Thursday, December 12, 2019

Breathing into the Heart

4:45am wake up alarm, carefully pushing my body up, taking care to avoid any pressure on my back but I still wince as the pain of moving, the pain of my back and hamstrings reaches my sleepy brain. It’s been many hard weeks of training

My eyes are the last part of my body to wake up and I cover them as I enter the bathroom, switching on the light, draping my oversized blue bathrobe over my shirt with one hand, other hand still protecting my eyes. Outside, there’s a new blanket of snow on the ground and the cold seems to seep through the windows and walls. The moon sits above the mountains, a glow around it.

It’s 5:30am, I need at least 15 minutes to drive through the snow to yoga, defrost blasting, Khalid in the background:

“The days get brighter when you're here
So I gotta keep you near
Goin' crazy and I just can't get you outta my head”

Thinking about you and rereading your text. You were up at 4am this morning, “Sorry for not saying goodnight.” But I know how tired you must be from a stressful week.

It’s 6am and it’s time for an hour of hot vinyasa yoga flow class. My yoga mat curls up at the end, still frozen from being left in the car overnight. Underneath me it feels cold, like the ground beneath the snow. Above me the heat roars from vents. There are just four of us in class and at 6am class it’s just the most committed yogis. “Nice job you all have the bind” the teacher says approvingly while we are in extended side angle. Beginners don’t come at 6am

Just as it is in life, some poses are easy, and some are hard. Some come naturally, some take lots of work. I love yoga because I can make these comparisons to life all day. This pose is easy for me, even with a full arm bind, but breathing through the flow takes practice. Whenever it gets hard, I struggle and I find myself holding my breath. “Huuuuuuuh” as I let my breath go, remembering again to be here, now. Breathing in, again alive in the moment

I open my chest, my heart, with the arm bind in Utthita Parsvakonasana and my back becomes a stream of sweat as if flowing from my heart. The heat is roaring, and sweat becomes a river, drip drip drip on my yoga towel, my chest to the sky

Mile 90

I have run so many miles at one time,
Through the day and through the night,
That I’m not sure my legs will work
You haven’t ever run that far,
But I  think you know that feeling right now

90 miles in, on top of a mountain peak
My legs feel like glass that's barely held together:
Like a windshield after an accident
miraculously still in one piece by a mysterious glue 
It's veined and looks like puzzle pieces  
that a child put together but it is complete
You are too

You haven’t ever run this far
But you’re 90 miles in, in your own way.
I wish I could help you, to be the glue
I wrote this to tell you that you are close to 100 miles
close close close 

Sometimes, we make things hard so we will break,
It is a choice we make—
Sometimes, without breaking we can’t get stronger
I know this truth at Mile 90 
That's how I get to mile 100
Shatter shatter shatter

I know it’s hard to break into so many pieces
But you’re at mile 90, I promise
That's how you get to mile 100. 
I wish I could help you, to be the glue

So I write this
To let you know it’s ok to break
Sometimes, without breaking we can’t get stronger
that’s how you rebuild,
rebuild rebuild rebuild

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Silent Goodbye

The mountain is always here, 
the seasons coming and going, 
time passing, leaving its mark, 
a mark that slowly fades like a scar

Words are like fire and they can burn hot
So I say nothing at all anymore, 
not even goodbye.

You read a book that was written about me
about a time in my life years ago 
a time of even greater pain and suffering 
I could not defend myself
Your fears were acknowledged in these stories
Because you carry your pain too, 
like a book.

We all find the truth we seek—
It’s too late now, but I wish we could have created a new truth, together
One that made us both feel safe instead of the one we told 
that was born from suffering and pain

As the fog settles into the valleys 
I say goodbye silently because words still aren’t safe 

Fog obscures the roads and homes below 
and from it rises the cold mountains, 
a layer of new snow highlighted 
by the darker contours of the ridges and trees

I run along the mountain’s lines, 
formed years ago and telling stories 
of growth and destruction. 
Maybe the mountain feels pain too? 

Yesterday’s snow makes the mountains look brand new 
and I say goodbye to summer, 
goodbye to the warmth

The mountain is always here, 
the seasons coming and going, 
time passing, leaving its mark, 
a mark that slowly fades like a scar

12/4/19 Candice Burt

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Exploring the Psyche

It was our one day off from a week of 200 miles course marking & naturally we decided to do a 15mi run, sans bulky, heavy packs, course marking gear & chaffing/bruising that builds up over the course of a week of marking while carrying a loaded hiking pack & running/hiking hundreds of miles. Running up a trail w/ a light pack was rest enough for us. Our bodies had become accustomed to working hard day after day: a routine of rising early, marking all day, making dinner & repacking our bulky bags for the next days sections: Hammer? Stapler? Signs? Water, snacks, jacket? Check. Today would be different.

I chose Angry Mountain because it was close by our camp, I still had a full day of computer work to do & I’d never been on those trails. Everyone in the group joined and we started up the trail, it was defined and easy to follow for several miles, zig zagging mostly straight up the mountain. Until it wasn’t. Four miles in the trail became a maze of downed trees and we had to watch very carefully to tell where it switch backed up the mountain. There are signs to follow, but you have to pay careful attention. Snapped branches, a sliver of trail under the trunk of a tree ... after a few miles of this jungle I was ready to call it a day.

Looking at my Gaia app I could see the peak of the mountain so damn close. “Hey guys!” A group of 4 gathering around, “Let’s cut over here & summit Angry Mountain. It’s only about it 1/4 mile off trail.” Considering we weren’t really on a trail anyway, it seemed safe enough. There were no dissenting opinions. Everyone wanted to pop out of the trees and see the view, if any. Hopping, crunching, parting branches we moved straight up into a meadow with rocky outcroppings.

A view of endless mountains. The breeze massaged my bare arms, goosebumps forming not because it was cold, but from the expansiveness, it hit me and I felt indivisible, interconnected to the mountains all around me. I wasn’t a runner moving up the mountain, but rather I was a part of the mountain moving up itself. My steps, my running, exploring the world, but also my psyche. The distinction was electrifying and brought up a powerful reverence.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Facing Monsters and Finishing the 170 mile Tahoe Rim Trail

I knew I needed to lie down but this spot wouldn’t do, a wolf was intensely staring me down and I wasn’t willing to take a chance that it was real. Just up the trail I found an open spot with no wolves. I glanced around briefly to confirm, but not so long that I’d give myself time to see more monsters lurking. 

I hadn’t rested in 65 hours. I was so close but I might as well be 170 miles away still. It felt like I’d never be done. I only had 10 miles left and yet it didn’t matter, the trail had won, I was stumbling forward at barely 1mph seeing a world that was hidden to everyone else full of spirits, demons, angels and wild animals. 

Adventures aren’t about getting trophies, medals, accolades, FKTs, CRs, or recognition. Adventure has no real glory. It’s brutal and demanding. It tears you up until you are ready to admit defeat. It makes you whimper and pray because in the end control is an illusion. Adventure is about overcoming again and again until all that ego is washed clean and all that’s left is sunburned skin, shattered glass legs, parched throat, sore elbows, swollen hands, crunchy Achilles and an indomitable human spirit. 

On my third attempt to complete the entire Tahoe Rim Trail in one go, all 170 miles, I experienced a full break down of expectations and ego bringing about an intense appreciation for the trail, for Tahoe, a place I’ve lived and explored on and off for nearly 20 years. I explored the depths of my psyche through some crazy hallucinations from web covered trails formed onto textures I can’t even fully explain to ice encrusted trees and herds of wild cats to dead people hanging from trees I fully went there while hanging on. 

Adventure isn’t about awards, unless you count those hard earned scars and memories. It’s about persevering and completing what we set out to do, it’s about fulfilling our human commitment. After some prodding by Kevin Westlake to take a photo at the trail’s completion, I hadn’t even looked at my watch to see my final time, I posed: an ode to my love for this magical place.

Finished in 72:21:xx running unsupported (carried all my own gear and food the entire way without resupply) beginning Wednesday, Nov 6 and finishing Saturday, Nov 9. Began and finished in Tahoe City (64 acre park)

Monday, September 30, 2019

A Glimpse Beyond the Usual

Photo by Howie Stern 
I glance at my watch, 5 minutes to go. It briefly feels like the Earth moves but it’s just the power of this moment in time when anything is possible and therefore everything is possible. It’s nerves, I’m about to have runners pledge to me in real Luis Escobar and Caballo Blanco fashion a pledge of responsibility: 

“If I get lost” the runners repeat loudly, 

“hurt” ... many voices chiming in, 

“or die” ... 

“it’s my own damn fault.” 

And with a few nervous laughs from the runners and even louder laugh into a hum from the growing crowd, I glance again at my watch. 2 minutes. Again, the earth, my stomach moves. I’m about to start the 2019 Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Run with the biggest field in the history of 200 milers in the USA. I created this beast and it’s amazing to see how it’s turned into something, from nothing. Nearly 250 runners from almost every state and so many countries that our start line chute is filled with colorful flags, flapping in the light breeze. But it won’t be light for long. 

This is the Sierra Nevada Mountains and these runners are about to embark on a 205 mile journey... of up to 100hrs/4 days. We don’t know it yet, but the course will be blanketed in inches of snow by the last 24 hours and yet, the runners persist, pushing through obstacles, most in their minds, but oh so real... many large, looming in front of them: steep climbs, torrential downpours, freezing nights, tired legs, pain and fatigue. 

Even overpowering hallucinations and reality slowly slipping away. And the snow covering the mountains like a cold blanket on the last day, making everything look brand new again, that’s what I’d hope for at the end of this quest: discovery of something brand new, a side of myself that perhaps I’d never seen before, a glimpse beyond the usual day to day grind, something extraordinary. 

The Bear's Message

As I climbed up a hillside so steep even the wisps of clouds settled in trees thinking they’d already reached the sky, a brown bear came rolling down the slope. For a moment he could’ve been a rock, but no... he paused, looked over at me just as surprised and moved gracefully to the East, disappearing so quickly I wondered if he was real. He was small enough I considered that his mother might come bounding down the slope too, half hoping she would and half worried she would but the only sound was The Weeknd singing “Try Me” in my ears. 
I pushed pause on my headphones listening intently, the soft sound of wind moving branches and snow dropping. Does the bear have a message for me? The thought passed through my mind as though each moment in the frozen forest was important. I wasn’t always sure what was a dream and what was this world, this lifetime. Would my dreaming self wake up in a start and wonder about her bear dream? Recall her cold feet and the feeling of deep sadness she carried up the mountain? 
I was still here though and I was in some remote forest, the closest human many miles away. I was making the first white tracks up the mountain. Lightly, lightly, the snow landed around me, on my waterproof hooded jacket, hitting my pants and melting into streams soaking my shoes. I was startled by my watch vibrating, one more mile it said. Lightly, lightly the snow fell until the wind swirled the snow flakes into angry clouds, biting my face and cheeks. I moved my buff over my nose. 
For a moment a light so bright someone could’ve turned on a cosmic flashlight above the mountains south of me, but it was the sun hiding behind a blustery snow filled cloud, the mist shifted and suddenly the mountains came into view: yellows, oranges, red, green and grey albeit for the top 1/3 which was frozen in white. The view stirring up feelings, like the breeze had moved the snow a moment before, and now I was moved to feel awe and fear. An appreciation for the power of the landscape and my small part in it: I was as insignificant as the snow that would melt one day, I was a part of the landscape a part of what made it wild and free.