Marathon training is tough. Marathon training at altitude is, in a word, humbling.
Yesterday in Jackson Hole, I went out for my long run. There was something about 7200 feet that got to me. My legs moved slower, my heart beat quicker.
I ran two miles downhill around curves and switchbacks towards Jackson and I sent up thanks to the running gods when I hit four miles of straightaways. The straightaways were perfect. I tacked on an extra half mile, because the straight road felt that good.
But, running uphill, back the way I came, was next. Moving tired legs and pulling oxygen into tired lungs became harder. I was hot, so hot, and I kept swallowing reflexively because I was thirsty. As I went up, up, up, I moved slower, slow, slowest.
I thought about walking the last half mile. But walking is even slower than running, so I kept running. I made a bargain with myself: Just keep running.
That was it. That was the bargain. No reward, no pay-off. Just keep running.
Let’s be reaI: I was barely moving.
Later, I did the math. Jackson is at 6200 feet, and I started my run at 7200 feet.
Meaning: I descended 1000 feet and then ran back up 1000 feet. Holy sh*t.
I was humbled. I was completely humbled by the Tetons. I was humbled in more than one way. Guys, the Tetons are really beautiful. They are very tall and very majestic and, to state the obvious, we don’t have anything like them in Boston.
And isn’t it a good thing to be humbled once in a while? Humbled by our bodies, by the physical challenges we put ourselves through. Humbled by the potential in the opportunities that exist before us. Humbled and inspired by others; humbled and inspired by nature.
It is not so far a stretch from being humbled to being grateful.
So here it is: I am grateful for my body, for my legs, and for my lungs and I am grateful for those very hard, very hot miles yesterday. I am grateful for the spectacular beauty of Wyoming and for the simple fact that places like that still exist.
And I am grateful that I live at sea level.