Curtains of rain run across the valley. A drop here and there signals their arrival and I crawl into the back of my truck as the drops turn into a downpour. Eventually they stop, and I peek out the door. A brilliant rainbow arches between the mountains to the east while the storm’s billowing cumulus clouds build into florets of flaming orange and pink in the setting sun to the west.
The next day I work my way up rock and tundra to the top of a couple of my favorite peaks. The day is beautiful and sunny. Clouds dot the blue sky above but they carry no ominous signs of monsoons. I move quickly, but not in a hurry. This is my last day in the alpine for a while and I don’t want to rush it. I pass some other peak baggers between the summits and they too comment on the lovely weather. I take in the views and the places I’ve had the pleasure to travel before, a feeling of awe and wonder sparked by the memories of many sunsets and moon rises wandering this ridgeline. I make it back down the scree field to the trail and jog the many switchbacks down to the car. I pack up and drive away, the long ridgeline following like a companion calming my nerves in the clear evening sky.
Today is a little different, I lay on the couch following knee surgery with a machine moving my leg up and down. I stare listlessly at the mountain outside my window, the shadows gliding effortlessly across the rocks. Oh, to be a cloud, I think. I listen to the aspens quake in the breeze. Occasionally I scroll through my phone but looking at it makes me nauseous, so I just stare back out the window.
My dad and sister occasionally break the mental fog, asking if I need anything. They’re my crew for this endurance event, one that will be perhaps a little more challenging than just running. It also puts into perspective the fact that we never move through life alone. Support is everything in life and I am lucky to have their help.
As my eyes observe the contents of the window, I suddenly feel like I am out camping — the distractions stripped so all you can do is watch — I realize that despite my love for moving outside, sitting can be okay too. At least I’m saying this only three days post-surgery, but for now I embrace it. And perhaps this injury will help me translate the small moments of bliss in nature to everyday life.
While on the couch, I periodically check in on the runners in Chamonix, as the UTMB festival unfolds, and it is a fun respite for my brain. The excitement is palpable, even having never been to UTMB, or Europe for that matter. Ultra races really are just like life. A microcosm of the ups and downs and community needed to make them happen. I heard the disappointment in some of the athletes who had to drop, could see it in their faces, but it made me admire them and the sport even more. It’s far from perfect. We’re far from perfect. And the community, like my family, will encourage them to keep showing up. We know how strong they are.
While I think some strength is inherent to ourselves, I know without a doubt, it comes from the people we are surrounded by. Whether you’re 75 miles into a race or four days deep on a fastest known time attempt, wondering what the hell you are doing and how the hell you are going to finish, I’m guessing we all have those people in our lives who inspire us to be stronger.
I look at my sister as a brand new mom, holding the baby while helping me get through surgery, my dad who experienced love and loss and war like many of us can’t imagine, or my friends who are EMTs and nurses and doctors working through the night to take care of strangers, or those who work long summer hours fighting wildfires in rugged terrain, or the school teachers who selflessly spend their days taking care of countless kids and somehow still have the energy to show up for their family and friends after work. Their endurance is admirable and it’s always the perspective we need in life to look at them and try to emulate their strength when the miles get tough.
Call for Comments
- Have you had to deal with recovery time from an injury or illness like what Hannah writes about? How did you rise to the challenge?
- Who are the people around you who give you strength in the endurance event that is life?