Fitness & Frailty

3:54 p.m. Saturday, September 19, 2015.

That’s the last time I crossed a “big” ultra marathon finish line at the Run Rabbit Run 100(+) miler.

It’s been a litany of issues over the last 1004 days.

A work change and home remodeling project led to persistent low back issues, which hindered training for a 50k in 2016, which led to an injury right after the race, which led to biking, which led to a bad accident and concussion and a DNS for the Never Summer 100k. Then I tried to get healthy for the Javelina Jundred, but that fell apart. Oh, also there was a heart health scare somewhere in 2016, too.

In 2017, I began training again, but more nagging, niggling injury issues caused inconsistent training so I eventually DNS’d the Cascade Crest 100 and bailed on a fun trail FKT adventure I’d been planning.

Finally, though, I began working back towards consistent training in late 2017. But then my guts/ lower GI rebelled and I struggled with getting enough calories into my body to support my training. I lost a lot of weight that I couldn’t necessarily afford to lose. It’s one of the toughest things I’ve ever faced. It’s been emotionally very, very difficult.

But, hoping against hope, I entered the lottery for the West Highland Way Race in Scotland, and was awarded a place on the start line.

Slowly, though…and surely, I found myself getting in the miles. Training became consistent and stable. I found foods that I could eat without causing too much disruption to my system. Medications helped. Tests are ongoing and hopefully answers are forthcoming.

In February, I finished the 37 mile Mount Mitchell Challenge, which was a massive boost of confidence, being the first ultra finish of any kind in nearly 2 years.

After recovering from that race, I began increasing my training intensity. My fitness came around to the point that I honestly feel as strong as I’ve ever felt.

And yet, there are still moments where my guts flare up and I am reduced to laying on the couch, or in bed, clutching my side and never straying too far from the bathroom.

I am as fit as I’ve ever been, and yet I am also as frail as I’ve ever been.

Fitness and frailty side by side in one body.

It’s a bizarre juxtaposition.

But the strange truth is that is the reality we as humans have always lived. We are far stronger than we ever really know, capable of feats of endurance, strength and resilience that boggle the imagination.

And at the exact same moment we are a split-second away from decimation by an accident, an injury, a drunk or texting driver, an infection or contagion, or even some awful diagnosis.

Ultimately, I’m trying to see this all as a gift, because this fitness and frailty have simply exposed me to the reality I was already always living all along. It’s keeping me a bit more present. A bit more aware of the simple grace that comes from feeling well being grateful when it does. And a bit more honest about how fleeting it can all be, too.

And so, here I am, fit and frail, at the airport, on my way to Scotland, to the start line of the West Highland Way Race…a 95 mile adventure from Glasgow to Fort William. Here’s to being present to the journey.