I went for a run at Mahlon Dickerson Reservation this morning. It had been a long time since I had last been there. I was impressed by the changing scenery in the woods. The scenery is ever going through its cycles. But when I don’t get out there for a lengthy period of time, the changes are stand in stark contrast to what I last remembered seeing. The temperature was in the high 60s. The humidity was low. It was a perfect morning for running.
One year ago today, a kind man offered me a nice cold drink after I emerged from the woods covered in sweat and deer flies.
The world might be a happier place if we all thought to give refreshment to the sweaty people.
200 + 16 + 200 = A LOT OF MILES!
Is getting up at 4 AM on a Saturday (making your wife and two-year-old do so also) to drive 200 miles in order to hop out of the car and run 16 miles worth of rocky muddy trails up and down big central Pennsylvania mountains crazy?
Most people would say, “YES!”
But as you can see in the pictures below, I was accompanied by 249 equally crazy friends! I don’t know how far anyone else had to drive that morning, but it’s a safe bet that a large percentage would have done just what I did for the opportunity to run in those hills. If you are crazy enough to enjoy running on the mountains for multiple hours, riding in a car for three hours is no big deal.
This is what I did on June 1 in order to run in the Slate Run 25K trail race in Slate Run, PA.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words, But Not Many Feet of Elevation
Photos never do justice to elevation. The mountains never appear as tall as they are in person. And photos can’t convey the burning in your thighs when you are climbing up, up, up and then finally the ground levels out at a scenic view… only to round a bend and continue up, up, up. Your thighs burn and the pictures are silent about it.
The pictures also don’t show how good it feels once you get to the top of the mountain and you can run on wonderful single track trail for a few miles. Then your thighs come alive!
So Much Water!
There was so much water after the second aid station! The trail insisted on weaving it’s way back and forth across the streams, sometimes knee-deep. That mountain water was rather chilly! By the time I crossed a road around mile 10, my feet were numb. I mentioned this to a volunteer at the road crossing. Her response? “Welcome to Pennsylvania!” She also asked if I needed water, which struck me as ironic after I just complained about. She said the next aid station was only 2 miles away. So I kept plugging along.
After the road, the trail continued uphill through more water. That’s where I hit the wall. The 200 miles of driving caught up with me. My feet hurt from the cold water. There was no end of it in sight. I was no longer running. I was stopping more often. I started counting my steps, forcing myself to do 3 sets of 10 steps before I stopped to catch my breath. I got angry at myself each time and stopped at step 8 just to be a jerk to myself. The water was roaring down the mountain. I so wanted to lie down in dry silence. Someone passed me at that point. He said, “I think we’re getting closer to the top.” I sarcastically thought, “Aren’t we constantly getting closer to the top with each step? But that doesn’t mean we are close to the top!” I don’t think I said it out loud.
Near the top, the water slowed and quieted. I stuck my hat in and splashed water all over my head. That snapped me back to reality a bit and I continued on in better spirits.
Enjoy Your Ride Home! Come See Us Again!
At 5 hours and 8 minutes, I hobbled over the finish line. Spasms in my hamstrings. Spasms in my thighs. Spasms in one of my calves. I moved like an ape in running shoes. But I finished.
Then I remembered: We still had to drive 200 miles home. We were a good ways from civilization. When we got to Danville we stopped at Wendy’s and I pigged out. (I pigged out for a bunch of days actually.) The spasms hit me off and on while my wife drove. Later she said, “Maybe you should give this up. You’re in pain and you don’t look like you’re having fun now.”
This race is scheduled for June 6, 2020. As soon as I shake these spasms I think I’ll walk on over to my computer. “Hello, ultrasignup.com.”
Look into the eyes of your beloved and ask deeply, “Who are you, my love, who has come to me and taken my suffering as your suffering, my happiness as your happiness, my life and death as your life and death? Who are you whose self has become my self? Why aren’t you a dewdrop, a butterfly, a bird, a pine tree?” Ask with your whole body and mind. Later, you will have to ask the person who causes you the most suffering the same questions: “Who are you who brings me such pain, who makes me feel so much anger and hatred?” To understand, you have to become one with your beloved, and also one with your so-called enemy. You have to worry about what they worry about, suffer their suffering, appreciate what they appreciate. You and the object of your love cannot be two. They are as much you as you are yourself.
Continue until you see yourself in the cruelest person on Earth, in the child starving, in the political prisoner. Practice until you recognize yourself in everyone in the supermarket, on the street corner, in a concentration camp, on a leaf, in a dewdrop. Meditate until you see yourself in a speck of dust in a distant galaxy. See and listen with the whole of your being. If you are fully present, the rain of the Dharma will water the deepest seeds in your store consciousness, and tomorrow, while you are washing the dishes or looking at the blue sky, that seed will spring forth, and love and understanding will appear as a beautiful flower.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
“Teachings on Love”