Last Updated on August 30, 2016 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Late Sunday afternoon after we had crossed the finish line of the 2016 TransRockies Run, Geoff and I had managed to haul our dirty, smelly selves and all of our gear into the Pines Lodge Resort at Beaver Creek. Under the proud and attentive eyes of our family, as well as a blatantly annoyed look from a resort guest who nearly had to share the elevator with us (and clearly had no idea what we had just finished, though he likely didn’t care) we made it to our hotel room. For the first time in over 6 days, I sat down on a bed, under a roof, in a warm, heated room, and immediately thought to myself :
“what the hell just happened?”
The entirety of what we had just done hit me with the force of a tidal wave, and receded just as quickly, leaving a path of destruction in the form of countless dirty socks, sunburnt shoulders, and a very weathered face. Over the following hours, that eventually turned to days, and now weeks, I knew that I would find plenty of words to describe the 6 days/120 miles/20K feet of elevation gain that we traversed through the Colorado Rockies… but I’d never find the right words to explain what the TransRockies Run experience actually meant to me.
As a writer, I have a silly self imposed notion that I should be always be able to find the right words. It is my job after all. But every now and then I struggle despite these expectations. I struggle not simply from “writer’s block”, though I do know that condition all too well. It is more of a struggle to transform my feelings and emotions into actual words. These feelings swirl around in my brain, my heart, and my very being…abstract sensations of which words do not exist to describe them. And sometimes when that happens, I’ll inadvertently stumble across someone else’s words that fully encompass exactly what I was trying to say, but didn’t know where to begin.
Case in point, these wise words from Yeti Trail Runner’s co-founder Jason Green:
“I’m still not convinced trail running is a sport, or maybe be I’ve just been doing it wrong. But somehow beers at trail heads and laughs on mountaintops with friends and stopping to yell off a bald just to hear a echo doesn’t feel like sports to me, it feels like something that calls from deep inside me that when I’m doing all of these things all is right in the universe.”
Jason wasn’t talking about the TRR when he posted these words, or any event in particular for that matter. In fact, they were simply a response to a thread in a Facebook group about a topic that doesn’t have much to do with this blog post. Regardless, Jason’s words resonated within me, so much so that I yelled outloud at my laptop “THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO SAY!” So with that in mind…here goes nothing:
There wasn’t a single moment during those 6 days that I wasn’t incredibly grateful to be at, on, and participating in the TransRockies Run. Even when I was shivering in my tent at 2:00 am. Even when I was crying on the side of a mountain. Even when my lungs were screaming for air and my legs were burning with a lack of oxygen. There was not a passing step or oxygen depleted breath at any given point that was taken without immense gratitude.
But not just gratitude for the immediate experience, or the entry that Kahtoola so graciously gifted us (though I can still not thank them enough!) No. It was more an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I have truly discovered what I was meant to do with my life. A genuine passion. Something that burns from deep inside of me, something that makes me feel completely at one with the universe.
The TransRockies Run showed me that there is so much beauty to be seen in nature, and that these places that I’ve longingly started at over the internet are indeed real, and are far more spectacular when seen in person. It fueled my feelings of wanderlust, and left me feeling excited to travel and discover even more.
The TransRockies Run showed me that I am so much stronger, both physically and mentally, than I often give myself credit for. It reminded me to be grateful for the body I have been given, for regardless of perceived flaws or shortcomings, it is indeed an amazing force to be reckoned with.
The TransRockies Run solidified my belief that people are inherently good, and want to see each other succeed. The life long friendships forged between strangers over hundreds of miles. The laughter. The endless acts of kindness. The hugs. The tears shed for others. The indomitable human spirit. They were all breathtaking and beautiful to witness.
The TransRockies Run reminded me of how very much I love to run. No, running isn’t for everyone, but it is most definitely for me, and I’m lucky to have found something that makes me so happy. I can see how outsiders may view me as a woman obsessed with a sport. And there was a time in my life where that may have been true, a time where I felt a compulsive need to sign up for endless races, set PR’s, and spend money I didn’t have on the latest technology, clothing, or gear.
But at some point those feelings went away.
“Runner” was no longer something I needed to prove, an image that I needed to uphold, or a label that I had to tout to peers and strangers alike. Nor was it a means of avoidance, a coping mechanism, or an addiction. I was no longer defined by my pace, my PR’s, my race resume.
It isn’t a sport. It isn’t a hobby. Running became, and continues to be, just an integral part of who I am.
There are so many people on this earth who are lost, who feel confused about their place or purpose in this world. I certainly haven’t figured out this crazy thing called life (shoutout to Prince!), in fact, I’m very far from it. But I have found a path that genuinely fills me with happiness. A path of adventure, of exploration, of pushing my limits. A path with kickass, inspirational people, with laughter, and endless smiles. A path that insists I live my life to its utmost fullest extent.
The TransRockies Run thrust into my face the realization of how incredibly lucky I am to have truly discovered a world that brings me so much joy and fulfillment. A community that has brought me so many genuine friendships, and has done nothing but strengthen existing relationships. A passion that his given me so many incredible opportunities over the last decade. An outlook on life that shines so brightly and blissfully, it leaves no room for negativity.
And for truly opening my eyes to all of this, I will be eternally grateful.
This post still doesn’t exactly convey all that I want to say…but I gave it my best shot. “You had to be there” is the next best thing I could possibly write.
Thank you TransRockies Run staff, sponsors, and volunteers for putting on this incredible event.
Thank you Kahtoola for making it possible for Geoff and I to attend.
Thank you to all of the incredible participants for sharing this experience with us.
Thank you to INKnBURN for your awesome and generous support.
Thank you to all of the other companies who reached out with gear and support to help make our adventure go smoothly.
Endless thank-yous to our friends and family for constantly cheering us on, both before, during, and after this race. We would have never made it out here in the first place without you.
And most of all, thank you to this guy, for not only never flinching when I inform him of the latest adventure I’ve signed him up for, but for instead asking me to share these adventures with him for the rest of our lives. Your unwavering love, support, and belief in me is more than I could have ever wished for in a partner, a best friend, or a future husband (ha! It’s still so strange to say that!). I can’t wait to share countless more miles, thousands of more mountain peaks, and endless laughter with you.
Here’s to the next adventure, wherever these running sneakers may lead me…
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.