The Mountains – Part 2/2

Well, that didn’t turn out the way I expected.

The race was postponed for a couple hours because of snow, which was totally fine with me. I love that snow happened, and I love that the race directors were aware of the safety of the runners. I was there, waiting and hanging out with my friend and making new friends. Finally, the race started.

I had adapted decently to the elevation difference (sea level to 1,310m above). The point of skyrunning though is to challenge that elevation. It’s a combination of running, climbing, and moving upwards. I was doing a “Mini Sky-Race”, which is like the starter-pack to see if I liked it at all before chomping into a full Official Series Race. Which was a good idea. It was still 10.5 km race, plus a 950m elevation gain. It included off-trail, open forest and urban running. There were areas that included gulley’s, overgrowth, shale and sheet rock. The starting point was in Blairmore, Alberta and the peak was Bluff Mountain. It was gorgeous.

I finished, but not exactly the way I had anticipated to.

Not too far into the race, a situation arose where I left the trail. Someone else was there and they had stepped off the trail to take a photo and could not get back. They were on a sheet rock ledge, surrounded by shale and unable to reach to any footholds or grips. The individual let me know they were terrified of heights (not great when facing out towards absolutely nothing but the way down, despite the amazing view). The person acknowledged that they were terrified, shaking and anticipating that there would need to be a search and rescue team to come and recover us.

I didn’t know if this person could get themselves out. I believed they could. I wanted them to, for their own confidence, but I did not know. Only they knew. All I knew was that if they stayed on that ledge, it would break and that would not end well.

Together, we spent almost three hours finding the safest way off the ledge and away from the shale rock. The first part took calm identification of the area (I climbed in every direction around them to find the safest way) and positive reinforcement. The second part took them believing in themselves that they could get there (which they did!). We got back onto the alpine forest, we searched together for the race flags marking the way. I went higher, unknowingly, but I forget that not everyone is as tall as me (which sometimes makes climbing that way easier). We did not find the markers. Eventually, we called the race director who indicated that we were parallel to the race path, and we just had to make our way down. We climbed down (carefully) and crossed the finished line together, gripping hands in solidarity after that experience.

I was euphoric that I got down safely, and that my new friend did too. I also cried for days after. I wanted this to be the redemption after sliding down the mountain in Victoria last year. I knew I could do this race, and I wanted to complete it exactly the way it was meant to be. I wanted to find myself on the peak of the mountain and understand that success. But as it turned out, I didn’t. But more importantly, I learned that the person I am would never leave someone alone. I don’t know why no one else answered the calls. I don’t know why no one else stopped. All I know is that I did without a pause. Part of me cried because I didn’t properly complete it even though I unintentionally reached the peak, and part of me cried because I spent part of that time terrified that I was about to watch someone fall and that in those moments, I was the only one who was there to help.

I thought that either my epilepsy or my arm would be the cause of any complication. I thought it would be my condition or my injury. I never anticipated that it would be anything else. I am not afraid of heights but that fear became debilitating in the situation for someone else. Ptophobia is the fear of falling. Atychiphobia is the fear of failure. I can guarantee 100,000% that in those three hours, I was more afraid of failing that person than I even considered my epilepsy or injury.

Sometimes things are brought to us that we don’t expect. This definitely put a new perspective on all the circumstances I am experiencing at home and how I prioritize those things. While I know I will never be accepted in a career in Search and Rescue, I’m considering taking courses in survival so I properly know what to do. My new friend has let me know that they plan to do the race again as well. They may still be afraid of heights but they are not letting that stop them from challenging themselves again in an event that makes them face that fear, even after our recent experience.

Whether I do the race next year or not (travel is expensive), I will at least know this year that I helped someone so that they want to register again. Disabilities aren’t necessarily physical and a ptophobia is common and serious. Yet, this person is willing to face that. Amazing, and inspiring. Canada Day is tomorrow and that person gets to spend it with their family. Their family was their driving force for getting safely down the mountain.

The race didn’t go as I planned. I didn’t find success in climbing a mountain and not sliding down. I didn’t find the redemption that I hoped for, or to “find me waiting there for me”. None of it was how I imagined. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, the whole situation, why I (of all people) was there, why it worked out positively. I will likely never know. It certainly puts things into perspective though. And what a view from the mountain, when all was said and done!

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