Reflections on a Marathon

There are plenty of things I thought I might never do. Running a marathon was one of them.

For at least ten years I’ve put “run a marathon” on my bucket list, or my one-year list, or any other goal-oriented list I made. I can recount my goals for 24, 25, and 26, and all include running a marathon.

I finally got around to it.

The thing about running a marathon is this: if you want to do it, you can. Not to put off the years of hard work and effort that elite runners put into it—I’m speaking to the first timers, the wannabe’s, and the slightly interested.

If you want to run a marathon, just do it.

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On my 26th birthday I registered for my first marathon. I was tired of putting it off until the next year, because eventually I would be 80 and wishing I had done this thing I had spent so many years wishing I had done. There’s a quote I rely on, etched into my journal, that reads, “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.” I realized, on the celebration of my 26th year on earth, that I’d spent a lot of days (9,490 to be exact) waiting to do something, to be somebody, to finally cross things off my bucket list.

26 would be the year I stopped wanting and started becoming.

As I sat in a coffee shop with a good friend of mine, I found a marathon, I registered, I downloaded a training plan, and I set my mind to it.

It really was as easy as that.

For ten weeks or so I ran four days a week. In that time, I traveled to Mexico, had a fluke knee accident, came down with a cold that left me in bed for four days, and never ran farther than 10 miles.

I don’t recommend it.

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If you’re going to run a marathon, train for it. Give yourself enough time to develop your athletic base, endurance, and most importantly, your mental fortitude. Fortunately for me, climbing strengthened my mental muscles and, it turns out, I’m mentally stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.

Leading up to the marathon, when I felt I hadn’t had enough training due to circumstance, I told my friends my mental game would get me through. After all, nearly everything is 90% mental, 10% physical, right? For a marathon, however, I’d cut it down to 60/40.

I leaned on examples of extraordinary individuals. Like the young women who runs half-marathons despite frequent seizures. Or the man with no limbs who climbs mountains. Or any other individual who disregards the resounding “you can’t,” and shows them they can.

We drove up to the start line around 6:30am. I finished off a cup of water, went to the bathroom, and did a few jumping jacks to warm up. My husband and brother-in-law were running together, and I was prepared, and excited to run the race solo.

I headed to the start with my running vest equipped with some extra GU’s, a bottle of water, my phone, and headphones.

When the gun went off, I was elated.

Part of me never expected to make it to the start line.

Even a week before the event I thought about calling in and switching my registration to the half-marathon. I’d only run 10 miles. I didn’t want to disappoint myself. I didn’t want to disappoint my husband. I didn’t want to fail, and have to tell people I hadn’t met my goal. Before I started that marathon, I still believed that having not tried might be better than failing.

I started out slowly, treating the first mile as a warm-up. I began near the back of the group, with maybe ten people behind me. But it felt comfortable. I didn’t need to go out with guns-ablazing. My number one goal was to run the entire race. My number two was finishing with an average 12 minute mile (5:24:00).

Running had never felt so good.

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Before I knew it I was coming up on mile 8.

Then mile 9.

When I passed mile 10, I was in unchartered territory. From then on, every mile was a new record, the official furthest I’d ever run.

Mentally, I was prepared. I knew I could get to mile 20, because I knew I could run 10 miles. Once I got to 20 I knew I could run 6 miles. That was my mental game plan.

It worked.

 

The miles kept passing, and I kept running. Until mile 22, I never felt the need to distract myself.

Those last four miles, though. Damn.

It took a lot to run the last four miles. My legs were aching, knees wanted to buckle, and my hips were so stiff. But I’d run so far, I couldn’t quit.

When I passed the mile 26 marker, I kicked it into high gear.

My last mile was my fastest.

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I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes. The volunteer handing out finisher shirts and metals asked if I was alright. I replied, “I’m just so happy!”

I don’t know what else competes for that moment. Never had I felt so accomplished, so tired, and so elated at one time. It was euphoric.

Running a marathon redefined my limits, and what’s possible for me to achieve. I’m no longer sure of the validity of “I can’t,” because can’t is a misnomer. It confuses what’s possible for you now, for what’s possible for you in the future.

You can, it just might take some time.

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To-Do List

I’ve learned in my life that if I don’t write things down they are soon forgotten in the no man’s land of my brain. If this goes for simple tasks like taking a package to the post office, or sending in official forms, won’t it transfer over to bigger, loftier goals I have?

I decided I don’t want to chance it. So here is the beginning of my to-do list. When I started thinking about everything I want to do it quickly became overwhelming, so instead of frantically searching the Google to find everything that should be on my “bucket list,” I left it where it’s add and will add to it as ideas come to me.

  • Run a marathon
  • Climb in Yosemite
  • Climb a big wall
  • Climb 5.13
  • Finish the John Muir Trail
  • Write a book
  • Write an ebook
  • Skydive
  • Learn to climb splitter cracks
  • Run the Leadville Ultramarathon
  • Run the Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Link-up
  • Live out of a car
  • Make the switch to Veganism
  • Donate my time and money to organizations I believe in
  • Become a successful freelance writer
  • Write an article for National Geographic
  • Climb the Getu arch in China
  • Climb in Patagonia
  • Ski in Denali
  • Backcountry hut trip through the Uinta’s
  • Uinta Highline Trail
  • Antelope Island 50k
  • Ski Mt. Superior in Little Cottonwood Canyon
  • Climb in El Potrero Chico
  • Climb in Kalymnos
  • Trail run in Iceland
  • Visit (and climb in) Squamish
  • Ski (and climb) the Grand in Teton National Park
  • Climb Squawsatch in Provo
  • Get Yoga Teacher Training Cert
  • Complete WFR, SPI, and AIARE 2
  • Become a columnist at a major magazine
  • Become proficient in Trad climbing
  • Ski Mt. Hood
  • Climb at RRG, Hueco Tanks, Joshua Tree, Wild Iris, Tensleep, Rifle, Indian Creek, Cochise Stronghold, the Gunks, and everywhere in between.
  • Participate in Horseshoe Hell
  • Attend Burning Man

What do you want to accomplish in this one precious life?

Midweek Round-Up #3

Shorter work weeks may cut our CO2 emissions in half, reduce our stress, curb accidents, promote gender equality, and reduce unemployment. I’m in! Read the full thought-provoking article on the TED website.

The EPIC May 2017 edition of Outside came out with a crew of badass woman dominating it’s cover with the headline: The Future of Adventure is Female.

Spring and summer are upon us, and so are the much needed reminders to Leave No Trace. This article is a great reminder about what is acceptable trail etiquette and what’s…not so much. Check it out and decide for yourself if you’re an asset or detriment to the outdoors.

Brendan Leonard’s website, Semi-Rad, is where my inspiration for a midweek round up came from. He posts insightful, and often hilarious articles. He’s also just completed his second book, The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide, which is currently on it’s way to me.

And an awesome quote from Hunter Drew:

“This is something I’d like you to recognize and truly wrap your mind around. Everyone makes an excuse as to why they can’t do the things they need and want to do. Only a very select few people out there are making excuses to do the things they need to do.

People have become so comfortable that they’d rather suffer a mediocre existence than put in the slightest effort required for improvement.

Instead of complaining about the problems that you have in your life, start working to solve them. Stop being so comfortable sitting around talking about how the world is holding you down. You are holding you down—GET UP! Stand up and start doing.

Stop being so goddamn comfortable all the time. Implement some intentional discomfort into your life.”

What They Don’t Tell You About Running

Around 5am every morning you can hear the low hum of complaint as angry runners rise from their comfy beds to get 30 minutes in before the day is underway. They grumble as they lace up their running shoes, grunt as they pull on their compression socks, and whimper as they step out into the cold, unforgiving world. They force their way through three unpleasant miles, and kiss the door as they return, so absolutely thankful that running is out of the way, and they don’t have to go through the process for another 24 hours.

Fun, right?

And then they go to work and complain to their coworkers about how much they hate running, but they have to do it. They do it for the carbs, or for the abs, but never because they want to. We love the camaraderie of misery.

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I used to be a spiteful runner. I ran in spite of what I wanted, and for that I was proud. I made myself run today, wasn’t I a rockstar? I didn’t give in to my primal desire to lay in bed all day, feasting on Cheetos and binging on Netflix. No, I went out and I ran.

It was awful.

All that time I spent angry about my feet hitting the pavement was a lot of wasted energy. If running is something you do for thirty minutes a day, four times a week, that’s over 100 angry hours every year. Four entire days of negativity. Sounds exhausting.

Especially because something wonderful happens when you embrace the choice to run. Your body finds it’s rhythm. You start to feel like a gazelle. You start to build confidence and mental endurance. You begin to believe you were made to run. And guess what, you were.

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Our ancestors were persistence hunters, chasing down their prey before the invention of bows, arrows, and rifles. We ran to protect ourselves from predators, and as early as 1829 B.C. we were running for sport in ancient Greece. Our body mechanics, from our glutes, to our sturdy trunk, are huge proponents in our choice to continue moving forward. Running is natural.

Let’s stop buying into the negative narrative about running. In our everything-is-easy-and-accessible world, we shy away from hard things at a rapid pace. While I have a newfound perspective on running, I don’t neglect the fact that running is hard. When I’m running uphill and my lungs are on fire and I feel like I’m going to collapse, I curse the hill, but I keep moving forward. When my arms start to tingle around mile 6, and the sun is beating down on my shoulders, and sweat is burning my eyes, I am thankful to be moving.

Let’s change the narrative and embrace the run.

A Beginner’s Guide to Backcountry Touring

Breaking into backcountry touring is exciting, sometimes scary, and full of unknowns. You may have spent twenty years on the slopes, but gracefully making your way up a skintrack is not necessarily a natural skill. With the uptick of users on social media and the repetitive pow shots put up by pro-skiers and pro-recreationalists alike, it’s hard to not load up the van (or in my case the badass go-anywhere Prius), and do whatever it takes (including post-holing in high avy-danger territory) to get those “sick pow shots, brah.”

But please, show some restraint, and just don’t.

First things first: Get the Right Gear

There’s a lot that goes into backcountry travel, including the massive investment in the right gear. While you can use snowshoes for the ascent and your skinny skis from the 90s for the descent, the whole fat skis, tech bindings, alpine boots, and skins can run you a pretty penny. At full retail, the whole outfit can easily surpass the $2,000 mark. Add to that the beacon, probe, and shovel and you’re looking at the price of a smaller used car with relatively low mileage. Best advice on gear? Set yourself up with pro-deals or learn to religiously scour your local thrift stores, Craigslist, or Ebay.

Then Get Educated:

IMG_6811Once you’ve got your set-up I highly recommend attending a Know Before You Go class. I’m fortunate enough to live in Salt Lake where we have one of the best avalanche forecasting centers in the nation. The Utah Avalanche Center puts on classes and regularly partners with REI to provide brief, information packed sessions to educate backcountry users on the dangers of avalanche terrain. If you’re in a more remote location there are tons of resources online. BCA has an entire series on YouTube about backcountry terrain, companion rescue, and how to read and dig a snowpit.

If you’ve done all of the above, have toured some low-consequence areas and want to expand your knowledge, you can sign-up for an AIARE 1 course which is an introduction to safe snow travel, how to dig a pit and asses on a basic level, and how to identify terrain traps.

Do Your Research:

15275664_1726509364343445_188834417626578944_nThankfully we live in a time where information is a click away. Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington/Oregon, Canada, and Idaho all have avalanche forecasting centers that provide daily, and sometimes twice daily, avalanche condition updates. If you don’t live in one of these states, it’s important to keep track of storms and snowpack conditions. This might mean digging more snowpits than someone in the Wasatch, but if you treat it like a workout you’ll keep a better attitude and possibly save your life.

Find Good Company:

In Utah there are a handful of tours you can take on your own due to the low angle of the area’s slopes. But let’s be real. Touring is way more fun when you have someone to enjoy it with. Through social media and groups on Facebook I’ve found a solid group of people to tour with. So get out there, charge, and then get home safely.

When You Realize Your Life Will Be Different Than You Imagined

When I was a little girl I often dreamt about the future. I pictured myself as an astronaut, a worldwide traveler, a writer. As I grew up I pictured different scenarios for myself, as a wife, a professor, maybe an editor at some big-time New York magazine. And when I got into college I pictured myself in libraries, researching, studying, spending long hours in front of my computer.

I thought of the future in common terms. As much as I didn’t want to be consumed in the 9-5 fold, I started drifting in that direction, accepting the fact that maybe doing the job I loved would mean structure and repetitive rigidity.

I never imagined myself as an adventurer. I never imagined a strong pull towards the mountains, a draw to push my physical boundaries, the desire to bag peaks and traverse ridgelines. I always played it safe.

What happens when your life begins to turn in a direction you always wanted, but never expected?

Fear has dictated the majority of my choices. I defined limits for myself to prevent dicey situations. I wanted to be “outdoorsy,” and explore more, but it didn’t seem feasible. I continually shut myself down and made excuses when opportunities to climb or tour or run came up.

In this last year all of that changed. I started controlling my fear. I began building confidence and competence in the outdoors. I asked questions, lead my first trad pitch, climbed a 5.12. I took an AIARE 1 course, toured by myself, and began planning trips that I wanted to take. And all of that is exciting and consuming and exhilarating and completely opposite of what I thought my life would be.

I assumed my life would line up pretty similarly to the way I was raised. It’s a classic issue between what we know and what we don’t know. I know that I would be comfortable and happy pursuing a stable career and a traditional life, because I know so many people who have. My parents, my friends, my friend’s parents, and parent’s friends. I assumed my life would play out a similar course.

But when I started getting out into the mountains, and exploring the Wasatch, and discovering I’m physically capable of far more than I’d imagined, I realized my goals were heading in a different direction.

It scares me in the way the unknown always does. In the way that I have no idea what this life will look like because pursuing anything physical long-term was never on the agenda for me. I’m book smart, and a repeat offender of apathy towards physical work.

It feels a lot like closure. All these ideas and expectations I didn’t realize I was holding onto are now showing themselves in the smallest ways. And, as almost all of us know, releasing expectations is a hard, tricky experience.

I’m choosing the path of most resistance, my friends, and I’ll be honest, as exciting as it is to re-imagine your life, it’s also kind-of a pain in the ass.

Cheers to semi-new beginnings and embracing what gives you joy!

Have you ever re-evaluated your life and realized it’s direction was different than you’d assumed it would be? Give me your tips!

*image courtesy of unsplash

 

The Importance of Passion

We know it when we see it. The girl with overactive hand gestures talking about the project she sent. The guy telling us about the backflip he landed at Snowbird’s terrain park. The research scientist detailing the minutia of their current experiment. The father with pictures of his kid atop the podium for the state track championships. And we smile with them, applaud them, cheer alongside them, and then wonder what it is in our own lives that brings us the same kind of joy.

I have known too many people to choose stability over passion. They turn down job offers, forgo van trips, and choose more economical majors in order to pursue the path most taken. Our FOMO is real in a more practical way than we realize. In some ways, we make choices in our twenties under the assumption that opportunities won’t present themselves later in our lives. So we purchase houses, settle with the corporate job, and begin saving and planning for children. There’s this lurking sense that if we don’t do it now, then maybe we never will.

Do we not trust ourselves? Because that’s what it is, right? If we take this van trip, quit our jobs, pursue a vagabond lifestyle, will we have the willpower to return to life as we know it?

The truth is, life won’t be the same. After a serious diversion from life’s inevitable path, perspective changes. You realize you don’t need that much stuff, simplicity is the key to happiness, and, you guessed it, bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Our fear of change and growth keeps us from pursuing big dreams–the dreams we’re most passionate about. I’m no different. My job is stable. It provides a solid paycheck, and I don’t have to work most of the month. Right now, my lifestyle is pretty good. But there are things I’ve always wanted to do that I can’t pursue with this job. And it’s really, really tempting to stay in this career, for, well, my career.

But in my dogged pursuit for passion, I can’t settle for a job that doesn’t stoke my fire. The most inspiring people,to me, are the ones who break away from society–the artists, the non-profit starters, the dirtbag climbers living in vans. I’m inspired by people who pursue freelance careers, who sell all their belongings, who sacrifice their time for years of schooling in order to become whatever it is they so long to become.

Who inspires you? They are the people that offer a glimpse into what you value and the life you long to pursue. We’re inspired by the doers, the dreamers, and the go-getters. The people that said enough, and went on to pursue their passion. As corny as it sounds, we can’t let life go by without following our dreams. So many people get to the end of their lives only to wish they had pursued a career in fashion, or quit their job to travel the world, or started a non-profit in their favorite sector.

Logistically, it might be a nightmare. And in the beginning it might be scary as hell–the unknown always is. But I can guarantee you, it will be worth it.

*this post also appeared in Thought Catalog