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 vanish...it'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 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.