As I sit here typing, it's hard not to think about the fact that this time next week I'll be trying to get a good night of sleep ahead of taking the first step of the 6 days and 120 miles that is GORE-TEX TransRockies the following morning.
Am I excited? Yep.
But concerned too.
The more my fitness has improved, the more aware I've become of my weaknesses and the fact that there's just no way to properly mimic running at altitude when there's no altitude to be had. Not without money (and the contraptions that money can buy) that I do not possess (and couldn't justify on said contraptions if I did).
I spent the past several days in Salt Lake City at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show and, while there, had a couple of different chances to test the legs, lung and heart at higher elevations and had first hand opportunity to confirm that while being fit is a good foundation it doesn't always overcome science.
A whole summer of diligent nurture turned on its head by nature. Go figure.
But up on the Great Western Trail in the Wasatch Mountains, I got myself the taste I needed to know more tangibly what I'm up against and that can't be all bad. The racing pulse that signals my arrival at 9,000+ feet doesn't need to be a total deal breaker, but I've gotta handle it. Feeling that pounding again firsthand before the actual first day of "racing" was definitely worthwhile.
It was also a blessing to be able to witness far more talented and experienced runners do what they do, either by bystanding or by running right alongside (or just behind) them. I picked every accessible brain and tucked away what I could from offered advice and/or accounts of races and adventures. I watched the way incredibly skilled trail technicians chose their steps and transitioned paces depending on the terrain. I listened to them describe highs and lows and found that in many cases the moments they seemed to cherish weren't necessarily finish lines or medal ceremonies, but more often the same minor triumphs or beautiful landscapes that us less accomplished plodders hold dear.
I wasn't going to be able to thieve any of that talent or call upon experience that belonged to others, but maybe just maybe I stored away some new perspectives and nuggets of insight that I can draw from during those pending 6 days up high in Colorado.
We can't all stand atop podiums or set records, but we can each take another step along the trail, up the next climb or down the next descent.
Not being entirely sure what lies around the bend isn't a good enough reason to not go see.
I'm gonna have a look.