Thursday, July 27, 2006

One foot at a time.

When you're staring at the Grand Canyon, you can't really describe the feeling you get.

Pictures never, ever do it justice. Ever.

So when you stare at this thing, and see the miles to go to get to the bottom, and then to get back to the top, it's a little daunting.

See, at the top, there's a TON of people. LOTS of tourists. From all around the world. They come with their cameras and fanny packs and minivans and you can barely hear yourself think because there are so many. You can barely even take a step without accidentally becoming an extra in some random's home video, or making a cameo in their family photo.

This is alright, I guess. It's still a beautiful place. But it's not really where I like to be.

So I headed down.

As you follow the trail into the canyon, you are still with lots of people...for the first mile or so. They are doing ridiculous things like hanging over cliffs to get the best shot. Sometimes they refuse to move over even just a bit as you teeter over the edge with your 30-plus pound backpack teetering your fragile center of gravity. So I try not to get too frazzled by them. Slowly and steadily, I make my way down.

Pretty soon, you realize the people are gone. There's not really one moment where they's more like they just kind of fizzle out until all of a sudden, you look around and realize it's just you and your group of friends.

It's quiet.

It's more peaceful than you can even describe in words.

And you have a long way to go.

To me, down hurts more than up. Down pounds on your knees with every aching step as you descend closer and closer to the bottom--hurrying as fast as you can to beat the sundown.

And then you see it. The Colorado River.

You look up and realize you've made it. Halfway.

You think how few people ever get to see the bottom from this perspective. How it's a small and elite club of people who even make it this far.

And you have a long way to go.

It's easy to relax and underestimate how long the journey is. But this is precisely why many don't make the full journey.

Up takes twice as long. Up, to me, hurt less, but was more of a mental struggle. As hard as I worked and as fast as my legs carried me, I just didn't seem to make it any closer to the top. I got a little frustrated. It's easy to do.

But then, if you look behind you, you see the river getting smaller and smaller.

For me, that made it easier to climb to the top. That 10 seconds or so, when I'd pause to look behind me, and to see how far I'd already come, made it a little easier. It didn't really make the top seem any closer, but it did just make me realize that progress is a good thing.

The last day, when I was very tired...I was out of food, of gels, and I was sick of it all. I wanted a shower. I wanted a pizza. I wanted my bed.

And then, I saw the top.

We were still about 2 miles away, but I could see it--the lodge, the little ant-like tourists running around in slow motion.

I was almost there.

I remember smiling and laughing.

And it gave me the second wind that I needed.

I'm down to 43 days here. For 21 of these days, I'll be tapering. I'm staring at the next 10 days of my training plan and it makes my stomach a little queasy. Just for a second. Then, if I breathe deeply, it goes away.

See, these next 10 days will have the hardest, longest workouts I will have ever done in my life. Back to back. To back.

At first glance, on paper, this is a little daunting.

Okay, it's a lot daunting.

But I gotta remember that I don't like being at the crowded top of the Canyon. I like it better where it's harder to go.

And harder to get out of.

That's why I signed up for this, really.

So I can now see the top. It makes me smile and makes me petrified at the same time. It's still quite a ways away...but it's there.

So hang on here. I'm in the home stretch. Aside from race day, this is going to be the hardest part.

But if I can make it through this part, I can know that not many will have seen what I have seen. Not many out there will have gone all the way down and back.

And that's why I now, more than ever, I have to do what a friend told me is the only thing to do...the only way you really get anywhere...

Just keep moving forward.


Wes said...

You know you can do it T. Your body is ready. These next ten days aren't as much for your body as it is for your mind. Work hard. Fine tune your body. Prepare your mind. Move forward.

Chris said...

Race day is the fun part! It'll be hard, but I don't think it's harder than the training that you've already done. It'll soon be time to sit back and reap the rewards of all those hours you put in this summer!

I hiked down and up the canyon once. It was beautiful, but I'd never hike it again. I thought it was entirely too far. Of course, that was me saying that in a pre-IM life...

mouse said...

I was thinking very similar thoughts last week as I was staring at my marathon schedule and going, "I have three 10+ mile runs scheduled for next week? I'm tired now. how am I going to handle that?"

one workout at a time, mile by mile... that's how.

and when I'm dragging my tired butt out of bed to put in those miles, I'll be thinking of you soon-to-be-ironmen, and your grueling training (much moreso than my dinky schedule!), and what extraordinary company I'm in.

if that doesn't inspire me to get moving, I don't know what will!

Donald said...

Great post. I like the thoughts about leaving people behind on your way to the starting line. It's ironic, because during the wave start, you'll be thinking, "I can't believe how many people are out here!"

Eric said...

I'm jealous about your trip to the Canyon. I have to do that hike.

Keep me updated on your training schedule. I'd like to help when I can.

Pharmie said...

Once again, a great post. I love the comparison. Just know that you will not be alone the next few weeks. We'll be in it together!

jkrunning--Just Keep Running said...

Awesome post Sara--
You are going to kick that IM's a$$.

Jodi said...

You can almost see Madison in the distance now. Keep plugging away- it will be so worth it when you look behind you and see the finisher's chute from the other side.

I'm so jealous that I'm on the top of the canyon looking down on a huge journey toward the river and you're almost back up! Savor every moment- you're almost there!

Hermano said...

Hey ... congrats on geating your column on Trifuel! Keep up the great writing.

E-Speed said...

this was awesome to read. especially after hearing the stories from the guys that ran rim to rim to rim. amazing.

you are gonna make it girl! keep moving!

BuckeyeRunner said...

This is so exciting!! All your hard work is preparing you for this last stretch before the big day. You are going to be so great - your attitude and determination is so positive and you are so focused. I am excited for you. Good luck with these next 10 days. I know you can do it.