Excuse me, on your left, excuse me, thank you. EXCUSE me! These were the words out of my mouth for the first couple miles today running on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). As I uttered these words with less frequency, I knew that I was getting further out on the trail and the sounds turned from my voice to the sweet sounds of nature—birds chirping, the occasional water rushing from a stream, and the wind blowing softly through the trees. If was a beautiful day on Mt. Hood and I was in my element.
I’m staying at my brother and sister-in-law’s mountain cabin near Government Camp for the weekend and decided a run on the PCT would be the perfect post Speedgoat 50K recovery run while also being good training for next month’s Pikes Peak marathon.My goal for the day was about 10-15 miles but when my Garmin watch decided to stop working, my goal switched from timing myself to enjoying my time on the trail. It was a beautiful day and as I headed north from Timberline Lodge my run consisted of mostly descents with frequent views of Mt. Hood. A river crossing on my return became one of the highlights of my day.
On my way back to Timberline Lodge, the river crossing proved particularly challenging for one sweet dog. Her owners had already successfully navigated the crossing leaving her to fend for herself. She attempted it a couple of times, getting half way across and then turning around and coming back. She barked the way only a nervous and anxious dog would in her situation. Sensing her trepidation, I gave her some much-needed words of encouragement and a few pats on the head (ok, maybe a kiss too). She was then off to attempt the crossing again and this time she made it and was overjoyed to be reunited with her parents. I got a thumbs up and a thank you from her owners.
It was then my turn to cross and after some effort, I was on the trail again heading back to the Lodge. Little did I know I’d have to put in much more effort and dig deep. My return trip increasingly became a struggle. It was hot and the earlier descents now turned to ascents and I was struggling at times. At one point, I sat down on the ground practically out of breath feeling a bit deflated. Memories of my DNF at Speedgoat came racing back to me. I started to question if I have what it takes to be an ultra runner.
As I sat there and gathered my composure and took a deep breath, I reminded myself that what we as runners often put ourselves through isn’t easy. If it were more people would do what we do. It was then that I realized that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. After all, I had been running for about three hours at around 6,000 feet in 85-degrees. My take-away now became that I am a strong runner but I need to train more. I need to put in more miles and more work—and I probably need to go to yoga.
I eventually made it back to the Lodge and didn’t even bother to wash off the dirt on my feet and lower legs as I headed up to the restaurant for some proper post-run nourishment. The grime symbolized what I just accomplished and the important lesson I learned today.