Yesterday, I completed my first Island Challenge. The event took place in Lewistown at the Half Moon Ranch and it featured different events – a half-marathon, overnight bike ride and 8K/11K hikes. I signed up for the 11K hike. I am a natural introvert so engaging on such an adventure solo stirred up feelings of fear and doubt. I had thoughts of backing out more than once.
I woke up early and made the hour-long drive so I could have plenty of time to check in. I was not disappointed by the beauty of the ranch. There were cows greeting passing cars on the dirt road leading to the ranch and the rising sun brought everything to life. I arrived at the pavilion to the smell of bacon and pancakes. I checked in, pinned on my number along with the memorial pin of my son. The ranch is surrounded by mountains and wildlife so I enjoyed the views while I waited for the hike to begin.
When it was time to gather around the starting line I made sure to listen to the directions, especially pertaining to the split between the two hikes. The horn went off and I began my journey. We started on a hill and I slowly ended up in the back. I told myself that all I want to do is finish, even if I am last. I was looking forward to the solitude of being in the back.
We went uphill for over a mile and my heart was racing. My legs started to burn in places they usually don’t and the terrain became very rugged. I had to watch where I was stepping so I wouldn’t fall or roll my ankle. As we started to spread out more, I could hear the wind blowing through the tops of the pines. Everything around me was beautiful and so full of life and color, even the rocks and foliage along the side of the road. I made it to the first water station and was happy they had kleenex and fresh fruit. The oatmeal I ate for breakfast wore off before I even started the hike. We had a brief respite from walking uphill but another hill waited after the rest station. I attacked it with vigor and pumped my arms to give me a boost. Tendons I didn’t know existed were sore and I began to feel the weakness caused by the muscular dystrophy. I wasn’t about to let it stop me.
I thought of Christian and how he and his brother were never able to hike because their bodies became too weak once they were old enough. I thought of my mother and the pain she has endured from her legs giving out. I also thought of a co-worker who is battling cancer. I felt that second wind come along and I kept it up. I walked alone for a good part of the hike except for the marathon runners that passed occasionally. I came up on the 6K sign and realized I was over half way through. The second water station came a short time later and they said I had one mile left. I thought the nice man didn’t know what he was talking about. How could I only have one mile left? I pressed on further and approached a downhill slope that made me hesitate. I pictured myself trying to run down it and tumbling down for eternity like Chris Farley in one of his movies. I eased my way down and felt my quads burn like fire. When I was closer to the bottom, I let gravity help me and ran a short way. I slowed, went through a gate and I could hear cheering. I thought that was odd because I still had a way to go. The pavilion came into view and I knew something was off. I felt like I had accomplished something great, but 11k in a little under 2 hours? I crossed the finish line with a smile and a feeling of completion. It didn’t dawn on me that I went the wrong way until I noticed hikers with the 11K blue race bibs on cross the line that were in front of me earlier.
I have to admit that I felt disappointed because I signed up for the longer hike. I beat myself up a bit for making a mistake and missing that turn. I was very tired and sore after completing the shorter hike so I thought that maybe it was for the best. Next year I can try the longer hike.
I opened my devotional this afternoon and read about the grace of God. Grace is the evidence of his love for us which is freely given. It comes to us as talents, through other people or in ways totally unexpected and most needed whether we realize it or not. God wants for us what is best and sometimes it seems unfair. Although my hike ended up being 3K shorter than planned, perhaps He knew that I started off too big. My legs ached like they haven’t in years and I really cannot imagine how they would feel had I completed the longer hike.
I cannot change the fact that my legs are not as strong as I would like but God has given me the ability to keep walking and hiking, just not marathon distances. He has blessed me with a loving husband and a son who despite his prognosis, continues to do everything he can with what he has. He also blessed me with a son who kept fighting until his last breath.
Christian was with me on my hike walking beside me and he knows I gave it my all. For everything he lost and everything Andrew continues to fight for I will not give up, even if it means taking a path I didn’t expect to take.