Saturday, June 11, 2011

Making Peace with Pisgah

My "baptism" on Pisgah.

A year ago, almost to the day I was in peak trail running shape.  Hills didn't faze me, I could navigate technical trails by leaping over roots, rocks and logs.  I would power or scurry my way up hills and zig zag my way down as quickly as possible to make up for lost time and feel that rusht.  Navigating my way from one side of the stream to another with a long leap or by means of rock hopping was one of my favorite trail challenges.  I was a confident, fearless trail runner counting down the last few weeks before running my first 50K. 

Last June, I set off for a fifteen mile trail run on Mt. Pisgah.  It wasn't a long run.  It didn't include much in the way of hill climbs and was done at an easy pace.  Nonetheless, this was the run that has haunted me for the last year.  This is the run in which the terrain got the best of me and my body failed me.  It brought my running to a full halt for three months.  This is the run that caused me to DNS for the first time.  This is the run that broke my heart and shook me to the very core. 

For a year, I tried to shake these post-injury feelings that resembled Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  I wanted to be over it.  I wrote and wrote about it.  I tried to run anyway, talk about it, cry about it, rage about it, accept it and take up new interests and challenges.  I took on the identity of injured runner and wore it like a child wears a band aid on a scratch that healed long ago.  I hated it, yet I couldn't give it up.  I was stuck.  Was this role serving me in some manner?  Could that be why I clung to it so mightily?  After a year, it was time for an exorcism.

I wanted to be free from my past injury and the grief surrounding it.  I wanted my confidence back.  I wanted to reclaim my identity as a runner.  The only thing I could think of that I hadn't yet done was to make peace with my nemesis, Mt. Pisgah.  I needed a catharsis.  I would need to let go of my fear, anger and sense of control and face this ominous place.  I couldn't take anyone with me.  This was something I needed to experience alone and on my own terms.

I set off for a trail run on Mt. Pisgah.  I took food, water, my camera and my dog.  I left behind my Garmin and any expectations of what distance, pace or length of time I would run.  Here is the story of my journey by way of the photographs I snapped along the way.  

Japhy, the best four-legged trail companion.

Quarry Road through the "swamp trail"

Always loved playing in the mud as a child...
and I still do today.

What can I say? I'm a dirty girl.
Dirty dog finds quiet stream for cooling and hydration.

Beautiful meadow under the sun and mostly blue skies

My huge playground. Which way shall I go?
Steam crossing!

Time to pay my respects to Trail 3.

Seems innocent enough...

Maybe a little foreboding...

Love the pastoral views through the oak savannah
One can see the whole city from here.

Quiet solitude. I was the only one on the trails this whole time.

Made it to the summit!

Those are the rocks that I landed on when I ruptured my PF.  No shadows or demons, just rocks. Reflect, release and move on.

It's time for some new trail adventures!
Follow that feather-tailed trail hound!

Made my peace with Pisgah, but perhaps more importantly, forgave myself and my body for getting hurt.

Short and sweet forested section.
Slow, careful descent through my favorite section of the trail. I call it the chapel.

Lupine and golden rod on the saddle.

This way to the river.  We are almost done.

Ice bath!

Japhy burns off some more of his limitless energy with a swim.
My lower body gets an "ice bath". Thank you legs and feet!
 I have no idea how far or how fast I ran.  That's not important.  I made peace with the rough, rocky and sometimes unforgiving Mt. Pisgah.  I realized she wasn't to blame.  My body had gotten worn down and tired.  It could have happened anywhere at anytime.  I forgave myself for any wrong doing, perhaps being arrogant, overly zealous or reckless in my training.  I forgave my body for having limits and requesting a break in the only way she knew how.  Today's trail baptism washed away the pain and gave me hope for a new beginning.  I remembered just how much I love spending time out on the trails.  It is my sanctuary and my playground.  Above all, it is my source of connection with the universe and my tiny place within its magnificence.  I am grateful.  I am a trail runner.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful trails! Good to hear you made peace with the trail. I hope your body continues to cooperate with your love of trails.

    Ashley (adventures of running mom)