I always post pictures of nature, places I go climb, run, hike, walk, experience.

This time I am posting a picture of myself. Post-run. Sweaty, dirty, stinky, scraped up, tired. Nothing to hide. Instead, wrinkles to show my 44 years of life. And smiling.

Smiling because I just ran.

And here the post starts...

I was so euphoric and excited, I just ran 14 miles of trails!!!! Finished, finished!!!!

And then… just like that… as I descended the canyon road into Lander… I descended into self criticism. Well, it did take you 6 hours to do it. That is super slow Sofia. And why were you so tired? Why could't you run faster???

I am writing this post- because I am not letting this happen this time.


This is what I did.

I set out to do a 14 mile loop. Starting at 9,000 feet, and going to 10, 500. Slowly descending to 8,500, and then back up to 9,000. This was the first time for me running at that altitude. Normally I run at around 6,000 feet here in Lander, so I figured it would just be cooler and a nicer weather to run in.

The initial climb was steep, so I decided I would walk/hike it as fast as I could, and then start running once the terrain leveled.

So I started. I climbed up to 10,500, about 4 miles. My left foot kept hurting through it, some kind of strange nerve pain shooting from my fourth toe up to the ball of my foot. I kept trying to rearrange it in the shoe, tighten it, loosen it… nothing. So I finally stopped, cracked all my toes, gulped some Advil, and told the pain to go to hell. Continued.

Once I got to the top, I started running. And then the fear set in. I was terrified that I would get lost in the wilderness. Miss a turn, a trail, a river crossing. This was all new terrain to me, so I had no idea what the trails and intersections would be like, look like; and I had missed turns before and gotten lost enough to know that it does happen, map and all.

I had a topo map, so I had a good idea of the elevation, tree areas, creeks. But what got to me was that whatever mileage the map told me never seemed to match the reality and the time it took me to cover it. It was unnerving, especially as the time seemed to stretch longer and longer beyond the time I had allotted myself to accomplish the run. That kept me on edge. Do I need to run faster to keep on track and risk bonking, or do I keep slow to save my legs... and risk being here until dark, also risking getting cold and running out of water and food?

And then starts the talk back. No Sofia you are not gonna run out of food. And if you do, you are fine, you are not gonna die of starvation or thirst in a few hours. You can always walk. Your legs are fine. Keep going. God damn it I am so fucking tired. Keep going. Keep going. Where is the god damn intersection???? Why is it taking so long to do 3 miles??? I should be there. Am I lost??? Stop. Look around. Ok pee. Ok keep going, keep going. Trip on rocks. You are not gonna fall!!! Don't you fucking fall Sofia, you hear me???? Do not fall!!! God it's about time this intersection shows up, I'm fucking tired!!!!

And so it went, and I went. I felt a couple times, getting up from peeing, a little oozy. Not sure if it was altitude, or not eating enough the previous night, or just simple tired from working a long shift the previous day. Those were all the thoughts that crossed my mind. And more.

Whatever it was, I started to get discouraged by this trail that only seemed to get longer and longer the faster I tried to run it. Damn it I kept thinking.

And that is where it hit me. Something started to shine next to me, pretty bright. What is this??? I turned around, and it was a lake. Shining in the sun. So beautiful. Really, so beautiful it made me just start crying as I ran. And it is amazing how just seeing that, feeling that, was enough to give me new energy.

All it did was make me forget my thoughts.

It is amazing how many self-destructive thoughts we have. Or… I have. And amazing how a simple distraction like sheer beauty can rejuvenate us… me. Get me out of my thoughts, put myself back in touch, inside, core, spirit.

I finished the run. My first time running 14 miles on a trail, alone. To find the most beautiful sunset over the lake at the trailhead.

I did it.

That is what matters. The beauty that I saw and experienced. The challenge and inspiration that came with and from it. And more than that.

Because now I know I can run that. And if I can run that, I can run 20. If I can run 20, I can run 24… and 26, 30…

That is how it goes. Build on a base. I couldn't do 14 if I had not done 13. And 12. And 10. And 9. And 8. And 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. It all starts with 1. Just one. And yet... we are so much of the time so embarrassed by that mere "one" that we end up not even getting out at all, just staying at 0. Nothing.

And yet when I get out… what I get in that one… and another one… is the fresh scent of pine trees, the incredible sound of the breeze in the aspens, the crisp fall air… deer, grouse, picas, birds, sun, creeks, shiny lakes… and by virtue of being slow enough… incredible sunsets.

What I get is what I earn. By work. Strong legs to take me to those places. Not how many miles in the end. But the work I put in. The work that stays with me, and that nothing can take away from me.

Because I earned it.

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