"Maybe this is how it's supposed to be ...
Looking forward as we rewind
Looking back is a trap sometimes
Being here is so easy to do - if you want to ..."
- Jack Johnson, "Supposed to Be" (video after post)
I figured it would take something dramatic to snap me out of my Western States blues; fortunately, I didn’t have to wait very long to find it.
Our family spent last week on vacation at our usual stomping ground in the Sierra Nevadas: Lake Alpine, elevation 7300’, population, um … the three dudes who work at the lodge, plus however many folks happen to be at the local campgrounds. It’s our favorite place to escape for a little hakuna matata each summer.
The trip was purposely scheduled immediately following Western States. My original plan was to drink a lot of wine, eat a lot of cookies and burgers, listen to a lot of Jack Johnson music, and take a lot of naps. All this indulgence would be guilt-free, of course, since I had just run 100 miles. It had all the makings of the ultimate post-race recovery program.
Of course, there was one little problem: the 100-mile thing never happened.
Despite the race cancellation, we never thought twice about the vacation plan; the only thing that changed was my demeanor going into the week. Instead of looking forward to unlimited rest & relaxation, all I could think about while packing was, what the heck am I going to do now? Needless to say, I was more than a little bummed out – as you read about in last week’s post.
I had already lost my race, so I was stubbornly determined to not lose my vacation as well. I resolved to kick back and relax just as much on the trip as I had planned on doing all along – sure, it would sabotage my training, but at the time, I didn’t feel like I had anything to train for anyway. It was only as an afterthought that I begrudgingly shoved a pair of trail shoes under my car seat before we headed to the hills.
The first several days went exactly as planned. We spent long hours at the pool or the lake, did some kayaking, and read books while sitting in lounge chairs. Training-wise, I still didn’t know what the heck I was doing, but I honestly didn’t care. In fact, one afternoon on the lake, I discovered the perfect way to make my race-induced worries go away:
If you ever feel the need to clear your head from nagging preoccupations, I recommend taking a handful of 20-foot cliff jumps into a mountain lake. There’s nothing like staring down from a high precipice to push all other concerns aside for a while. I found the whole thing quite gratifying.
Finally, on the last day of our trip, I decided to lace up my shoes and take in some sights around the lake. Perhaps I’d find some inspiration to snap me out of my doldrums.
Sometimes, it’s hard to see exactly where the trail goes. But thankfully, whenever a trail fades away into of a mass of boulders, it’s usually easy to pick up again once you figure out a way to scramble up and over to the other side.
Did I say that I was looking for inspiration on this run? This seemed like an appropriate sign to follow.
These trails may offer you inspiration, but they certainly make you work for it. After leaving the tree line in this picture, my “run” essentially became a long hike up the rocky slope, with small bits of jogging thrown in here and there just so I could still call myself a runner.
The final approach to Inspiration Point is a narrow trail along the spine of the rock formation that stands prominently above the lake.
Once you get there, you can look down into the neighboring valley, and some nearby reservoirs that are connected in a hydroelectric network with Lake Alpine via the Stanislaus River.
Lake Alpine, seen from Inspiration Point. After 90 minutes of running (well … mostly running), this is where I finally took a few minutes to rest, take in the view, and enjoy the vast beauty all around me. The 360-degree vista was simply breathtaking - I wish I had better words to describe it. The whole scene was very, uh …. what’s the word I’m looking for? … inspirational.
A self-photo from the top, in case you didn’t believe me about growing the beard. I thought it was fairly impressive for only 5 days of growth. If I ever get selected for Survivor: Lake Alpine, I think I could get pretty shaggy.
This is what the rocky shelf looks like from lake level. I took this picture following the run, after my wife and son claimed they couldn’t see me standing on top from their fishing boat on the water. I mean, I was even waving my arms and everything. Whatever.
After descending from the point, I passed this scene in the forest, which kind of cracked me up:
You might need to enlarge to see it – but the sign on the left says “bearing tree”, and gives the coordinates of a nearby tree that has been identified as one that has been scraped, debarked, or otherwise marked by bears.
So here’s my question: do you really need that itty bitty sign on the left to tell you that the tree straight ahead has been torn apart by some bear? I don’t think it takes any special detective training to figure that one out.
I was laughing to myself after passing the bearing tree, and for the rest of the run, a very simple, very familiar feeling came over me: it was joy. I just felt happy to be among these trees, these rocks, and these trails. It was like the feeling you get when you stumble across something that was previously lost – when you didn’t quite realize that particular thing was missing, but then become very glad that you found it.
What I almost lost was this basic truth: I absolutely love trail running. Whether it’s in preparation for an epic race, or just to find sanctuary from the crazy world for a couple of hours, it’s an opportunity I’m thankful to have every time I lace up my shoes. And by the end of the run, I had found my inspiration again. All I had to do was follow the signs.
Finally, on a related topic: I’m signing up today for the Headlands Hundred on August 9th. Now that I’ve got all this inspiration again, I figured I should find some place to use it.
Jack Johnson, "Supposed to Be" (click to play):