A stunning Italian backdropped yet I struggled on foot and in mind. Rocky came along for a rugged run in the Dolomites.

Today presented itself with an arduous reality check along with a healthy reminder of that which is significant and worthy of slowing down for. Learning the weather forecast was finally clear after a wet, windy week of backcountry and ski resort trails, I was eagerly anticipating a run many around the globe only ever get to dream of.

I made a specific trip to the Cortina Visitors’ Center for a particular Dolomite Trail Running map, highlighting the trail I felt would present the most fitting challenge. In a preemptive venture to be well out on the trail before any crews of climbers, tourist buses or backpackers dawned their presence, I went to bed with the kettle ready to boil, water bottles filled, and shoes ready for my mangled feet.

An agoraphobes nightmare, the parking areas neared capacity with climbers and hikers before the light of day.  Though speaking in foreign tongues, all seemingly had common goals of chasing the sunrise and making theirs the first tracks of the day. I instinctively felt as though it must be race day or some kind or summer festival as hoards of people tied their boots, packed up their harnesses and put shades in the windshields of their campervans. Short of breath, I had not yet made my way to the trail head sign when anxiety went into overdrive; uncontrollable panic. The limestone ahead was bound to be littered with keeners all certainly whose way I would be in; trip, fall, blood, stares. Time for positive self talk and mindful consideration of where I was at this time last year, a tube in my stomach and a nurse’s assistant 24/7 in Colorado. Just start moving, remember where you have come from, one foot in front of the other: You don’t need to see the whole staircase just take the first step (MLKjr) .

So step I did, over one limestone rock and then another. As the footing toyed with my depth perception, the only rhythm I seemed to generate was that of a frustrated march. With such limited vision, taking my eye off of the technical trail to witness the vertical walls and  sheer cliffs  that surrounded me meant taking that march to the speed of a snail. For what it was worth, that is what I did. The scenery was breathtaking in itself; missing out on it solely to ensure I kept my heart rate in a prescribed zone or my speed at a certain pace took more self talk than I know it should.  Such numbers and figures are meaningless in memory books whereas Mother Nature carves and deserves a special place. This adventure is intended to embrace where I am at and today, in the awe-inspiring Italian Dolomites, I slowed down to ensure I did just that.  

If I was the protagonist in my own Choose Your Own Adventure novel, I would choose to turn the pages to unravel a plot that leads to a happy ending; one where I let go of numbers, take time to appreciate the gifts of Mother Nature and feel at peace with myself, regardless of the terrain, altitude, pace or distance. I would call that a satisfying read however, this is a fictitious stretch from my reality. If I could do that naturally and consistently my journey would read more like a flat 5km than an adventure amongst mountains. The struggle to accept that the direction my life was going took a sharp turn off the map is slow going at best. The battle I have with myself did not stay back in therapy in Colorado; in fact she is a fighter able to keep up on the most scenic mountains, on the toughest climbs and in the most serene valleys. I can too easily fall into the comparison trap: comparing myself to my old self, aspiring to be as I used to be.

Running a trail such as that in the Dolomites, might be easier if I had two perfectly able eyes; if they didn’t make me weight restore to such an extreme weight, I’d be able to get up these climbs faster, I am never going to be quick at this size, I did not need that energy bar, I can’t see a freakin thing. Such thoughts can appear out of nowhere and have the ability to fester with consistency of a Swiss train; I have a handful of mantras aimed to shut them down; however such self deprecating thoughts are correlated to the expectations I put on myself.  If I am not improving, I am not worthy.

Along this journey I am trying to reframe such thoughts and overcome self-doubt; I know I am worthy, it is these mountains of my mind that I must conquer, one climb at a time.

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  1. Nadine says:

    Great quote from MLK, Jr.
    Although your challenges are unique, so many people struggle with comparisonitis with their former selves – especially athletes, I suspect. The thing is to keep moving no matter what the pace and like you say – look forward, not back.
    Great reading about your adventures and musings. Keep the posts coming!

  2. Jayson Marotti says:

    Thanks, I’ve recently been looking for information about this subject matter for ages and yours is the best I’ve found so far.