Sunday, August 21, 2011

Even freaks of nature get tired

My husband likes to call me a "freak of nature." He is, sweetly, mistaken: I am no faster than anyone else. In fact, my running times have become spectacularly slow. It takes me forever to pedal a bike or swim a half mile. I know real freaks of nature: women who run 50ks, 100 milers, Ironmans. I'm not them. What I do have is a strong dose of stubbornness that makes me keep going.

So it can go something like this: Backpack ten miles, set up camp, then day hike three miles over a big, formidable pass to visit an outfitter, then go three miles back? In one day? After a few days last week of combat backpacking over other formidable passes? Why not?

I admit, I have become smug about my hiking prowess this summer. After all I started in May chasing after contractors, climbing in and out of the canyon, gaining and losing 8,000 feet. Hiking is what running used to be; my feet know it, my body knows it. It's a dance we know.

"I'm impressed," I heard another hiker whisper to her companion as I passed. Chatting with them, they learned I had come from the trailhead that day, in contrast to their camp at Eight Mile. As I slogged through the white talus, I didn't feel so impressive. The heat pressed down like a hand, mocking my choice of carrying a down jacket and mittens after a frosty night at Swamp Lake last week. The trail climbed, and climbed.

Little Frazier Lake.

The pass itself was windless, a breath caught and held, still eighty degrees at seven at night. I felt unfamiliarly tired. On Day 2, a supposedly easy downclimb of ten miles, my pace plummeted to 2.5 miles an hour. Each landmark passed with excruciating slowness. Finally the trailhead appeared, none too soon.

J met me at the door with a box of ice cream sandwiches. I ate two. "How was it?" he asked.

"Um. It was a bit much to do for an overnight," I said.

He laughed. "You're a freak of nature," he said.

I was too tired to correct him.
llamas are cool.


  1. Paces don't matter. I think that what makes runners, backpackers, etc. out to be "freaks" is that they enjoy it more than others (non-runners, etc) can understand.

    My high school XC team had t-shirts that said : "My sport is your sport's punishment." Like, why would anyone do that for FUN? :)

  2. Mary...It is that "Freak of Nature" that we have all grown to love and adore. Your stories are asmazing and wouldn't be the same or have near as much meaning if they were from a "Freak of Nature". Your hiking miles and miles puts my Sprint Tri's to shame. I only wish I could keep up with you.

    Karen...I know of that shirt too!

  3. You are sooo ready for your JMT! I know you will do the entire trail with ease.
    I am very tempted to do it again next year, also earlier in the season. I loved the snow challenge - better snow than switchbacks. :)


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