In Darkness Comes Beauty

by winteryder

Today’s programming for the workout was a one rep max test on four major lifts: power clean, back squat, bench press, deadlift. I started mentally preparing for it last week. This twelve week training cycle was inconveniently interrupted by a fractured wrist/hand in October and I have been scaling workouts right and left as I worked to recover and heal.

I sketched in some goals for the day base on my lifts in April of this year and calculating for the broken bits. Last week ended with maxed out adrenals and utter exhaustion after a heavy training week, my daughter’s soccer tournament and advance to the finals game on Saturday. Adding in a birthday bash weekend for her at a hot springs, complete with transporting a car load of teenagers both ways, and by Saturday night I was one tired human.

My goal for Sunday was to find the space between thoughts. To just breathe. To truly relax mind and body and find some good recovery. I woke up early and headed up and out with my dogs to find some elevation, some ridge lines and snow stomping. We roamed far and wide for several hours and were rewarded with one of the longest and most exquisite sunrises I have ever seen. For two hours, the sky unfolded with shades of pastel pink, deep purple, sherbet orange, streaks of red, every imaginable shade of blue and gold. The mountains glowed like they were lit on fire. The sun took her sweet time and just hung out behind the Alaska Range, breathing fire through lenticular clouds and kissing the sky so slowly that the frosted trees seemed to stop and listen.

After running the dogs, I warmed up the car for them and put on puffy jacket and belay pants, mukluks and mitts and brought a thermos of hot coffee and a fresh baked cookie to a spot just below the ridgeline. Nestled down in the snow, I buried my boots in sugar snow and hunkered down. At 11:03, the sun finally broke over the distant mountains. I just sat and let it be. The silence of the hills, the wind whispering through the heavy hoar frost, the warmth of my down mittens, the cold biting at exposed skin at -3F, the way the whole valley below just unfolded in soft pink fog as the sun lit the air above the Chena and Tanana rivers… I just drank it like mulled cider.


The stillness, the wonder, the magic of these darkest days in the northern latitudes… sunrises that blend to sunsets within moments of each other… the contrast… the soft blanket of a cold winter morning. It’s deeply restorative for me. With the dogs warm, safe and snacking on salmon treats in the car, I took all the time I wanted. All the time I needed. For an hour, I just sat with the sunrise while my body cooled down from the early morning run, while my mind untangled a thousand threads, while my heartbeat slowed to its favorite notch at 56 bpm, while my muscles basked in layers of downy goodness and silence.

When the alarm went off at 0430 this morning, I was ready. I had notched 8.5 hours of badly needed sleep and I had a whole basketful of butterflies- excited for what this morning’s workout test would hold.

I hit a 225# back squat, a 280# deadlift, a 142.5# bench press and a 118# clean (not in that order). All lifts were below potential, but were my 100% effort for today. I didn’t reach the goals I had set, but I did surpass last April’s benchmark for two lifts (and I’m 20# lighter right now than I was then).

I allotted two full hours for the test and used it wisely – I was able to give my max effort on every lift and have plenty of juice in the tank for every single test.

I have goals, I have a plan and I’m hunting down my strength and excavating it, one day at a time. Before I turn 40 in the fall, I intend to surpass every record I set while I was in my 20’s. It will require consistency, above all else.

I don’t talk much about my training or my goals, usually because I’m too busy lifting, climbing and working. I think that a once or twice a year acknowledgment is good for me. For so many years, I compared myself to other people (mostly men) and found myself lacking, inadequate, weaker than expected or just… slow. I’m none of those things. I never was. I ran a 2:09 half marathon at 195 pounds. I also ran a 25:15 5K. A 7:40 mile. A 54:02 10K. In fact, last year I ran a lot. 149 racing miles in both trail races and road races. Everything from a one mile time trial to a full trail marathon that’s estimated at the 2nd hardest in the United States.

Today, I’m gunning for a 325# deadlift. A 250# back squat. A 24 minute 5K. A 165# bench press.

There, now you know. And I popped the corner of the vulnerability envelope and stepped out of my comfort zone by writing it down, here.

As the sun rises on this day, this one amazing day that we have in our hands, what are your intentions? What are you willing to suffer for today, tomorrow, in the coming year?