First of all, thank you Maranda Lorraine for this, one of my favorite pictures. I have used this shot a number of times and don't think I've ever given due credit to the photographer. She's one of the best I know.
Imagine a state of mind where all you see is what you're looking at. There are no worries in the world outside of the picture being taken by your eyes in the moment. Imagine a peace where no stress exists and a sense of accomplishment that could only come from doing something that might seem impossible to some. That's how I felt the moment this picture was taken.
This shot must have been taken in May of 2014. I'll do my best here to let you in on the ultra community that I've become a part.
For the past four years now a group of us have been driving up the north shore of Minnesota sometime in mid May to experience one of the most well run, inspiring and beautiful races in the world. We're all ready to experience life without snow. Although there is another Rocksteady Running (the site is under construction right now but you'll want to bookmark it for further reference) trail race in April, this one is the first one that fills up and the masses get really excited about. It's also the first ultra I did back in 2010. The story was much different then as you could (and I did) walk up the evening before the race and get a bib.
Back to the picture... It was a beautiful, overcast, chilly, windless spring day in Lutsen and three of us were set to do the 50k distance while one of us did the 25k option. The trail is rough and, for many, this is the first big test of the summer running season here in Minnesota. Superior Spring I had just come off the trail and made a trip back to my room for warmer clothes. Maranda is a friend of mine who I see exclusively at trail events so when we get together it is always a pleasure to catch up and talk. You see, when we connect, there is a mutual understanding that all of us "crazies" have with each other. We understand the challenges that go with ultra distance and we embrace each other's drive to push ourselves and test our limits. Conversations are free flowing and loving. We inspire each other and have great respect for the challenges that come with ultra running.
So, we had been sitting chatting for some time as we watched down the trail to see what runner would be coming next. With each one we clapped, praised their effort and encouraged them to finish strong. I had a couple of friends who I was expecting to see and sure enough they came not long after this picture was taken. There is a peace in this moment that can not be recreated. I had just come off one of my favorite trails with some of my favorite people. My body was spent and my mind was at peace. The physical and mental challenge put me in a place that I didn't want to leave. Moments like these are part of what keeps me coming back. it's not punishment. It's challenge. It's struggle. It's exhaustion. It's releasing energy that could be spent doing things that would contribute to a far less enjoyable, efficient or productive existence.
This isn't a plug for you to engage in ultra endurance. This is a post of gratitude to Maranda for capturing the moment that brings me back to that time and place when I need it the most. This is a post of appreciation for those who sacrifice tirelessly to make sure that this community has a place to continue to flourish. I am forever grateful for the people who make up the ultra community that I am so blessed to be a part of.
We look forward to heading up to Superior Spring in May this year too. There will be six of us this time around and we'll be logging a few miles on the drive up. If anyone who's volunteering wants to put in a few miles on some of my favorite SHT sections please join us.
Thank you again Maranda! Your friendship means a lot to me and even though we don't see each other often I look forward to a hug and good conversation. Until next time...