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Up Iron Mountain

Hiking Iron Mountain is a round trip of 7 miles. 3.5 miles to the top and 3.5 miles back to the bottom where there is a constructed parking lot. Hiking or walking Iron Mtn. is a challenge; it makes a person breath hard and it tests the strength of a person’s legs.

I’ve hiked Iron Mtn. many a time. I like to feel the burn and strengthen my body and mind. Lately though, I haven’t found the challenge of it very motivating. It’s been boring my body a bit. I’ve been training though and training fairly hard. This time around, I decided to run the entire route. Not a Herculean task by any means but also not a walk in the park.

I geared up with a knapsack and enough water to quench any thirst. Sun tan lotion was also a must. I got the run going and immediately began to feel the burn of the ascent. The first 10 minutes were a slow burn; my muscles began to warm-up to the climb. The next 20-30 minutes were a bit hellish  as my leg muscles accumulated lactic acid, screaming at me to stop the brutal punishment.  

I focused on my breathing and told myself that the steep elevation would not last forever and my legs would eventually get a rest. I pushed through it with deep breaths and paced running. The 20-30 minutes of steeping running felt like an eternity. I winced in pain several times, telling myself that I need to put myself through this – I need to do this the hard way. I continued to pace my running, edging on and getting some of the hardest parts of the climb out of the way.

At the 1.5 mile mark, my legs were grateful for a elevation grade change. The ascent became more manageable and I was able to pick up the pace. 15 minutes of reasonable running ensued as I prepared for the next difficult leg of the climb. I prepared myself mentally; focusing again on my breathing while respecting the stamina of my legs. Then I leaned into it, resolving that I would not allow myself to stop running until I reached the peak. Switchback after switchback, boulder after boulder, I just kept on climbing. And after a while, the somewhat crazy ascent no longer felt taxing – neither physically nor mentally. I just kind of fell into a rhythm all on my own. I stopped thinking about it. I started to appreciate the view off to my right side. After all, it is a very pretty view of Poway and various San Diego communities and lakes.

It was quite a feeling. I stopped counting the switchbacks. I stopped worrying about all the annoying and jagged boulders. I just kept on going at a reasonable pace and kept on appreciating the view. I didn’t worry about being alone and I didn’t worry about how I was going to feel when I reached the top.

At the top I admired the view for a moment, turned on foot and knocked off the 3.5 mile descent lickity-split. Sure, I felt in the water encircle both of my eyes a few times during the run. And it did feel good. Yet I did not allow myself to get caught up too long in the feeling. I could feel my spirit elevating throughout the run and that was enough for me. I didn’t need to over-think it.

And who do I owe a big thank you to for a lot of this individual development? Dr. Andrew Thorn. A man of all seasons; an enlightened warrior and spiritualist to the core. Thank you sir. You have supplied tremendous support in breathing life into many of my dreams and life aspirations.

Whatever country you’re in and whatever you’re doing, many blessings to you and your family.

Matthew Polkinghorne

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