My attitude is suffering.  The last two climbs took a lot out of me, and I’m still only 21 miles into this 31 mile race.  The current climb, the hardest of the three major peaks on our route, is notably steep, rocky, and exposed to the sun.  The incline is so severe that I can lean forward a little bit and touch the ground rising before me.  Much too steep to run.  It is too steep even to step forward in a straight line, so I drag my foot forward and to the right.  Pause, rest.  Drag my other foot forward and to the left.  Pause, rest.

An “Ultra”, as it is called in the running community, is any race that is more than 26.2 miles.  50 kilometers (31 miles) is a common distance, and 50 and 100 milers are also reasonably popular.  They are frequently run on trails rather than pavement.  I chose the Orcas Island 50K as my first attempt at the distance.  Several people told me that I chose a tough one for a first-timer.

Step, pause, rest.

Step, pause, rest.

My breathing is labored, my throat is dry, and my eyes sting from sweat.  But there is no such thing as a mountain without a summit, so I press on.

I’m not dead.  I’m not incapacitated.  I’m not broken.  So I press on.

The trail begins to let off, and my attitude starts to improve.  Then the trees part and I am rewarded with an incredible view of the San Juan Islands.  My heart skips a beat as I’m reminded of a similar (albeit easier) climb in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, cresting above the Pacific Ocean.  God’s creation revealed in unspoiled splendor.  The same coastline, but another world away.

A world where people are grateful to have their daily needs met.  Where unscheduled visits are common and computers are not.  A world where the concept of work/life balance is utterly meaningless.  A world where life is hard, but fulfilling.

Hours later I cross the finish line, just yards from where I started this journey.  But, as with any challenging experience, I’m different on the inside.  And I can’t wait to go back to Nicaragua.  I hope you will come with me.