That's not - or shouldn't be - a surprise to any of us. Ever since we were, what, 15 we've steadfastly believed we were indeed immortal. We trained, we raced, we just ran like there was no tomorrow. Nothing could keep us from the trail - weather, physical condition, weddings, nothing. The longer the better - hour runs became 4, which became 8, which became....You know how it goes. Of course, we had our share of injuries too - even surgeries – but those were just minor road blocks, obstacles readily overcome, and quickly too. Sometimes too soon. And back we were, running, training, racing and digging it all. The camaraderie we felt with our trail brothers and sisters – those who shared our love of dirt and rock, and the joy we felt out there together – was like nothing else. Incomparable, real and lasting. Loving every single minute of it.
But you know, nothing lasts forever. One day, out of the blue it seems, it changes. Those incredibly special runs I share with my daughter are different. Can't keep up - try as I might. First it's the uphills, then the down and suddenly we just agree to meet back at the car. Shit. It's not the same. What's gone is that shared delight at the top, that big-smiled chase down the last big hill - it's a little hole that just grows bigger. And bigger. Same with those uniquely special friends where a shared run, hours together on the trail, talking, back and forth, or just appreciating the wild and its quiet, is the bond that holds it all together. Nothing like it. But suddenly, it too begins to weaken. The pieces slip apart. That special something has faded a little. You wonder how to get it back. Try.
You tell yourself "well at least I'm north of the dirt," but it's not that simple. Or even right. The real truth is that it's hard to not be who and what you used to be or want to be. Sure, you say, "it's inevitable," sure. Like that makes it easier.
Try as one might to find a substitute, nothing fills that void. Cycling isn't all bad, but it's not the same. Too many pieces of specialized equipment, potential mechanical failures and nowhere near that sense of freedom that comes with a jaunt on the trails in the high country. Swimming - never; staring at a thick black line on the tiled bottom will never do it, regardless of the fitness benefits. Because it's not just about that. Hiking, well, it's better. At least it's outside and affords a little of that sense of awe that comes with being out there where it's wild and unruly – anywhere out there. But, damn, it's slow. Painfully slow. That once incredible 4-hour loop now takes 8, and ends with nowhere that glow and sense of accomplishment that comes with the burning lungs, aching quads and spent feeling. Still...
Point is - appreciate it all. Every single day. It's incredibly special, a gift, and it's incredibly short-lived. Smile, laugh, talk - even as you grind. It doesn't - can't - last forever.