Malcomb: A lesson in humility
Mother Nature taught me a lesson Saturday.
Remember a few weeks ago when I told you about the Grand Traverse and how my wife and I were going to attempt it? My plan was to run/walk it until I caught up with my wife and walk the rest with her.
Yeah, that didn't go so well.
I had a grand plan that I would go 27.4 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail and, as I mentioned before, I hadn't really done much to prepare — check that, I hadn't done anything in the way of training. I didn't spend a single second on the SHT.
So, I get on this bus at Fitger's in Duluth and it drives me down somewhere in Jay Cooke State Park and drops me off with about 50 other people. We start hiking. I was keeping pace with a couple of guys who, while a bit younger, looked to be comparably as fit as me.
I get my first hint of trouble when I overhear one of them talking to another hiker.
"Dude, we started training for this like a year ago," I heard one of them say.
Yikes. I began to think might be in trouble.
So they pass me, along with a bunch of other people. After I come down off Ely's Peak and get to the second aid station, about 11 miles into this thing, I text my wife to see how she's doing. She had about 10 miles to go, meaning I was about 6 miles behind her and 3.5 hours into this thing. There's no way I'm catching her and I'm starting to ache a little.
Miles go by, not nearly fast enough, and I go up and down, climb hills, cross creeks, and I start to feel like some jerk's been beating on my legs with a baseball bat.
I finally get into Duluth and I think I'm somewhere near Skyline Drive, and I'm starting to think I might be able to finish, if not in the amount of time I wanted. I get another text from wife.
"Enger," it read.
Ohhh, God, I forgot about Enger. My legs revolt.
"We are not going up that hill," they said. "We don't care if it's the easiest one we'll climb today — it's not happening."
I sat down on a rock not far from Skyline, pulled out my phone to check out what it would cost to Uber from there to Fitger's: $40. Even in my condition, that seemed a little pricey. So I kept going.
Finally, I come out of the woods and I saw the last aid station and, looming beyond it, Enger Tower.
It was over; the trail beat me. I come up and this lovely older couple tells me a ride is on the way and just have a seat in one of the chairs. I put my head in my hands and I'm utterly defeated, I can't believe I didn't make it.
I thought, heck, I've done marathons, I can do this with my eyes closed. It was arrogant and the trail taught me a lesson. It doesn't care how many marathons I've done or miles I've run. It's a different kind of challenge and I have to prepare for that challenge.
Still, I'm glad I tried and, in a way, I'm glad the trail beat me. It's beautiful and majestic, but it's also tough and without mercy.
If you don't respect it, you just might end up in a lawn chair on the side of Piedmont Avenue.