Each time I hike to the top of a mountain, I get a strange but familiar feeling. I wake up. I feel like the last months were all a dream. Standing there, looking out over the wilderness, I feel real.
Something is going on here. Maybe mountaintops bring us closer to heaven; summiting is an accomplishment that brings us purpose; the beautiful landscape is awe-inspiring. But that’s not quite everything.
On top of a mountain, I feel connected to my previous selves that also summitted mountains. Spacetime creases, bends, and folds inward on itself. Suddenly, my life is a continuous moment: just those mountaintops. Everything else between those moments falls away.
Then, my future self looks back at me from the next mountaintop. And I know there’s more climbing to do.
I’ve been training a lot for this Zumbro 50 Mile Race in early April, 2022. The full course boasts 6,750 feet (2,057 meters) of elevation across 50 miles (80.5 kilometers). The elevation gain is about the distance of the Kentucky Derby. Thinking of the elevation gain in these terms makes it more manageable. But by the last lap of this race, I will dread every gentle rise like a mountain to summit.
That’s the point of Ultramarathons: to push yourself beyond your perceived capacity. In that sense, mountaintops are like finish lines. At the finish line of my previous race, I saw my future self looking back at me from the next finish line. And I knew there was more to come.