Tragedy. You should never be in too much of a hurry to oversee your own gear. I learned this lesson several times, yet, here we are again. My friend and I were rushing to get ready for a run, for no real reason I might add — we had all been watch free for days — but I suppose we would not want to keep the sun waiting.
My shoes were wet and cold, wet I can tolerate, but the cold wears me down. My husband and my kids were warming themselves by the morning fire, so I left them in charge. I suppose it was diffusion of responsibility.
Sadly, this is not even the first time these shoes have burned. At least this time my feet were not in them. I knew when I left the shoes by the fire it was a risk. Perhaps some part of me was ready for them to burn, as these shoes were over a hundred miles past their recommended wear guidelines and already had two small holes in the sole. Sometimes the only way to get rid of something you are not ready to let go of is to burn it away.
I tried to play it cool. I had no one to blame but myself and my own eagerness to get on the trail. But watching these shoes burn was a kick in the gut. My husband had some duct tape at camp… could I? No, this was the end of my Salomons, not even duct tape could fix this. It had to let go. It was well past time.
Not so fast, these were not just shoes to me. These Salomons carried me through hundreds of miles of wilderness — to meet my fear, to meet my failure, to meet my pain, to meet the dirt, to meet the water, to meet the sun, and to find my breath. Together (because mostly it was just the two of us alone), we made our way through rivers, crossed more logs than I can count, and pushed to the top of steep rocky trails. On muddy climbs and descents, we rarely lost our footing, and even when we did I am certain it was operator error— I could never blame the shoes. They brought me across finish lines, but even more impressive — they carried me from the commitment, through the lonely hours of training and the miles of self-doubt, all the way to the starting lines. These shoes brought me through the highest of emotional highs and through the darkest part of the other extreme. At times they were completely indifferent to the tears silently streaming down my face. They just kept pushing forward — because they were strong shoes. Once I thought they had failed me, I felt water pooling in my heel. How did that happen? It was not water, but the shoes did not care. They just carried me forward. Because that is what they do.
Too bad it is not socially appropriate to cry over shoes.
As I laced up a substandard pair of backup shoes and headed out of camp, I glanced at my Salomons and wondered what would carry me now. “They may be great shoes, but I hear they are flammable,” my friend reminded me. We laughed as we made our way through the mud.
Flammable. Strong shoes — yet fire consumed them in a matter of seconds. My friends had engaged multiple times over the weekend in rather lengthy and heated debates about the consuming properties of fire, so after seeing my shoes smoking and having several hours to run, I found myself mentally replaying the conversations. Some things are not so easily consumed by fire. Gold, when finally hot enough, is merely melted down, purified, and reformed. Perhaps the human spirit operates in much the same way.
I am not certain what carried me through the ten miles on the CDT last week, or what will propel me forward in all the journeys to come, but I do know it will not be my Salomons. I had put my trust in those shoes for years, but they burned. It was the end of the road for them. Moving forward, I will have to come to rely on something else, something not so consumable, to carry me. But I have hope… because at the end of the road some things burn and some things don’t.