An Afternoon Ember

Bryon Powell writes about seeing (and fanning) the embers of his running passion while the sport is a lesser priority.

By on September 8, 2021 | Comments

On an early September morning, I started a small fire in our wood stove to take the chill off the house as light frosts have returned to the high environs of Silverton, Colorado. Many hours later in the early afternoon, I heard a faint sound from the corner of the living room. After a few moments of focus, I homed in on the wood stove where a quick check confirmed a lone log with a few faint, scattered embers still aglow. Having rekindled many a fire over the past few years, I knew I could easily start a full fire anew from those twinkling coals. It got me thinking…

An Afternoon Ember

An afternoon ember in the wood stove… All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

I’m now a few months into taking time off from training. I’m still running every day, whether it’s a quick 2.5-mile loop above town or, now, sometimes a little bit more. As I wrote a few months ago, I’m mostly holding off bumping up my running and waiting for more. I do love that restraint and accompanying anticipation. Still, I’ve now allowed myself a couple runs in the 10-mile range, be it a run with a friend to a fish-filled backcountry stream or a post-UTMB-coverage Alpine jaunt with Meghan, so long as the outings were intended entirely as means to having fun and I aim to do the same as soon as I’m done writing this piece. I’ll head out with another Silverton friend who’s newer to fly fishing and help him learn a few things.

As August wrapped up while Meghan and I covered UTMB, I started feeling the pull of future racing and adventures. I can once again see training for the Hardrock 100 and would welcome the course’s challenges. I could see joining a friend every step of the way while he runs his first 100 miler next summer, as well as fishing my way along a course like the Wyoming Range 100 Mile. Just yesterday, I caught myself daydreaming… even committing to a 50-mile-plus running/fishing adventure next summer that had fallen by the wayside this year. I find myself contemplating adding some speed back into my training after many years without it. In short, I’m dreaming of the sort of fully fledged running that’s been such a part of my life for most of the past three decades.

Meghan Hicks - Alps - August 2021

A little Alpine jaunt with Meghan after wrapping up UTMB coverage.

I’ll admit I’ll blow on those afternoon embers a bit this coming Saturday, when I attempt to complete the Troutman challenge which, among other things, involves running a marathon on backcountry trails and catching four species of trout within 12 hours. Admittedly, this office-chair-to-marathon attempt will be slow and painful, but it’ll also be an indulgent blast with some good friends.

For now, I’ll just just keep doing a few small things to keep those embers of a future fire burning. I’ll try to shed a couple surplus pounds before the end of the year. I’ll focus on enjoying being outdoors during my favorite running season: autumn. I’ll line up a couple (slightly) bigger running adventures through year’s end on the conditions that they’re 100% fun and mostly manageable. And, more important, I’ll keep on dreaming of future fun on the trails.

Call for Comments

How do you keep the running ember alive when life takes you away from running?

Minnie Gulch - Karl - August 2021

A late-August run to some backcountry fishing.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.