This new training program has me running again. Thankfully I am back up to an hour of running without any major challenges thus far. I ran outside Wednesday around Quidi Vidi lake and again this morning from the house. In light of a tradition I started in 2004 (and that came to mind this morning as I headed out), I walked up to Forest Road to begin my run. It would have been great to see the “red car” or even the brown one. Seeing either would mean my friend and Buddhist mentor, Susan, was still living in YYT.
Alas, she’s way out west in warmer and greener climes, but I still feel her affirming presence on Forest Road. The sub title of today’s entry refers to a book I have yet to publish, “A Year on Denali” and it speaks to my idea that I am on the (figurative flanks of a mountain as soon as I decide to climb it-this I was on Denali for a year rather than only the month the I spent climbing it. Below is an excerpt from that book, which explains the “red car” and Forest Road a bit more…and now it isn’t just 18 months later, it’s seven years…wow seven years on this mountainous path…who knew?
It came first as a gentle whisper scarcely heard amid the rowers’ blades on the lake. I paid little heed because Denali was impossible. Next, Denali beckoned my attention by competing with the coxswains’ calls for pace and speed as the Regatta rowers plied the waters in preparation for their big day. I ignored the call once more for Denali was still impossible. Finally, Denali, like its famous winds, screamed loudly making itself heard over the crowds cheering wildly for the August scullers of St. John’s. While watching the athletes push themselves to exhaustion, I knew I’d found the way. I knew how to find myself again. I knew how to awaken myself. I would aim for the impossible. I would climb Denali.
I rekindled the dream. Like a tiny spark in a tinder bundle, it sat waiting for the oxygen of commitment to fan it into dancing flames. As I began to give breath to my Denali dream, I told no one. I knew my commitment to the dream was far too tenuous to share with others at this early juncture. I needed to prove to myself that I was up to the task, or at least up to the task of training for Denali. I decided to train for a month before telling anyone else or before officially signing up for the climb.
I made a photo collage of pictures from my trip to Denali National Park. I combined two pictures of the mountain, a picture of my eye, and a picture of a long dirt road. Between the photos, I typed the words, “How bad do you want it?” I took the collage everywhere I went. I put the collage in a prominent place in my office where I couldn’t help but see it hundreds of times per day. I took the collage to step aerobics and propped it up against my water bottle so I could view it constantly. I took it to the gym on my clipboard. I placed it on my night table. I ate dinner beside it. I needed to ask myself that question thousands of times before I would be ready to answer it.
I knew climbing Denali would require deep wells of aerobic reserve so I chose to use running as the major form of cardio activity. I had completed a class at the Running Room so I knew I should start slow and work my way up in both distance and time. That first morning, I headed out along Forest Road. I knew this route would take me by the red car. It was red like an old-fashioned fire engine. It perched on the street like a giant fiery ladybug. It was one of only a handful of Madza 323 hatchbacks in the city—you couldn’t miss it.
My friend Susan owned the car. I knew Susan believed in me, therefore her car must believe in me as well. So in those first tentative unshared days of training, I started each run near the car to extract courage, determination, and support from its rusty frame. Eighteen months later, I still start my runs on Forest Road even though the red car lives there no more—I suppose its essence is enough to spur me on. For the first week, I completed “one and ones.” I ran for one minute and then walked for one minute. Ran for one minute. Walked for one minute. I repeated this cycle ten times and went about 2 kilometers with feet and lungs dragging. “How can I ever be ready?” I asked myself. Denali seemed so high and so far away. Doubt flooded every step.