’t so bad. It was the hike down that killed my back.

A lot has changed in the last year. I moved. I started a new job. I got engaged to the most supportive, kind, and loving person I know. And I quit running. Sure, I’d go for a little jog once or twice a week, but it was always raining so there were also lots of excuses to not get out on the trails.

Then this weekend Dan and I went to Mammoth. We didn’t do much… a little skiing, a little climbing. Nothing big. But being in the mountains and seeing signs of spring sparked something. I missed scampering through the mountains quickly and efficiently. I missed the movement and the independence. I wanted to start running again.

Spring skiing in the Sierra

So, I’m two days in to training for a solo August runcation in the Sierra — 4 days, 40 miles — followed by a weekend of climbing with the fiance. It’s a long way from 46 miles back and forth across the Grand Canyon in a day, but I’m stoked again. Finally.

I guess I didn’t quit running afterall. I just needed to take some space. It wasn’t you, running. It was me. Life’s all about growing edges and for me, this was a big one. I needed to let my body heal. To find some balance. To figure out a way to run and climb and be in a relationship and hang out with my friends and have a job that I love and still have time to eat, sleep and watch Gray’s Anatomy.

But now I’m back.

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