Lessons in Length

Last weekend I went running in Moab, Utah. With a few of my best friends and my father there to support me. My favorite thing about distance running is how I always know it’s going to teach me something. Lessons I need to learn. Like giving up control for one, a particularly good lesson for me, because, sure, I can make something happen for myself. I can save up enough money to move to NYC as a teenager, or put together enough food to get from Georgia to Maine. However, I can’t do anything about the choices made in the moment to change my circumstances or the thunderheads coming in hot!

 Moab 07

 And speaking of coming in hot! Oh boy! What a day! There was a high of 87 degrees is this desert location. Granted, it’s been a warm spring, but still, I should have been better prepared. I got cocky, and I got smacked! My last words to my best friend as I left the hotel room at 5 in morning were, “I’m not carrying a backpack! Backpack’s are for suckers!” As I gave her a kiss on the cheek and we all had a good laugh. Flash forward to 2:30pm, mile 38 and you can find me belly up in the shade of a great tree saying goodbye to the world as my head throbs, my fingers and toes tingle, and I think to myself, “this is a good day to die.”

I left checkpoint at mile 33 feeling awesome! I gave a hoot and my dad and Shasta and a few other spectators cheered back. I felt rejuvenated and fresh. Energized after a tough hot stretch where the aid station they told us to was going to be 5 miles away, turned out to be 6 miles away, then not to exist at all. Shasta and my dad saved the race for me there, as I was long run dry and feeling awfully dizzy. They gave me, and 5 or 6 other runners, some water. Shasta ran the next 2 1/2 miles with me and greatly improved my state of mind. So one water/food break later, I was feeling happy. I crawled out of the canyon and scrambled up to the ridge without a care in the world. Then looked down at my one hand held water bottle. “Eight miles to the next check point” I heard the nice woman from mile 33 say. Then it hit me, ‘I’m a moron!’ I have about 5 ounces of water left in my one bottle, and it’s about 5 miles to the next check point. Meanwhile, it’s 2pm and the heat is fierce. ‘I know, I’ll just run fast! My body feels strong, and the faster I go, the sooner the water comes.’ So for the longest 10 minutes of my life, I try to run as fast as I can stand to and keep glancing at my watch thinking time is playing some kind of cruel trick on me. Before long, I realize that I’ve fried myself stupid. I can’t walk in a straight line and I’ve got to get in the shade!

So I lay myself down under a tree. I covered all of my skin in dirt, I see dogs do it all the time, and figure it could cool me. My first thought is, ‘I just want to be dust, turn me into dust’. My second, ‘this is the most comfortable I’ve ever been’. I just laid there and felt happy, thought about love as some kind of big indescribable montage involving so many good people in my life. A woman came by a bit after that and I told her I felt like I might be in some trouble. That I would wait there in the shade until I either got cooled enough, or the heat of the day passed. She wanted me to walk with her for the next 4 miles to the aid station. I tried and zig zagged too much. Then picked another tree and insisted she move on. What a generous person though. She offered to split the little water she had left, and I refused. Everyone needed it desperately.

After a bit more time in the shade I was surprised to feel pretty great. I got up and walked and felt a lot more with it than I had before. And figured, as long as I didn’t push it, I could keep going. About 15 minutes later, a dirt bike came by, and Isaac, my hero, gave me all the water he had. Saying, ” I know I’m on one of these, but I’m actually an endurance athlete too. I’ve gotten myself in the same situations too, trying to carry as little as possible.”

After that, it was pretty smooth sailing. I ran a bit, but mostly walked to the finish line and felt pretty darn grateful that nature didn’t kill me. What timing too! A few short weeks before I set out to walk across the desert of New Mexico. A special thanks to mother nature for the backhand smack that I truly needed!

Moab 03

My barefoot father and bad-ass friend Heidi (who had already finished her 50 mile run that day) running me into the finish line.

Pre-race dinner with the mega-loves of my life! Shasta, Adrienne, and Heidi.

Pre-race dinner with the mega-loves of my life! Shasta, Adrienne, and Heidi.

Dougnut cheers for the 50 milers. Congrats to Heidi for crushing her 1st 50! Amazing!

Dougnut cheers for the 50 milers. Congrats to Heidi for crushing her 1st 50! Amazing!


6 thoughts on “Lessons in Length

  1. Shayla, You are an amazing athlete and I am so excited about your experience. We learn so much when we are in trouble. People are incredibly generous, often when we are ready to give up hope. Press on, be strong and know that your seattle friends wish you health and success.




  2. Hi Shayla,

    I read about your CDT hike in the Flathead Beacon, what an accomplished hiking career you have, you’re very inspiring. I’m from Bigfork and will be hiking with a few others starting August 11th at E Glacier heading southbound to Benchmark, I hope we cross paths out there…or should I say “trails”! :). Have a spectacular journey!


    • Toni, so nice to cyber meet you. I hope we cross paths as well. I hope to be in Benchmark around August 23rd or so, so perhaps I’ll miss you, but I hope I don’t. Happy hiking! Thanks for the encouragement!


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