At 7 Summits Snacks, we believe in the extraordinary journey of human endurance and the power of nature's finest ingredients to fuel it.
In this spirit, we're thrilled to present a guest blog by Janelle Shultz, an intrepid ultramarathon runner who embodies our ethos of adventure, resilience, and the pursuit of peak experiences.
Janelle's recent 200-mile race is not just a testament to physical stamina but a profound exploration of the human spirit's capacity to oscillate between suffering and joy, and ultimately, find a profound sense of fulfillment.
The Spectrum of Human Experience: From Suffering to Joy
If I asked you what the opposite of suffering was, you would probably say something like ‘joy’, right? And you might describe two different scenes; maybe one that involved sickness or some unthinkable tragedy, and the other that involved big smiles and laughter and probably puppies cause they are fur-covered joy nuggets right?
Now, if we think about suffering, and joy, as two opposing experiences on the same spectrum of what it means to be human, what experience would you say is in the midpoint of that experience? Boredom? Blah-ness? Flat.
Embracing Life's Full Range: Comfort, Pain, and Euphoria
How much of our lives do we spend feeling rather flat? Probably a fair bit. Even puppies can’t keep us happy all the time. Even the best lives have a certain degree of blah because it’s just part of the deal of being alive. (I still really need a puppy).
And I think that a lot of the reason why we get comfortable with feeling ‘blah’ is that at least it means we are avoiding the lower end of the spectrum. After all, who wants to feel suffering?
If we stay in our same boring routine, at least we can build a life that is…well… comfortable. Now, let me ask you another question. Within your comfortable life that is maybe rather blah, how often do you experience joy? Euphoria, even?
Maybe that isn’t happening as often as you would like.
The Grit and Glory of a 200-Mile Race
But this blog isn’t about having babies. Or puppies. This blog is about running. More specifically, the suffering and the joy of running.
The full spectrum. I recently completed my second 200-mile race, so you could say I know a little about suffering, running, and the incredible range of experiences that happen over a race of that length.
The Divide 200 was a ridiculously tough race in the mountains of Southern Alberta that I completed in 87 hours and 44 minutes, with only about 4 hours of sleep during that whole time. So yeah, I was a little tired.
Fueling with Purpose: The Role of Superfood Snacks
By the third night, there was no doubt in my mind that I would finish, but I also knew that I had a long way to go before I would cross that finish line. And I was in A LOT of pain.
It was the middle of the night and the temperature had dropped enough that I would start to shiver if I stopped, so the only option was to keep moving. My pacer and I were about to head up the North Kootney Pass, over the Continental Divide and into British Columbia and it was difficult to imagine yet another grueling climb when my body already felt so exhausted.
I needed some incentive. Something to fuel me. Ultramarathons of this magnitude are just eating competitions, and I was doing a pretty good job staying well fed. In addition to gels, liquid nutrition and all kinds of solid food, I had also packed a steady supply of Seven Summit Snack bars with me.
I’ve been fueling with these bars for a few years now with great success and had a few bars stuffed in my pack for this section of the trail.
The Climactic Ascent: Overcoming the Ultimate Challenge
I reached into my pack to pull out something to eat and saw the chocolate bar. I was about to rip into it, and then paused and put it back, choked back a regular gel instead.
Why? I knew the joy of my favourite run treat, would taste so much better after the climb ahead was done. It’s not called a Summit Snack for nothing, and I wanted to save it. To savour it.
The climb was never ending, the hallucinations were wild, and the trail was relentless and rocky. At one point I shone my headlamp up the bank above the trail and was met with the glowing orange eyes of a lynx, as if I needed further incentive to keep hustling.
The suffering was pretty intense.
A Moment of Triumph: Joy at the Continental Divide
But I knew that once we crested that pass, the hardest parts of the race were over. I just needed to get there.
One impossible step at a time. After an eternity of climbing, a rusted-out sign at the top of the pass told us we were officially on the Continental Divide and crossing into B.C..
Other than the sign and lots of rocks, all we could see was stars against the blackest night, and all I could feel was absolute euphoria, drowning out the pain.
That moment was born out of intense discomfort and suffering, and yet there I was, fully, and joy-fully, alive. Can you imagine if I decided not to race The Divide because I knew it would be hard? If I had chosen the comfort guarantee of a boring life to avoid the challenge I just conquered?
I never would have experienced that moment in all its intensity. What an incredible privilege to choose this challenge, and to stand on that mountain awash in stars.
It was the perfect time to celebrate with a little something sweet to complete the moment. I’ve never tasted anything so delicious in my entire life.
Written by Janelle Schultz.
You can read more from Janelle on her blog: https://runmewild.blog/