For 23 years, I lived in densely forested areas. The forest of Tahoe was not a forest at all by my standards. It was bleak and open, with towering pines spaced widely and randomly across a clean desert floor.The lush green grass of Washington and North Carolina vanished as we ascended into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, replaced by dry and brittle, knee-high yellow straw. The altitude left me exhausted at the end of every run, and falling into bed at the end of the day, battered and beaten. But over time, I began to appreciate Tahoe for its distinctiveness.
Yes, the forest is sparse, but the heady sweet sugar rush of the ponderosa pines leaves the town smelling perpetually of Christmas.
True, the grass is not dense and green, it is tall, amber grain, but when a chilly October morning drapes frost over it, sending light bouncing and dancing in every direction, you couldn’t buy diamonds to match it.
No, the altitude was not easy to train through, but day after day, it made me stronger. I built character during the first several months of altitude, training slowly and racing poorly, but after a while, one inch at a time, I saw myself improve and then surpass the highest fitness I’d ever seen in eleven years of running. When I traveled to sea level to race, I craved the high altitude, longing for the familiar burn in my body that told me I was working harder and getting faster than the sea-level version of myself.
Two weeks ago, I closed the Tahoe chapter of my story and drove east. Again.
We always knew Tahoe was temporary, a brief respite from the real world as we spent lazy days at the lake, laughed over dinner at the pizza place and sledded the neighborhood hills, squealing like delighted children. But I needed a new adventure and Michael needed a new job.
I don’t know what it is about my 20’s, but during the last 5 years, I’ve had an enormous appetite for travel. I’ve visited 43 states, 6 countries and still, I have a deep desire for new experiences, to explore and understand the world around me.
New England was uncharted territory for both of us, and the more I learned about it; the more I wanted it to be our next adventure. Over time, Michael realized that rather than leave the world of running behind, he wanted to pursue the avenue of coaching and began searching for jobs in the New England area.
Eventually, he selected American International College and we landed in the quaint, Victorian town of Chicopee, Massachusetts. This means that I have officially lived in all four corners of the United States, the northwest, the southwest, the south and New England.
I think what I love the most about starting over somewhere new is the chance to be whoever I want, where no one knows my name. I feel brand new, but just as Washington and North Carolina shaped and forged me into who I am, I will take a piece of Tahoe’s rugged beauty with me for the rest of my life, forever thankful for the pleasures, but most of all, the struggles.