Running Homeward

Now and again, a training day becomes much more than a workout. Throughout a year there are a sprinkling of bad days and plenty of good ones. Then there are the great workouts; usually, a great workout is because you finished with a sense of accomplishment. You could have had a perfect intensity, or finally found the key that helps you get into the right position. Regardless of what that accomplishment is, most of those days stay with you. Some workouts springboard you forward in terms of lessons learned or technical proficiency. Having a technique come together after hours, months, perhaps years of work is a very special moment. To succeed, you need to have and remember each of those days. You learn from the failures, but you continue so you can chase the successes.

Then there are days that in many ways cross from training to an adventure of a lifetime. The team’s autumn training camp has been in Mammoth Lakes, California for the past several years. This location provides great training opportunities every day. Mammoth has allowed us to experience some incredible days in the surrounding areas. Three years ago it was an adventure in Yosemite National Park, including summiting Half Dome and Cloud’s Rest on the same day. Half Dome is an iconic element in the Yosemite Valley. What made it so special and memorable was the adventure of that day. It was my longest training day ever. I did it on an ankle that wasn’t 100%, but it never gave me any issues that day. Climbing up the cables of Half Dome is an adventure in itself. Relying on but also sharing that experience with a coach and teammates added so much to the memorable aspects of the day.

Two years later it was a run a little closer to home (Mammoth Lakes), along the Mammoth Crest trail. It ended up as the second-longest run ever for me. Most of this days’ memorable appeal was the length, surpassing five and a half hours, mostly over 3000m. Exploring a new trail, being out in the wild and taking in the view of surrounding mountains still has a mystical component to it for me. The adventure makes for the memory.


Thousand Island Lakes, in Ansel Adams Wilderness with Banner Peak in the center of the background

What did the 2019 Mammoth Lakes training camp have in store? Possibly my favourite long-run adventure ever. The plan was to start in Yosemite National Park at the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center then head southeast along the combined Pacific Crest (PCT) and John Muir (JMT) trail over the Donohue Pass. Continue along the trail to Thousand Island Lake before splitting to follow the PCT to Agnew Meadows. We covered a distance of 45km and were as high as 3395m. It was my all-time longest workout ever at six hours and 40 minutes. We had read that it was perhaps some of the most scenic section of the PCT and JMT; it lived up to that billing. Running in Yosemite National Park is some of the most picturesque runs I’ve done, and I’ve not even scratched the surface of the trails that exist in the park. I struggled a little to find my energy for about an hour around the five-hour mark of the run, but I got back into the rhythm eventually. At one point we ran passed a couple that was planning to hike the same point-to-point we were running but were planning to complete it in four days. Everyone’s different definitions of adventure.

It is still astonishing how beautifully vast some areas are. How majestic some mountain ranges appear. When I’m out on a trail, there is a feeling, a longing to explore more. Along the trail, you see several others and wonder where does that lead. Looking up, you see the next mountain in the range, and I can’t help but wonder, can I climb that or how do I get to the summit? There is a feeling that the mountains are luring you in; “The mountains are calling, and I must go.” Fitting that I sat along the trail named after the man who said that- John Muir. “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Another suitable quote from John Muir, which sums up the feeling of any run or adventure out in the beauty of nature, not that I realize it while I’m running.

Mark

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