Sunday, May 5, 2019

It was stupid and I did it anyway.

I cried in church this morning during the sermon. The topic was Jesus on the road to Emmaus, "walking" with two of his disciples.

Yesterday I tried to hike up Pikes Peak via the Northwest Slopes route, about 14 miles round trip. I failed.
Pikes Peak Strava Activity
I did a two mile hike with 500 feet of elevation gain and loss last Saturday and I was making great progress this past week, so I thought there was about a 30%-40% chance of actually making the summit. Which is enough for me to try. Plus, I have 26 14ers left to do, and I want to finish them this year which means taking advantage of good weather days before all of the snow has melted or I am 100% recovered. Pikes Peak is the easiest one I have left within a four hour drive of Longmont. I announced my intentions for a 14 mile 8-12 hour adventure to my coworkers and six of them decided to join me!

I left my apartment at 3:30 in the morning, stopped at a coworker's apartment in Longmont at 3:45, another coworker's in Louisville at 4:05, another coworker's in Broomfield at 4:20, and then another coworker's to change vehicles in Westminster at 4:35, and then the seventh coworker in Highlands Ranch at 5:15. The seven of us carpooled down to the trailhead getting there about 7 AM and starting hiking shortly after. I quickly led us on a wrong turn wasting about a half mile. Initially the trail was good. Stable footing, very shallow grade. I was feeling great! Out with friends on a beautiful day, life is good! My ankle wasn't feeling too bad, and the adrenaline of attempting a 14er was coursing through me so I wasn't feeling all the pain.

Near treeline the route became very steep and only one of the six people with me know how to properly flat foot and break trail, so either him or I led, which tired me out and put my ankle at poor angles, which strained it more. It was a struggle, but it was okay. I've had worse. I put myself about at a D in terms of how I was doing. When we crested the broad ridge the trail leveled out a bit and we made good progress, but even some slight downhills were torture on my ankle. I had a few moments where I choked up and my eyes watered. I didn't exactly cry, but I was close. There were a lot of emotions going through my head.

The last year has not been totally delightful. I had a pulmonary embolism, which can kill people. Fortunately I am here, and my dream for nearly a decade of being on the USA 100 km team was fulfilled, but I was unable to even run 9:30 pace consistently and it is not a race experience I want to repeat. Then I broke my leg and strained my ankle ligaments. The recovery is going excellent! People can lose their foot from especially bad ankle crush injuries. My mom is battling cancer. It seems to be going very well, but this past fall it was not going well, and people die from cancer. Another relative had cancer and a different relative had a health scare last summer, all in the past year. My mortality and fragility has been fully reinforced. Are my competitive running days over? Is going to high altitude too great of a risk for me? As I was doing this difficult and painful thing yesterday I was on cloud nine, high from the prospect that I could still go into the mountains. Why me? And I mean that in the most positive way, that others will never experience even the minor mellow hike I experienced yesterday. Plus it was only eight weeks after a serious injury. Even with all of these adversities, I have the ability to hike from 9,700 feet up to 13,000 feet over 6.5 miles on mostly snowy terrain. Why has God so blessed me with these great abilities?

We reached the first road crossing and I was still optimistic, however in the short less than half mile section to the next road crossing we went up and down on snow that led to some post holing and my ankle just couldn't take the irregularity. I felt like an F, I had failed, it was time to call it quits, at approximately 11:30 AM. One of my fellow hikers is recovering from a metatarsal stress fracture and he called it day too. We hitchhiked down in a rental car thanks to a nice couple (including a helicopter pilot) from Utah. The two of us spent the rest of the day bumming around Colorado Springs down town, eating, drinking, and napping in a park with the homeless people. As we grew worried about our friends we finally heard from them at 7:30 PM, only an hour from when were were planning to call Teller County search and rescue. They all made it down safe! Despite it being harder than they expected, they summitted and had fun! I was afraid when they picked us up at 8:40 PM for the drive home that they would want to kill me.

One of my [probably genetic] gifts is acute inflammation. My body will swell up and then recover quickly from traumatic things. My ankle yesterday afternoon grew, probably a quarter to half inch in diameter due to the twisting on uneven ground. However, today, after getting some sleep, and icing it it actually doesn't feel too bad or look terribly big. It's still clearly bigger than my right ankle, but it's been that way for eight weeks. I'm going to wear the ankle brace most of today, because I can feel my ankle is weak, but frankly it feels better than I expected after the stupidness that I put it through.

So this morning in church, when the sermon was on Jesus walking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, I cried. For years I've through of my running, especially my long runs, as dancing with God and I think of hiking and climbing in the mountains as spending my time in the greatest cathedrals in the world. Yet today, I felt for the first time that my limping slow walk is also with God. He meets us where we are at, when we are hurting and desperate and sad, and doing things which are probably detrimental to ourselves.

I feel that these many experiences I have had in the last year are a lesson to me that my time on earth is limited. I need to speak out. I can't stay silent. I can't leave things until tomorrow. No guarantees that I actually make any changes to my life, but I am definitely thinking about the big things I want to accomplish in life and doing them sooner rather than later.

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