"Grace means more than gifts. In grace something is transcended, once and for all overcome. Grace happens in spite of something; it happens in spite of separateness and alienation. Grace means that life is once again united with life, self is reconciled with self. Grace means accepting the abandoned one. Grace transforms fate into a meaningful vocation. It transforms guilt to trust and courage. The word grace has something triumphant in it."
This is typically a pretty brutal time of the year. With it's false expectations of of love and good will, the illusion that we're something more than the animals hidden inside us, it always seems to end in sadness and disappointment. This year was different. My family has been in Salt Lake City for the past week, and will remain there for the next. It's no ski vacation, no pleasant distraction from their lives in Pennsylvania. Instead it is what Christmas, and any other day of the year, should be about. My Dad is in SLC donating donating bone marrow to save his dying brother. He's a perfect match and it's expected that my Uncle Mike will make a full recovery. It's a painful process and it stretches out over a full two weeks. Without thought or hesitation, and lacking the finances to make such a trip, my dad hopped on that fucking plane and gave a gift that matters. Not that fucking garbage that you and I piled under our trees this year, not gift cards or shiny shit from Apple that will be outdated in six months, he gave what mattered. My Dad is a fucking stud and I have a lot to learn from him. STUD. Now shove that confrontational and self righteous "Keep Christ in Christmas" button up your ass. Ho Ho Ho.
It's almost embarrassing for me to describe the gift that I gave to myself early yesterday morning, but I guess that's because it has more to do with soul and absolution than "stuff" I think it's okay to talk about it. I ran my first 25k (15.6 miles) yesterday. I can think of very few things more satisfying than spending hours alone in the woods; the feel of burning legs and lungs, the attempts to find answers to questions that she and I both know have no answer, and that feeling of elation as I hit the parking lot at the trail head blistered, bleeding, and so fucking satisfied. Priceless
I've been down on myself for the slow pace and long hours I spend traveling miles that most seasoned trail runners can cover in half the time at twice the speed. Yesterday I reminded myself that I was the guy that couldn't run a quarter mile without horrible shin splints, that five years ago weighed more than 50 lbs what I weigh now, and a guy that has gained, however fleeting, a sense of peace and comfort inside my own skin. I also compared the terrain I run to what I've seen from other areas of the country and it seems to match up well with the most challenging trails I've seen online and in photos. I would say that maybe 4 or 5 miles of the 15 are flat. Of those 5 miles, maybe 2 are not littered with with roots and rocks, and the climbs, while short, are pretty fucking steep. Maybe these pictures will give a sense of what running the Appalachian Trail looks like: