Culmination

A year is a long time to be working towards a goal - espcially when there’s so many individual milestones to be met along the way. In 2018, ...

Nov 15, 2019

To the End

That phrase can mean so much to an ultra runner. To the end - to the finish line, the end of the race. To the end - to see the race to the final conclusion no matter if it’s the finish line or chasing cutoff. It also reflects the mindset of those last volunteers, the ones welcoming the back of the pack runners to the finish line. It’s a long day for the runners, but even longer for those tail end volunteers. But that is what we are there for! There is nothing more inspiring then watching runners reach the goals they’ve worked for for months. The cheers of the family, the tears from the runner. The front runners never see that, especially if they just cross the line and then head out for a shower. Even if there is an awards ceremony, all the attention is devoted to the athletes on the podium, not the athletes finishing at the same time. So the only people who are there for those finishers are the family and the volunteers waiting.

Volunteering is one of the things I want to do more in 2020 - I raced enough in 2019 that I need to give back. If you have time to race, you have time to volunteer and most races don’t happen without an army of volunteers. I haven’t yet given up my races to volunteer, but I have found that the pre or post race shifts are a good complement to racing. Course making before the race helps every other runner and provides a new window on how hard hanging all those flags really is. IF the race isn’t an A race, course marking also is a chance for some extra miles or cross training. Packet-pickup or similar pre-race volunteer shifts are another good way to help out while still being able to participate in the race. And for me, taking the later shift at the finish line is another good way to help. I can run hard, then return to see the final finishers. Another good way to help is have your friends and family volunteer while you run. They are going to be at the venue anyway - volunteering makes them a part of the race and gives them the satisfaction of helping runners reach their goals. If you aren’t planning on racing, then active shifts like course sweep will provide the ability to get some miles and still support the final racers. And there’s always need for aid station staff! Nothing like seeing and feeding the entire race for a fun, hard day! So there’s plenty of things to do and plenty of opportunities to help.

After I finished the 50k+ at the Razorback Running Revival, I returned to the finish line. I’d signed up for that final shift well before race weekend, before I knew how hard the 35 miles would be. It didn’t matter that I was a little late for my shift - the volunteers at the finish line were all waiting for their runners so they weren’t in a hurry to leave. But I was there, ready to see the race down to the bitter end. It was the 50k/50miler runners we were waiting for, so we were settled in for a very long evening. I had double layered pants, warm hat and gloves and my uber puffy from the van. I was ready for the cold that would come with the setting sun.

Almost full moon rising over Lake Fort Smith

At first it was quiet. The course was much harder then anyone anticipated - both with the terrain, technicality of the course and the bonus miles. There was a lot of sitting around, watching the course and waiting for runners, then moments of frenzied activity as multiple runners crossed the line. We needed to record the finish times, give the runner their finishers medal and the rest of the finishers swag. Then we needed to offer some food or drink. There wasn’t much food, but most of the runners weren’t ready to eat at all. It was a fairly low key finish line, even by HPRS standards. The arch loomed large against Lake Fort Smith, beckoning for the finishing runners. As darkness fell, the nearly full moon climbed above the hillsides, reflecting against the still water of the lake. With the humidity in the air, the temperature dropped quickly for the waiting volunteers and family members. I became a hot chocolate making machine for the finishing runners. Those brand new HPRS/Orange Mud bottles became a runners best friend as the night got colder and colder. With the darkness, we ere also able to see the approaching runner’s headlamps flickering among the trees. A sign of life in the rapidly quieting night. The numbers of runners left on course was rapidly dwindling until finally there were three remaining. As the final few of finish line volunteers, we were there until the last runners finished. However long that took. The cutoff time was well past, but we were still there, the arch still illuminated in the darkness. Then finally, headlamps in the darkness. The final runners appeared from the woods - three runners with two headlamps. No wonder it had taken so long! They were the most excited runners I’d seen all evening. Thrilled that we were still there, waiting and ecstatic that they had reached the end. They had conquered the distance, following the crushed line of leaves and white blazed through the darkness.

The finish line banner - a welcome sight for all runners

It was a long long evening, waiting for those last runners and then breaking down the finish line and packing up. But being the one to greet those last runners and putting their medals around their necks was worth every minute of waiting. Seeing the reactions of those runners when they reached the finish line was just as rewarding as my own personal success on the course. 

Nov 12, 2019

Autumn Leaves are Falling....

The trail is nothing like I’ve ever seen before. I’m not sure we’d even call this a trail back home. Maybe a goat trail. But there’s a faint line in the fallen leaves, winding around the trees. And those trees have the trademark white blaze posted on them. So I’m still on the trail, despite what it looks like. This is not Colorado trail running. This is Arkansas trail running and it’s one of the most challenging and enjoyable races I’ve done this year.
 
Follow the white blazes for the Ozark Highlands Trail
Razorback Running Revival at Lake Fort Smith State Park, on the famed Ozark Highlands Trail was a late addition to the running calendar. It was a chance to explore a new area of the country, run and ride on some new trails and see some old friends. It’s also fun to be a part of history with a new race - while there are bound to be a few hiccups, it’s always an adventure to be the first. I knew Human Potential will put on a great race, filled with adventure and adversity. Other then that, I didn’t have a clue as to what I was getting into. What would the trail be like? How bad would the river crossings be? And how could you get that many feet of elevation gain in the middle of Northwest Arkansas? I would learn all of that and more on November 9th.

Oct 30, 2019

Humbled and inspired

Six races - six different courses and events. This wasn’t a singular journey, even though I covered most of the miles alone. This was a journey that had the support of a community. At each race, I was humbled by the day and inspired by the other runners or volunteers. It’s one of the memories that I have really taken away from the year. No matter how strong I might be, there are things that can bring me to my knees. And while finishing the Transcendence Series might be inspiring to others, I saw many things that inspired me to keep moving.  

Sometimes to reach the goal, you just have to keep climbing into the clouds
Stories Ultra. The mud humbled me. I knew that course and took for granted how it would be. Yet each lap, when I met other runners we provided inspiration to keep going. Everyone was working through something and those other runners were a voice in the darkness. The cold we all longed for to freeze the mud became a challenge to work through. No matter how cold it got, every time I came into The Meadows I was greeted by cheers and smiles. The volunteers and my crew - waiting to help and keep me moving. And keep me moving they did. One step at a time, always returning to the night. 

Still smiling at Stories
Tommyknocker 12. I started in the back of the field for that race and saw everyone on the climb up Belcher Hill. If you want inspiration, hang out in the back of the pack for a while. Those athletes are working harder then any front runner. There’s no three hour naps mid day or weekly massages among that crowd. It’s 3:00 wake up calls and squeezing training into long workdays. They are chasing cutoffs as much as glory. The conversations are different in the back as well. The conversations reflect the reality of racing, not the ideals of the elites. Those same athletes humbled me as well. While I was more then happy to head to barn early, they were out there for the entire 12 hours. Tommyknocker was also one of the few races where Nick wasn’t there to help during the race. I had to rely on the volunteers for everything. I shouldn’t have worried - the amazing Adversity Army kept me fed and watered - and their enthusiasm was contagious. If someone didn’t have fun and come away from Tommyknocker eager for more miles, they didn’t understand the point of the race. 

 I loved this view of Denver from the Tommyknocker 12 course
Last Call. Out and back courses can be the best kind of courses. Even the smallest events feel bigger. It was a cheerful group at the start and we were all excited for the coming challenge. And challenge it was. There were climbs that reached into the sky, as if we could touch the stars if we just stretched. Views that would take your breath away, if you had any left after climbing up to 12,000 feet! If you weren’t humbled by the course, the darkness would steal your soul. There is nothing like the wet darkness to test the limits both mentally and physically. As the day dawned, the other runners - both in the 100 and the 50 revealed themselves and the struggles they had worked though in the darkness. Silverheels runners and their accountability buddies, entering the second day of movement. Last Call runners, inspired by the effort around them. Humbled by the mountains surrounding us, yet inspired that we were able to conquer the slopes. 

The mountains are calling
Sheep Mountain. The course at Sheep Mountain humbles even the most ambitious mountain racer. From the never ending rocks on the traverse below the summit to long climbs. I knew better this time and was able to enjoy the course. I took my time in places, soaking up the views I'd just raced through the first time. How can you not be inspired by standing on what feels like the top of the world? At the same time, it's humbling to see the remains of old mine buildings. We are up there for fun - a century ago, people scrapped out a living on the summit of those mountains. I didn't see the full gamut of emotions that Sheep Mountain can evoke this year, from the joy of crossing the finish line to the agony of missing a cutoff. But I did see some 50kers still climbing up Sheep Mountain when I was descending and I have to tip my hat to them. The day is a personal challenge - as runners we make it our own with each step. Those runners who were still facing the traverse across Sheep Mountain as the clouds were building should inspire us all. 

Climbing to touch the sun
Sangre de Cristo. Are you ever ready to run a 100? I still can't answer this question and most likely never will. My ready to run a 100 looks completely different then someone else's. My motivation for being out there is different then everyone else's. I know now - there is no understating the mental component of covering 100 miles on foot. The mental strength to keep taking one step at a time is as important as all the miles in training. When no matter how slow you are moving, you can keep digging and find the fortitude to continue forward momentum. When the pre-race plan has gone to hell - like they tend to in ultra running - but you aren't fazed by seeing the sunrise twice in the same spot, that is the inspiring part of a 100 mile race. It's not the people who have the perfect race. It's the ones who head back out from an aid station, knowing it's cold and going to get colder. It's the runners chasing cut offs, knowing that their race could be over at the next aid station. When all we see are the fast runners we miss what is truly humbling about a 100 mile race. The humanity and the stories that are told among the miles, not the snapshot in time at the finish line. 

Follow the Rainbow trail - and the sun
Indian Creek. At the conclusion of something like this, it's easy to be excited and want to share the joy with everyone around you. I finished in 7:10 - 5 minutes before the cut-off for the 50 milers (who started at 6:00) to start their third loop. I hadn't really thought about the runners I was catching on my second loop - runners who'd taken the early start for either 50 miles or 55k of fun. If they were doing the 50 mile, there was no way they would finish before that third loop cutoff. And so, after I'd finished - still hyper on the miles and getting more hyper thanks to the sugar rush from a well deserved and huge eclair (Thanks Russ!) I saw something I've never seen before. A runner, waiting and ready with his Accountability Buddy bib on, but knowing that he wouldn't get to cover the miles. His runner, crossing the finish line 20 minutes after I'd finished, breaking down into tears. Even though she would get the finish for the 55k, she wouldn't be able to tackle the remaining challenge she'd trained for. The raw emotion, out there for everyone to see, to remind us that to fail is human and the real challenge is getting back up and trying again. There is no hiding on the trails. 

And so there has been change. While I still aim to cover the distance as quickly as I can and challenge myself physically and mentally along the miles, there is more. At each race, I hope to find something that humbles me - be it the course, the community of runners or the conditions we all faces. I also want to look for something that inspires me, something out of the normal that brings me back to the ultimate goal of ultra running. Helping other cover the distance as they have helped you. Supporting the runners that come after you as an equal part of the story. That is the goal for next year - to build others up and give back, to respect everyone on course and to be in the moment for those runners.  

Oct 23, 2019

Indian Creek

Three weeks after a 100 mile race, I had no idea what I would feel like going into the final race - Indian Creek 55k. Would I have recovered enough to run happy the entire way? Or would it be a death march from the start, with my legs rebelling against the idea of running? I knew I'd be okay for a few miles and that I even had a little speed left after the prior weekend's Neilson and Fall Series events. But a 3.2 mile race is a far cry from a 35 mile race and I was honestly concerned about how I would handle the distance. So what does any good runner do when faced with a question about how recovered they are? Focus on the costume contest instead of anything else! Yes, my goal was to win the costume contest - heck with running fast. I'm not sure when I came up with the idea for my costume, but it was shortly after Last Call. John had gone over the legend of SilverHeels during the pre-race meeting and I'd done some reading of my own. Could I pull it off? Could I come up with a costume that paid homage to SilverHeels and be something I could run in? I will say - when you are doing a long run in the Canon wearing a lacy red dress, that turns some heads! I kept the details of the costume close, not wanting to spoil the surprise.

Oct 17, 2019

What Matters

When I was younger, racing marathons all over the country, I knew what mattered. The numbers on the clock when I reached the finish line. That was the point, the goal and that was what mattered for running. Sure, we did plenty of marathons where the time was of lesser importance - some of the smaller, crazy races like the Delaware Trail Dawgs Marathon. But back then, if I wasn't going for time, I still had an eye on the placement. Running under 3:10 was common, as was placing in the top three at marathons around the country. Speed and the “glory” that came with it was my primary focus and I thought that was the ultimate goal for running.

But in the greater scheme of things, was that really what mattered? When people asked about the marathons and the 50 states, what was your fastest time was always glossed over. People wanted to know what my favorite race was. They really could not care about the times I ran. They wanted to know about the courses, about the towns and how we managed to finish a marathon in all of the 50 states. And honestly, I remembered more about the courses and the experiences then times I ran. There are a few times that I remember quite clearly, but if you asked me about a state, the race itself would be what I talked about. Because who cares how fast you race? They aren’t going to run the same pace - they want to know if the race and the community behind the race are worth the travel.

Maybe it’s the swag that’s important. After all, people put a huge emphasis on the medals, the shirts, the awards. I’ll admit that the first marathon finishers medals were important to me - and I’ve kept every single one of my marathon medals. But then I ran more, and more. And somewhere along the miles the medals didn’t matter as much. Outside of my marathon and ultra finishers awards, there’s only a few that I have kept. Most of them are stashed in a shoebox under the bed, with only a few on display. I find it hard to keep the finishers medals from a 5k or other race. I know that to some people, that race was ultimate goal - and that medal is an important reminder of how hard they worked to reach the finish line. I will never deride the bling, but I personally am at a point where it doesn’t matter anymore. Even the age group and overall awards aren’t as important to me as they used to be. I have a few that I’ve kept - the races that were meaningful to me or the awards that are really well done. But most of the plaques, trophies and such? I’ve donated or tossed the majority. Again, to some people those awards are the ultimate achievement. To have an age group or overall trophy on display prominently is a dream, so each one is a treasured keepsake. I can’t deny that and would by hypocritical to say that I don’t appreciate the well done and meaningful awards that I have earned.

If it’s not the finish time or swag that matters, then what does? I saw glimpses of this when I was running fast - the volunteers dressed up in costumes, committed to a day of helping other people reach their goals. The little kids, gingerly holding out a full cup of water in the hopes that someone would take it. Those same kids screaming in excitement when a runner finally snatched that cup, splashing water all over them. It’s no wonder I try to give high fives to every kid I see and take the water from the littlest volunteers! The burst of energy provided by the excitement of the volunteers is unmatched. I also saw it on the out and back courses, where runners hours behind me were the most vocal cheering squads I’ve ever seen. At first, I was stoic, focused on the effort of running. But now, I know that my encouragement means as much to those runners as their cheers do to me. Be part of the community, be a member of the tribe through the interactions along the course. Without that, the race is just another training run - perhaps a little faster then usual, but still. It is the volunteers, the other runners that keep you coming back and make the races meaningful. That is the community that we seek, to belong and to become something greater then ourselves.

As I've gotten older, I look back on the history of running I've seen in just Colorado Springs. I'm probably the only person to win the 15 and under age group in the Fall Series and then come back to win the overall fifteen years later. Now I am racing in the masters class, watching the times slow down but enjoying the running more and more. Unlike so many others who were running when I was young, I am still here and still kicking. Why? Because the time doesn’t matter. I know that I will never recapture the speed of my youth - and that shouldn’t be the goal of where I am as a runner. I’ve matured, moving from the self-centered world of speed and racing for the win to a new perspective. Yes, it’s always nice when I can beat the youngsters, but I would rather be running for the long term. If all we ever chase is time or finishing place, then the running will soon become work. That’s not where I want to find myself - abandoning my first love because I can’t reach the times of my youth. I want to be crossing finish lines, cheering for those around me and giving back to the running community years from now. That requires the true understanding of what matters. Challenge. Adversity. Community.

Oct 15, 2019

Culmination

A year is a long time to be working towards a goal - espcially when there’s so many individual milestones to be met along the way. In 2018, when I first started thinking about taking on the Transcendence Series, I knew it would be huge. It’s been four years since the last person finished. Only one other women completed the challenge set forth by the Human Potential Running Series. Six races - spread out across the year, six different courses providing different challenges. One 100 mile race, one 100k race, one 50 mile race and then three 50k races. I had a solid plan - with some backups if needed - but in order to survive the year I would need everything to work perfectly.

Dreams start when we sleep, but require the work of daylight to achieve. 
The original plan was simple. 
Stories 30 hour in February. With that being the first event and coming off my recovery from a busy late fall season, I was hoping for the 100k. I was concerned about the weather for that race. February can be dicey weather for running in CMSP. Death mud could derail any attempts for long miles. In 2018, at the inaugural Stories the longest anyone ran was 67.28 miles. So my backup was to get that minimum of 50 miles. 

Tommyknocker 12 hour in May. This was to be a 50k attempt. It was another timed race and I was fairly confident about the 50k distance. Plenty of women had gotten 50k of fun up in White Ranch. I just needed to be smart with my effort. 

Last Call 50 Mile in July. That was for plan A. I’d wanted to do that race since it was announced. Midnight start, seeing the sunrise over the mountains, another shot at the 50 mile distance. This is where things got interesting... My plan B if I only got 50 miles at Stories was too take on Silverheels 100. It was sooner then I wanted for a 100 mile race and the possibility of not finishing was high at that challenging event. If that happened, everything was finished. 

Sheep Mountain 50k in August. As tempting as another shot at that 50 mile was, it was not in the cards. Sheep Mountain was after the 50 mile (or possibly the 100!) and I didn’t want to put two 50s so close together. So it would be the second of the three 50ks.

Sangre de Cristo 100 miles in September. This was the big challenge. The race that drew me into the Transcendence series. I’d originally eyed the 100k there, but when the 100 mile race was announced? That was it. I knew where my first 100 mile race would be. Hopefully I would be ready for a 100 mile race come September! Of course, if things defaulted to Plan B, this would be the 100k. Assuming if I’d had to go to Plan B, I had also finished Silverheels!

Sawmill 50k in December. Because of some possible mountain bike races, this was to be the final 50k. It was also the final race to complete the series! Nothing like cutting things close, especially with trying to do a 50k in Golden in December. Getting up there could prove to be more a challenge then the actual race! 

So what really happened? Obviously there were some changes... it’s October and I have reached my goal - the culmination of my year long journey. There were times along the trail that I questioned both my ability to keep going and why I’d even decided to attempt it. Every time though, I found something to keep moving. One foot in front of the other, focus on the small pieces - not just the over-arching dream. John’s words always echoed “don’t F*ck up though.” Be smart, be steady - both at the races and during my training. From when I decided to attempt the Transcendence Series until the time I reached that final finish line I had to be smart.

Dawn on Stories Ultra

Stories Ultra - 100.7 miles  - this was a dream race. Will I ever recapture that magic? I don’t know. I do know that I reached 100k long before I though I would and I still felt good. So why not? Why not just keep going? So I did. I kept going all the way to my first 100 mile finish. The longest race finished on the first race of the series. There were some low points and I was hurting at the end, but I earned my Teddy Bear buckle. Now I jokingly say that I “accidentally” finished my first 100! 

Tommyknocker 12 Hour - 34.38 miles. The race that almost wasn’t. Snow and mud forced a postponement of over a month. Luckily, the new date was on a day I could still race - even if it was the day after a mountain bike race! Of course, time goals mean nothing when the race is dictated by little balls. My own goal was to reach my 50k distance. To let go of the expectations and just have fun running. In the end, I loved Tommyknocker. Hard and honest, but fun and random. 

Last Call 50 - 12:27. There is something about the brilliant stars in the darkness of night and the sunrise brightening up the dawn. I saw all of that and more at Last Call. I gave into the mountains and accepted the challenges thrown at me. The challenges forced me to rise up, apply the lessons of every other event. I made some rookie mistakes, but those mistakes were  lessons I needed.

Sunrise at Sheep Mountain

Sheep Mountain 50k - 6:52. Another day of lessons! Between pacing and a cranky stomach to the hail storm in the last miles, Sheep Mountain threw a lot at me. I welcomed the adversity, knowing that there is no better place to face the challenges then on a course I know. I was still humbled by Sheep Mountain, but I was ready for it this time. I knew what was coming and approached it with the respect it deserved. That brought me to the finish line with a smile instead of a grimace. 

Sangre de Cristo 100 - 32:33. I could have dropped down to the 100k at any point before the start of the race. That would have been the safe choice. After all, the 100k was “only” 8 miles more then Last Call! But I have never played things safe. I have found the hardest races I can and then dove in head first. Why change now? Sangre was the challenge that I sought. The race tested me in every way - mentally, physically, emotionally. I was not the same person who started that race some 32 hours later.

And finally - Indian Creek 55k - 7:10. With the mountain bike race date changed, I was free to do the Fall Classic. I jumped at the chance for the original Human Potential race. No better place to finish then where it all started, right? With Indian Creek only three weeks after Sangre, I knew better then to race. The time didn't matter. The place didn't matter. All that mattered was getting from the start to the finish, thanking all the volunteers and cheering on everyone I met. And winning the costume contest... When I go all in, I go all in! More on that later.

Six numbers, six awesome awards, one shot glass and two belt buckles. The story of my year

Over the next month, I'm going to reflect on the things I learned at each event and how chasing this goal changed me. It was a bigger challenge then I anticipated for many reasons. It was more then just completing six different races - and the logistics around all six races. It was allowing myself to recognize the adversity I faced was different then what the runners around me were dealing with. It was being present in the moment, with the hand that I'd been dealt, learning to manage both my expectations and the reality of what was happening. I discovered that while the race is important in moment, the finish time or placement doesn't matter much past that weekend. People don't care about your time - they want to know about the experiences on the course. There was the balance between the desired training and realities of what I could actually manage - as well as what was fair for Nick. I was the runner - the one covering all the miles, but Nick was also there for five of the six races - supporting me. He gave up long weekend rides to sit around at a race venue, waiting for hours for me to appear from the woods. I wouldn't have been able to do this without his support.

Oct 5, 2019

The Final Piece

Five races down. One more event remaining in the Transcendence Series. The finish is so close, I just need to run another 35 miles at the Indian Creek 55k. Nothing compared to what I've already covered! It’s still an ultra, still a distance to be respected. There are no guarantees when it comes to ultra races - even with the “shorter” distances. I have 12 hours  - and given that it took me 4 hours to hike the last 9 miles into Music Meadows on the 22nd, I am not taking anything for granted. A lot can happen over the course of 35 miles. I need to be ready to face whatever comes my way so I can reach that finish line.

In some ways, I'm sorry that the journey is ending already. I know it's been a long year of balancing training, racing and recovering, but that's been half the fun. Learning what I can tolerate for training and when I start to crack. It's easy to settle into the routine of training for one particular race. Get in the long runs, get in the hills and the speed needed to cover the distance. It’s much harder to look at six very different ultra races on six different style courses. How do you train for and recover from each race in order to be ready for the next one? That wasn’t much of an issue with the first two races - Stories was early in the year and I had plenty of time to recover after that. The original date for Tommyknocker was a little tricky with some of the other races and mountain bike events - something that wasn’t any easier for the rescheduled date. Then the real test arrived. The 50 miler at Last Call, then four weeks later another 50k at Sheep Mountain. That was the gap that worried me the most. Two 50ks within a month? Not much of an issue. After my first 50 miler, I was toast for more then four weeks. Would I be ready for another ultra that close? Finally the biggest test - Sangre de Cristo 100 Mile. I was originally planning on the Sawmill 55k in December so I would have time to recover after Sangre.

But I changed up the plan from the inception of this grand scheme. I didn’t want to get so close to goal - having finished five of the six races - and then have something happen. I didn’t want to let it slip away just by waiting until the last minute. So I decided to take a chance. I could do a 55k three weeks after a 100 mile race, right? Just recover smartly, let my body repair from the damage of the 100 mile race. I wouldn’t need another long run after finishing a 100 - I would still have the endurance from Sangre de Cristo. And who said I needed to race and go after a fast finish time? The speedy times are nice, but that’s not been the goal of the year. The goal of the year has been challenge - physically, mentally - and to learn more about who I am as an athlete and as a person. What greater challenge then to let go of the finish times and just have fun? Experience the race through a different lens. So I’m going all in on the having fun part of the day. I have a costume planned - more then just a fancy hat or bunny ears. I’m hoping to win the costume contest with my outfit! Historically based and something I can run in comfortably - most of it has been tested on the trail! Yes, you get some funny looks running in the Canon while wearing a costume...

Fun is the goal, but I’m not completely forgetting the competitive side. I still want a decent finish time, but will respect the fatigue in my legs. I haven’t set out any plans or spreadsheets for IC55k. I don’t know the course, so I am just going to run. When I need to walk, I will walk. I don’t even know if I’ll bring my poles! I can always carry them and decide at the halfway point if I still want them. But I will remember the lessons of Sheep Mountain and the ability to let go of my expectations to just enjoy the day.

One week to go. One week before the final piece of the Transcendence Challenge. Here’s to hoping in a week, I’ll have a wrap up of everything I’ve learned over the course of the last few months.