Thursday, June 20, 2013

Three Years of Adventure

             Three years ago I ran my first 100 miler trail race. I didn’t run a shorter race before that. I just knew I had to do it and that I could do it. I ended up winning and placed 4th overall with a new found hunger to run trails everywhere I could.

3 years ago at the Mohican 100
                A year after I ran my first 100 miler I headed West, quitting a job that other recent college grads fought for. I needed to be outside among the trees and mountains for wherever those things were, I could find a place to call home. I ended up buying a tent and went on a 6 week solo camping trip from the Colorado Rockies to the California coast. That adventure has ended up setting the tone for my life.

                During the past two years I have had adventures consisting of light hearted mountain runs with good friends to moments where I’ve been reduced to tears because I was lonely, lost, tired, and cold. Though I have found a home in my adventures and the beauty that only the wilderness can offer, there are also times I have been reminded of its deadly dangers. When I first started trail running I wrote “my feet are my wings that set me free, taking me places I have always wanted to be.” Little did I know what other places my feet had yet to take me.

CDT Fun Run
                I’ve had to replace a shower with a swim in the cool waters of Lake Tahoe to get clean from my morning run. I watched a bear sprint across my path, 15 feet away from me, as I ran down a mountain. The bear had startled me but it was much better than the bear that circled my tent at night a few days before. Then there were the times that I got away with things that only a girl traveling solo could get away with. That’s when a smile really comes in handy.

                Though I’m a girl who loves trees, I’ve also had my mind calmed by the solitude that only a vast desert can seem to offer. Unless that desert is home to rattlesnakes and I trip and fall into a cactus, then it’s not so calming. But then my eyes land on arches made of sand and rocks from a time period that awes my mind and the wonders of the desert pull me in once again.

                In great contrast to the desert are the forests of the Northwest. There my hunger for trees and thick plant life is satisfied as the canopy of trees I run under keeps the forest dark and cool. The light mist of rain kept me cool during my run but left me shivering when I stopped. The seemingly thick air filled my lungs to let my legs fly beneath me. Then the trails meet the ocean and I find my feet stopping to fully take in the views.

                Most recently I have been reminded of the hidden beauties of the East. Though no mountain there even comes close to the elevation of 8,500 feet I currently live at, the views are no less beautiful. For three miles I ran up a gorge, appreciating each layer of the waterfall that is surrounded by trees which hid its beauty to those who didn’t make the climb. As I ran again on the first trails I have ever ran on, I splashed in the mud happy to get dirty in nature’s playground.

                Then there are the mountains where I have set up a home base. Though I’ve ran thousands of miles of trail in the Colorado Rockies, I still have only explored a small part of its beauties. It’s in this land I started my first big adventure by climbing five 14er’s in a week. On one of those 14er’s I got lost and followed a marmot back to the trail. I learned to love my quickened heart beat as I made my way towards the sky and the rush of adrenaline as I see how fast I can run down on the unstable rocks. My joy of mountains once led me to climbing three 14er’s in a day, a day after a race. The creek at the bottom of the trail provided a nice ice bath to my tired legs.

On top of my first 14er two years ago
                As much as I love the solitude of running alone in wilderness, life is meaningless without others, so perhaps that’s why my fondest memories are when I’m not alone. For one week I lived in a dream as my twin sister, Rachel, joined me in my mountain explorations. We would run after breakfast on trails that left us speechless, sometimes because of the thin air, but mainly due to the views. Then the day was filled with tasty healthy foods, coffee shops, reading, and more exploring. On this trip we took the long way up a 14er and the clouds opened up just for a minute so we could appreciate its beauty. We then went back down so we could run a marathon the next day.

Rachel on Mt. Handies

                Then there was the time my friends and I started a run that would last most of the day in a snowstorm on the continental divide. We laughed like kids as we made our footprints in the land above the trees and then worked together to pull out porcupine needles from a dog, our beloved trail friend. It’s at times like this where I’m reminded happiness is as simple as good friends and a trail.

                Some days running comes easy. Running up a mountain doesn’t seem so hard. Other days I start running and feel like I have already run for hours. Yet each day on a trail I get reminded how blessed I am to be able to experience so much beauty. Sometimes the beauty comes from my mind, when it allows me to keep on pushing when breathing gets hard. Other days the beauty can come from a moose or mountain goat crossing the trail. The beauty sometimes comes from my running partner’s smile. As an athlete I realize the joy that can come from a great race, but as a person I realize the joy I get from the beauty in training for races. My trail running adventures, the joyous adventures and the ones I get lost, have helped my body get stronger and my mind find peace. The climb can get tough, but the view is worth it.

The smile from a running partner...

Run Wild, Run Happy


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