Sunday at mile 10 of my half-marathon, Christian told me to “Dig Deep” after I ran up to him slightly defeated and with hips on fire. Mile 10 marked the ended of the worst part of the race course. The past 3+ miles were hot, boring, had no crowd support, no band stages, and very little energy was left in all the runners around me. It is certainly a portion of the course that requires a runner to rely on themselves to get through the worst – at least it was for me. It was also at this point that Mister Moo decided to get cozy in my hip bones. I knew Christian was up ahead at the 10 mile marker waiting for me. I definitely needed his smile at this point.
I was so happy to see Christian. I ran straight to him instead of running by and waving. I think the only words I got out of my mouth were “This is hard. My hips are burning”. He pulled a GU out of his support team bag and my water bottle of Nuun. He sent me on my way with two simple words – “Dig Deep”.
Two very simple effective words.
Sometimes those two words make me want to smack Christian. They also make me laugh (now!).
Let me rewind back to the fall of 2010. Christian and I had a kid free weekend. I was craving the great outdoors. Christian was sick of hearing me saying, “I just need some elevation in my life”. We headed out on our first overnight backpacking adventure – the white oak canyon/cedar run loop in the Shenandoah National Park. It is a 8.2 mile loop with 2500 feet of elevation gain that offers over night hiking off of one of the connecting trails. Our bags were packed. We were set. (By the way, it is ranked strenuous by the national park system. The National Park System isn’t lying when the rank the trails.)
We hiked the loop going counter clock wise. Everything we read said this was the more difficult route to follow, but it provided the best views of the waterfalls. We were there to enjoy nature. Yes please to the better views. We were also there because Christian and I love to challenge ourselves physically. Yes please to the more difficult route. Our relationship blossoms in nature. We are in sync. We work together. We are truly balanced when we are on nature adventures together. We knew we were up for the challenge.
The 12oo foot climb to the top was worth every step we took. Waterfalls followed us along the trail. It was beautiful. Once we got the top we hike an additional 2.5 miles of gradual incline along a fireroad (basically a wide trail that can allow 4 wheel drive vehicles to travel down it, just in case). At this point, we were both tired but still feeling good.
At the trail head, we picked up the Cedar Run Trail. We had 1.7 miles left of hiking down 1500 feet. Not too bad? Right?
Let me just say that I much rather hike up a mountain than hike down the mountain. I also do not prefer to hike down a trail that resembles the bottom of a river bend – small slipper rocks lined the entire path. I was never able to find my footing. I rolled my ankle at least two dozen times. My legs were tired at this point. I was EXHAUSTED. I kept telling myself it is only 1.7 miles. Easy.
At some point along the portion of this trail, Christian started to tell me to “dig deep”. It was getting dark. We wanted to be at our campsite before it was pitch black outside. We were racing the sunset. Every few minutes, I’d hear him say “dig deep Kristy”. At one point, I remember thinking (or maybe screaming) “I AM DIGGING DEEP. I’VE BEEN DIGGING DEEP FOR THE PAST 4 MILES”. We fell back into our normal silence. One foot in front of the other. It was now dark out. Christian said it again. “Dig Deep Kristy.” The only words that formed in my brain (I was too tired to utter them out loud at this point) were “F*** Digging Deep. I’m tired”.
We finally made it to our campsite. Christian lead the way with his trusty headlamp. I followed his feet. I was too tired to look up. That night I slept better than I have ever slept before – on the ground. in a tent. simple exhausted.
Dig Deep has become a fun little joke between Christian and me. I have long since proven to him that I don’t need to be reminded to dig deep on our journeys. I push myself hard than anyone one around me every could. Sometimes on our adventures he will say it to me to make me laugh. Sometimes he will say, and I want to smack him because I AM DIGGING DEEP. One Sunday it brought a smile to my face and gave me a little bit of energy to keep going.
As difficult as the hike down the Cedar Run Trail was for me, I can’t wait to tackle that hike again. It was beautiful. It was challenging. I wasn’t left wishing I had done more, seen more, or tried harder. We will be back to repeat that adventure over and over again.