Still nursing a nagging chest cold and cough, I met friends at the trail head in the dark. The wind was howling, the temps were up to 49 degrees and the parking lot was an ice skating rink. Within 24 hours, the trails I ran the day before had turned from frozen snow to water on ice. This would be a Kahtoola run.
Wind gusts made the climb slow. I was blown off balance onto hand and knee. Ice-laden trails didn't help. I dressed too warm. Had to stop and de-layer. The menthol drops weren't helping the cough. I left my mitts near the trail head while adding spikes and my hands were cold. I could feel my tight hips resisting after over 4 hours of running the day before.
We altered the route at the bottom of the arm. There would be no Wolverine summit in this wind. After a few moments of admiring the city lights, down we bailed off the nose.
This run did not go as planned. This run threw many challenges in my path. This run made me feel uncomfortable. I felt mild physical pain. Maybe hostile is too strong a word, but the environment was not conducive to success.
Never once did I think about turning back. I never got angry or pissy, I felt steady and solid and determined.
Flashback 12 hours and I was losing my shit. Why? Because the cat kept meowing and I couldn't find he cat food dish. I was in the comforts of my own home. I was relaxing on the couch, watching a movie and BAM! Where's the frickin' cat food dish?
I was unhinged. My behavior was erratic and I felt unsettled and angry. I took it out on my husband (THANK GOD my girls were off at sleepovers).
This was not a hostile environment. This was a small inconvenience. My ability to problem solve and just replace the missing cat food dish with a substitute went out the window with my temper. I spent about 10 minutes looking for the cat food dish. I couldn't let it go. I couldn't put my head down and carry on like I did in the mountains.
Why can adverse conditions in the mountains motivate us onward and allow our steady determination to shine and life's minor unexpected inconveniences force us to throw in the towel?
Well, I've been thinking and reading and listening about it all week. I know I run to clear my head and feel strong. I enjoy the challenge of pushing through pain and discomfort and uncertainty on the trail. I run because it gives me confidence with adversity and more so, experience with not knowing how things are going to turn out. It helps me remember that feelings are fluid. Feelings pass and new feelings arise.
I know I like the 100 mile distance because it allows one to find that hidden gear. The gear that we never remember we had until we are at mile 80 or 90 if we are lucky. Having to use it earlier can be the definition of a really tough race. This is the gear that allows one to finish the distance and finish with grit and determination and total domination of what is placed before us.
This is not a gear we get to use in life. It may be an emergency crisis situation that calls for such determination, but not in our day to day lives. This is why I like to run 100s, but I want to remember this gear when the daily grind gets frustrating. I want to feel solid and steady and determined in my civilian life. The daily grind is hard. Kids, work, relationships, money, cat food dishes and chores present constant to-dos and frustration. When I run 100 miles, I never say or think I can't do this.
Life presents us with challenges, big and small. The day to day can feel like an ultra- go,go,go, keep moving. In an ultra, I keep moving when it gets hard. I can do it. In life, it can be easier to give in to the discomfort and get aggressive or anxious or numb out. So, the next time I can't find what I need or I am running late or I'm anticipating and fretting about what comes next, it's mile 90 baby. Slip it into gear. This is hard, but I can do this.