through the ups and downs

In a normal half marathon setting, as you move along you are encouraged by supporters that cheer you on and offer you water. My 14 mile hike on the Tanawha Trail was not quite the same experience, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have supporters along the way. 

I can’t write about this journey without mentioning how awesome my husband was during it all! We started off arriving at our “lunch” point quite a bit early and he rushed up the path all alone with a cooler, bread, peanut butter and jelly, snacks and a gallon jug of water to refill our camelbaks while we sat by the Boone Fork River with our feet in the water taking a break.

Originally I had posted about this hike asking supporters to come and meet us at spots along the way to give it the “race” feeling, but up until Mile 11.5… my husband was the one who was there. He gave his entire day to drive up and down the parkway getting us supplies and meeting us for water refills and offering encouraging smiles.  His support is appreciated GREATLY!

After our 2nd meetup with him, we were entering the “Rough Ridge” zone of the hike. Believe me, I never fully realized the meaning of Rough Ridge up until this point. Sure, I’ve hiked this beautiful section before as a small mile out and back hike, but on this journey, the Rough Ridge became our “wall”. 

 Every runner or marathoner will tell you that at some point, they hit a wall when their body tells them that they can go no further. It’s actually a real thing, caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the body that can leave you feeling fatigued and without energy.

Rough Ridge was the 9 ½ mile point for us. It was a steep boulder hopping climb to an elevation of 4773 that afforded breathtaking 360 degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Getting to the top of it was exhilarating!
When we arrived at the first outlook, the winds were blowing so strong I felt like I was standing on the front of the Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio holding my arms out shouting “I’m on top of the world!!”

But the most incredible thing was the green. Everywhere we looked the color green was climbing up the mountains. Just the week before, it was still mostly brown, but on this Mothers’ Day weekend, spring was racing up the mountain right with us.
It was honestly breathtaking. I’m used to the “Blue” view… but this kaleidoscope of green felt dreamlike. Every different type of tree had a slightly different shade of baby green. The fact that we didn’t have blue skies didn’t even matter.

From up here… only the views mattered. Our tired legs didn’t even seem to care about the depleting glycogen stores.

We explored the cliffs and played around taking pictures for a while. Momentarily we felt like our journey was over.

 Until we noticed that bridge over there in the pictures. That bridge is our destination, or rather, the mountain top BEYOND that bridge is our destination.

From up here, I think the realization that we still had a long way to go was starting to sink in. 

 I’ve felt that way in life before too. I’m very aware of the fact that I’m FAR from perfect. I’m FAR from who I was created to be, and who I want to be. Sometimes, when I get a glimpse of just how far off I am … it can be a little overwhelming. Sometimes, it even seems pointless. And that can leave me not wanting to even try anymore.

I remember clearly sitting atop the highest peak on Rough Ridge thinking those same thoughts. Thinking, this is good enough. This is far enough. Let’s just settle here. I even felt peace in that moment and I knew that Jesus was going to love me even if this was as far as I got.

Then I stood up, stretched, and said, “let’s do this!” and started down the steep descent of this current mountain crest with my friends by my side. We didn’t talk much at this point. I think we were all sorta lost in our own thoughts… and we continued down…. and around, and down some more, and through the boulder field… each of us beginning to become aware of just how exhausted we were.

Have you ever experienced something exhilarating and amazing only to be followed by a low point… a crash?

This is what we were going through for miles 10-11. The low. The down. The “what goes up, must go down” moment.

Just when I was about to stop and give up, I thought to ask Jesus where He was at that exact moment. I was in the “lead” at that time, and noticed my 2 friends were slowing down behind me and I was starting to feel like they didn’t want to be with me anymore. (I mean, this was “my thing” and they were just along for the journey right... they were probably feeling pretty sorry they had agreed to this by now!) 

When I feel alone like that, I’m learning to find Jesus with me in the moment. Since He is Immanuel, God With Us… why not ask Him to let me see where He is??!!

So, in my head, I asked Him, “Where are you now Jesus?”. And I got a glimpse of Him, just ahead of me on the path, turned backwards kinda jogging backwards… full of life and energy… with a glint of excitement and love in His eyes. 

He was waving me forward saying “Come on!” I felt a huge surge of energy burst through my veins and my pace picked up. I felt like I was skipping along the trail, hopping over rocks effortlessly, chasing after my leader who was so full of life it was irresistible! I turned around and saw that my friends had fallen back behind me quite a bit so I shouted back to them to encourage them as well. 

I reminded them that we were not alone on this journey and kept pressing on...

 "But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Is 40:31

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