A distant goodbye
A cold wind blasted the cliffs, carrying a salty mist hundreds of feet above the crashing waves. The setting sun rendered the hillside in purple light and sharpened the chill, which, thanks to the wind, felt more threatening than the mild temperature might imply. I rounded a corner and caught a gleam from the last light of the sun in the eyes of a young bobcat, who stared at me for a long second before turning around and sauntering down the trail. Bobcat was running but with no real urgency, its long legs and big paws stirring a fine layer of dust that had been kicked up by hundreds of runners early that morning. A couple of times, the bobcat glanced back as if to say, "Are you still following me? This is my trail." I love spotting bobcats in the hills; they remind me of my imagined spirit animal, Lynx, which I conjure for comfort in times of fear and pain. After the bobcat finally darted back into the brush, I decided our brief run together was a good omen.
A few hours later, Beat texted to tell me that his mother's partner Peter had died. It was not unexpected; he had terminal cancer, but the quickness of his passing came as a surprise. And regardless of the circumstances, it's never easy to accept that someone you knew and appreciated is suddenly, simply, no longer there. When Beat and I visited his mother in Germany, Peter and I would occasionally take long walks on the paths and trails of Bielefeld. He spoke only a little English and I speak even less German, but he used our limited shared vocabulary and enthusiastic gestures to piece together a compelling portrait of the city and his life there. He was kind and intelligent and always had a sparkle in his eye, a zest for life that even a crescendo of near-constant pain couldn't dampen. He was fond of aphorisms and walking. Peter was once a very quick marathoner but unfortunately a longterm smoker; complications of smoking nearly took his legs, but he was able to save them through sheer determination and exercise. He walked nearly every day, sometimes 20 or 30 kilometers, and it was difficult to watch as cancer took this joy away from him as well. He was always supportive of Beat and me and enthusiastic about all of our crazy adventures; he treated me like a daughter-in-law despite the lack of legal definition, liked all of my Facebook posts, and greeted me with a long-armed embrace whenever we visited. And Peter absolutely adored cats. I thought about the running bobcat when I learned he was gone. Peter would have loved that story.
I will miss him.
It was drawn. I very much want to run Hardrock. I would be a great adventure run, in one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the United States, and the organization itself creates a family-like atmosphere that one can't help but embrace. And its very inaccessibility in terms of entry has contributed to Hardrock becoming perhaps the most widely coveted 100-mile mountain run in the world. All that said, I was forming other adventure ambitions for the summer of 2014, and Hardrock just doesn't quite fit. I might be able to make it all work with excessive adventure greediness, perhaps demanding the impossible from myself, and of course even that would be a grand experiment. Either way, I'll have to do some serious soul searching about this in the coming weeks. It would be unwise to give up what will likely be my only chance to run Hardrock. Just qualifying for this run is a whole lot of commitment that I'm not willing to wedge myself into — training for and running the same 100-mile races every year.
This has certainly been my year for race lotteries. A few months ago I applied for the White Mountains 100, thinking, "I don't really want to take on a 100-mile snow bike race so soon after the ITI, but it's my favorite race ever and I'm not going to get in anyway." I got in. Now Hardrock. It's almost as though the so-called "lottery gods" are testing the conviction I had back in September that maybe I should dial back the whole adventure racing thing, that maybe it's getting out of control ...
It's a good problem to have, of course — too many things I really want to do with my time. The problem lies in wanting to have it all.