On Thursday, Feb 11th, my 2 year sober birthday, I celebrated by going for a run in the woods, in my beloved and cherished McDonald/Dunn Forest. I woke up at 1:30AM that morning, filled with excitement, to begin preparing for yet another journey into the realm of the unknown. My goal for the day was simple, run for one hour per month of maintained sobriety over the last year. What I have to come to enjoy most about these adventures is not so much the physical aspect, but the mental journey.
I started promptly at 4:30AM with my team for the morning, Hannah and Betsy. It was still dark out, and a bit drizzly, which made for fascinating shadow play with our headlamps. About 20 minutes in, the girls peeled off, wished me well, and sent me out into the darkness by myself, so that I could begin the process of reflection from the past year.
Running in the dark has become a special and meditative practice for me. Time seems to fly by, as the next two hours did, as I ran through Chip Ross Park and up Dan’s Trail to the summit of Dimple Hill. For me, running in the dark brings me face to face with many of my old fears, the fear of the dark and the fear of the scary creatures watching me from a distance from the protection of the thick woods. Once I arrived to the Oak Creek trailhead and the cloudy sky began to illuminate, the promise of sunlight for the rest of my journey lifted my spirit. During my time under the veil of darkness I was able to maintain a sense of calm, despite the swirling perception of fears, respecting what it means to live in the moment, step by step, stride by stride.
As I made my way up Skillings Road, toward McCullough Peak, I began to get in a rhythm, which helped set the tone in my head for some true work to be done. However, unlike last year, I found myself being at peace for most of the time.
Last year, on my one year sobriety birthday, I also ran for 12 hours in the McDonald/Dunn Forest. One of the biggest differences from this year to last is that in 2015 I ran angry and resentful. I remember screaming, crying, and shouting – purging the hate and anger that I had held onto for so long. This year I was ready to do the same thing, I figured that I would, again, be met with a litany and outpouring of emotions. I kept waiting for it to happen but it never came.
After climbing Skillings Road I took a left onto the Contour Trail over to Price Peak and the Dunn Forest. A couple of hours later, At 9:30 AM, I met up with my good friend, Patrick, who’d agreed to join me to snap a few photos that Betsy and I could use for Novo Veritas. At this point I was 5 hours in and it was nice to have some company for a bit. We made our way through the “maze,” back up to Dimple Hill, to return to the Lewisburg Saddle via the steep and windy Ridge Trail.
Upon returning to the Saddle I traded companions, Patrick for Hannah, to embark on yet another journey back into the Dunn Forest. Hannah had not yet run in the Mac/Dunn during the daytime, so I was eager to show her around one of my favorite parts of these woods, Forest Peak.
As we made our way up to Forest Peak I began to feel the impending pain cave come on. I held it off as best I could, trying to maintain a sense of calm and presence. While descending off of Forest Peak, via the West Ridge Road, I noticed on my watch that I had hit 40 miles. Still, to this day, it is remarkable for me to think that I am able to run these types of distances.
Coming down off of Forest Peak the impending pain cave began to manifest itself. Because of semi-coherent and not-so-effective communication I was able to explain to Hannah my pain. I was in a rut and she let me work through it, giving subtle encouragement, which was exactly what I needed at the time.
Hannah and I were about 3 and a half hours into our time together when we made the final push back to the Saddle, by way of the relentless climb of the Alpha Trail. By this point I had worked my way through the rut, with Hannah’s help, and was excited knowing that several friends were just a few moments away from joining me for the last two hour push of my journey.
Hannah and I arrived back at the Saddle and were met by a group of friendly faces. At this point I was 50 miles in to the journey, ready to finish strong. I was joined by #10, Brandon, Jeff, Kristi, Drew, Carlea, Shea, and Mike, my coach who had made the trip from Bend to help me celebrate. After dipping in to my stash of Coca-Cola we made our way in a clockwise direction on the Davies-Nettleton Loop. My goal was to finish the day with 2 loops of 6.5 miles on the well-known loop.
The first loop went by quickly and rather effortlessly considering how far in I was at the time. Catching up with friends can help take your mind off of the fatigue that had been subsiding over the past few hours. The second loop however, was an entirely different story. I began to sink into another rut. Two miles into the loop, as I was running with #10, I had a moment where my emotions completely took over. A rush of sentiment washed through me and I began to cry uncontrollably. It was a humbling experience, perhaps it had been building over the last several hours. It took about two minutes, with the encouragement of #10, for the emotion to make it’s way through me. And then, with a snap of a finger, I was back, all cylinders firing.
Mike, as my coach and mentor, has a unique way of pushing me and motivating me through physical pain. It’s hard to explain, perhaps it’s just his physical presence that is the motivator. With 3 miles left to go, he and I made our way to the front of the group and began to push the pace. Along with Drew and Jeff, I ended up running the fastest two miles of the day at the very end, capping off a 64 mile day, my farthest effort yet as a runner. One of the things Mike has taught me is to always finish strong. Mission completed.
Thursday was indeed a special day for me for so many reasons: the distance, the people, the scenery, the support, the community, and the reflection. Perhaps the biggest take-away was that now I can use my sober date as a barometer of progress. Noticing the absence of anger and resentment from the prior year really helped me to gauge how far I’ve come since February 11, 2015. Hopefully on February 11, 2017, I can, yet again, celebrate another year of sobriety. Without truly knowing if that day will come I will continue on, one day at a time.