AMY ROSE: RIP 'N' RUN

Through a new content series called RIP ‘N’ RUN, Amy Rose shares her story of how she surrounds herself in nature to nurture her mental health — with words and images that describe her 72 hour nano trips through some of our country’s most beautiful landscapes and national parks. It’s a story of observing the power we have within ourselves to get better.

On the Shoulders of Giants

INSET 1

As I started training for my first race since last year the imposter syndrome crept in. Who am I to enter a race? Who am I to call myself a trail runner? I’ve barely been running for four years now. Hell, as of the other day I even entered a new age division: 50+! What do I think I’m doing? What am I trying to achieve? Maybe I should withdraw from the race. I haven’t been putting in the miles I did last year due to two injuries AND I put on 15 lbs. Why subject myself to the humiliation of failure? Wait a minute. What would the failure be? Do I run to land myself on a podium? No. Do I run for fame, glory and sponsorships? No. I run because it makes me feel good. I run to clear my head and lungs, to get my blood flowing, to release endorphins, to increase my serotonin levels, to go places I never imagined, to connect to nature, the earth, and sometimes even other runners. I run to humble myself, release rumination, quell anxiety, disperse depression and to be inspired. I run to free myself of preconceived notions I’ve held about myself, of demands and expectations, yet here I am comparing myself to the accomplishments of others. I tend to follow a lot of ultra marathon runners on Instagram to be inspired, but I also end up feeling like I’m not good enough, fast enough or have what it takes to endure those mind boggling distances. I can recognize that no one is putting pressure on me but myself. Society hasn’t done this to me, I have. How have I turned what I love into something that is currently making me squirm with self doubt?

INSET 2

I recently went on a very celebratory Rip ‘n’ Run. For my birthday I flew to Los Angeles to see a band, but to also fulfill a dream of going to the contemporary art museum, The Broad. As I lost myself in the work of great artists such as Basquiat, Warhol, Koons, Walker, Bradford, Lichtenstein and others, I thought about what set them apart from so many of their contemporaries. Their passion, ambition and creative insight helped to establish themselves the world round. I don’t know if they compared themselves to other artists during their heydays or not, but each of their work stands for itself, as a representation of their expression, their vision and what they saw as they passed through life. No comparison necessary, as they all lived unique lives and shared them with us in seemingly unchartered territory.

Later that afternoon I decided to take the sun up on its challenge and went for a dip in the hotel pool. Before I exited my room I stood in front of the full length mirror and passed judgment after judgment on my physical appearance before becoming defiant of my mind and marched myself down to the pool. As I twirled around in the water I was delighted to see so many shapes. I suppose my fixation on top athletes has given me a different sense of what bodies look like, coupled with societal norms I could’ve sworn I didn’t allow to litter my perception, regardless of the fact that I watch and admire runners of all shapes and sizes. It was just one more way to compare myself and solidify my imposter syndrome.

Amy Rose Sequoias Blog Poem1

The next day I ventured 3 ½ hours north to Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Visiting the giant sequoias in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range had been on my list of places to go for a while, and after the wildfire caused by lightning last year it got bumped to the top of the list. The fear of the unsustainable effects of climate change and human error, as seen in the case of so many devastating wildfires, prompted me to prioritize the visit.

The shift from city to forest was a huge sigh of relief. Much of my time is spent planning, plotting, mapping, preparing and calculating my escapes to nature. This was different though. Moving among these miraculous trees felt akin to the day prior spent at the museum.

INSET 3

Typically when I spend time in nature it’s often by myself running, sometimes with a friend or just my dog. The trails feel like home to me. The birds keep me company, as do the sounds of rushing water and the wind through the trees. In the giant sequoia groves I heard mountain ravens, but also the click of camera shutters, the cries of children, and the conversations of people in many different languages. Trying to find a moment to connect to the trees and earth around me was difficult. I felt like I couldn’t hear them. Maybe it was the chatter in my head. Maybe it was the stoicism of 2,200-3,000 year old trees. Who was I to try to connect with these trees? I can see by some of the names given; General Sherman, General Grant, which is also labeled “America’s Christmas Tree” that many people before me have tried to connect with these giants too.

Amy Rose Sequoias Blog Poem2

As I stood before them looking in awe at the burn scars they carry, their thick reddish bark high in tannins protecting them from fungal and insect attack, surviving on the rich nutrients the earth provides them, I thought about their imensity. Although considered the world’s most massive tree and the biggest living organism on earth, the sequoia is not the tallest species, even with the General Sherman measured at 275’, nor the widest at over 36’, nor the oldest; the General Grant is estimated to be 3,000 years old. Yet here they are standing with grace for all to see.

INSET 4

Is the magnificence of the giant sequoias diminished by the taller California Redwoods? No. What about by the wider baobab tree or Montezuma cypress? Nope. Not even the older Great Basin Bristlecone Pine. The glory of the giant sequoia stands firmly, with a calm dignity and grace incomparable to any other tree, in the same sense that each of those species stands proudly and uniquely magnificent on their own. The trees don’t have imposter syndrome leaving them to believe they are not tree enough. The Douglas fir, Sitka Spruce, cedar, and all of the other trees are uniquely on their own, not worrying about what any other tree is doing, how tall, wide, old or fast growing they may be. They’re all just doing their own thing.

On day three it was time to run. It was time for the REAL fun. After researching several trail options I decided on an almost 9 mile out and back to Heather Lake via the Watchtower Trail, starting at over 7,100’ with a gain of over 2,116’. A distance and gain like this would be a good training run for my upcoming race, so I took to the trail with great excitement. What I neglected to factor in was how my sea level lungs would do in the high altitude Sierra. As I moved slower than usual up the trail I recalled how just two years ago while visiting Bishop, CA my friend would run with ease at points starting higher than today’s final ascent. As I struggled with my breath and the intense sound of my heartbeat pounding loudly inside my head I caught myself; I was doing it again. I was comparing myself and undermining myself once again, questioning who I thought I was trying to take on a run like this. I also realized how ridiculous I was being. I was sidled up to an immense granite canyon, with spectacular views, leading me up to an alpine lake so clear I could see the fish swimming all the way down on the bottom of the lake, and I was fixating on my viability. And that’s when it happened, that’s when everything slipped away. I was there. I made it. No one was there waiting at the top to tell me I wasn’t enough or that I didn’t qualify, or that I had to turn in my “runner” badge. There was none of that.

Amy Rose Sequoias Blog Poem3

What I’m reminded of is that it’s not about how fast I run or how long I run, it’s that I run and that I do so with gratitude. I don’t have to run. I GET to run. I am lucky enough to take to these trails and give thanks for being allowed to make a guest appearance here. It’s about being part of the cycle, in nature, honoring and appreciating all of it; who I am, where I am, and for those I share space with now, acknowledging who existed before and those who will come after me. To be like the trees is my goal. To be graceful, resilient, nurturing, and conjuring awe is more than I can hope for. Venturing out into nature where societal restrictions and preconceived notions are not merited allows me to put things into perspective and realign with a version of myself I believe in and that I’m proud of. It’s about remembering the trees were here first, and will hopefully be here after I’ve gone. It’s about recognizing just because we can convince ourselves of something, or buy into an idea or thought doesn’t make it true. Just because a tree is bigger doesn’t make it better, and just because someone runs longer doesn’t make me exempt from being a runner. It’s a gift to be whoever I want to be, and today that's a trail runner. A trail runner training for yet another trail race that will take me to yet another magical location and inspire me by the accomplishments of others and of myself too. Heck, maybe I’ll even inspire someone when they compare themselves to me.

Amy Portrait

Amy Rose is a hair stylist, trail runner, photographer, writer and mental health advocate. She has been using trail running and hiking as a tool to help battle depression and anxiety for over 5 years. Amy credits running and her discovery of nature as a muse as critical to assisting in her recovery and transformation. Her unique perspective is apparent in her writing and photography and shines a light on the pursuit of seeking alternative mental health and lifestyle choices. This year Amy’s run goal is to surpass the 1,075 miles she ran last year. Let’s see if she can do it!

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