A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way


I Just Spent A Lot To Do A Thing

Hello, $76K readers.

Welcome back.

Now that you're here, please allow me to take a minute to just




FYI, that was a good scream. A happy scream.

Because I have MADE A PERSONAL/LIFE/FINANCIAL DECISION after weeks (I mean it, weeks) of agonizing and obsessing.

(First off, a disclaimer: YES, I involved my family in this decision, and YES, everyone's on board. We've talked about it to the point that Fortysomething's like, I don't know how many ways to tell you that it's absolutely fine, why are we still discussing it.)

Do You Want To Know What It Is?


Here, watch this:

That's right, people:


As of last night, I'm signed up for part of the Transrockies Run 2020, a multi-day stage race across the mountains of Colorado. This race has an outstanding reputation not only for the scenery, but also for the logistics. Registration includes pretty much everything: accommodations (a tent each night), breakfast and dinner, a shower truck, and luggage transport from one stage to the next. Also, beverages (aka beer). People rave about the experience. The race definitely attracts high-caliber runners, but it also welcomes average runners of all ages and body types who just love the sport and want to cover some major distance in a beautiful place.

The full experience is six days long and covers a total of 120 miles, but I'm signed up for the three-day option: 21 miles the first day, 13 miles the second, and 24 miles the third. At altitude. It'll be a challenge, but I think I can do it. (The six-day option averages 20 miles a day for six days in a row. I'm not ready for that. It's also way more expensive.)

So How Much Does It Cost?

...What's that you say?

You want to know the registration fee?


*cough cough*

Something in my throat, sorry.

What now?


It's... well, it's expensive.

To cut to the chase, the total cost is about $1400. That's why I've spent so long talking myself out of (and then into) signing up. I think the price tag makes sense - again, it covers the race itself, food, tent rental, five nights of camping, and sports therapy stuff - but whewwwww.

Why Am I Doing This Thing?

If you've read even just a few posts on this blog, you probably know that I'm pretty obsessed with running. It's weird, given that a) I'm not fast, b) I'm not agile, and c) I'm a perfectionist who likes to do things she can excel in. When people picture runners, they conjure images of lean, gazelle-like Olympians.

But I am not lean. I am not quick. I have more in common with a fire hydrant than a "real runner."

Typically, I don't bother doing things I'm not that good at because it damages my sensitive little ego. But for reasons I haven't fully deciphered, I love running despite myself. I love who I am as a runner. I can't tell if I turn into a different person when I put on my running shoes or if I just morph into the best version of myself, but either way, especially as someone prone to mental illness, it's good for me.

Whereas other aspects of life easily make me crumble, as a runner, I am determined, consistent, persistent, pragmatic, and surprisingly cheerful. In my snail-like way, I get out there and keep going. I can continue putting one foot in front of the other even when the experience is painful and/or boring.

I've been running for more than 20 years and have had only one injury (I overtrained, and my IT band rebelled).

So in my mind, by my own standards, I am a runner, and a pretty successful one at that.

Running a multi-day stage race is something I've been wanting to do for at least a decade. The Transrockies Race has been on my radar for a couple of years, but I've been particularly aware of it since registration opened up several months ago. Given the reputation of this event, I was intrigued. But I also felt that signing up would be completely unreasonable and selfish given that we could be saving that money or using it for other things.

I shoved the thought out of my head, but it kept coming back, over and over again.

Once Again, Finding Balance

In order to pay for this race, we'll have to dip into savings. That's what gave me so much pause.

We've spent the last two years paying off debt and building an emergency fund, and to throw so much at one experience feels like we're moving backwards in a way. We've got momentum now! Shouldn't we just keep saving and investing and gaining financial ground?

Once again, I find myself trying to find that balance between planning for the future and making the most of the moment. I am 41 years old. I am healthy. I can easily take a week off from my part-time job to go run in the woods. And while I hope I'll be able to keep running for the rest of my life, while I hope that I could make this same choice any year and not just this year, nothing is guaranteed.

After four decades of life and watching random and terrible things happen to people you love, that fact really starts to sink in. The phrase "Make hay while the sun shines" takes on new significance.

Don't Just Save The Fish, Eat The Fish

Part of my hesitation in signing up was the thought that continuing to add to the already-stocked emergency fund would be a smarter move. But that started to feel strangely icky.

It took me a while to figure out why:

Would I rather throw more money into an untouchable account intended to cover us in the event of future problems, or would I rather invest in something that excites me and makes me feel alive in the here and now?

Would I rather prepare even more than we already have for the nebulous bad stuff that could be awaiting us somewhere, sometime down the road, or would I rather focus on the more immediate things that I so clearly care about in the present?

The former seemed like the smarter move, but it also made me feel deeply depressed, as if we'd just be sitting around waiting for the other shoe to drop. That was the part making me feel blurghy: the notion that we're supposed to hoard money and deprive ourselves of things that bring us joy, spending the cash only when truly awful and expensive things to happen to us.

Fortysomething and I are into survival reality television. We recently watched a season of Alone (a show about surviving alone in the wilderness) in which one of the participants spent weeks conscientiously drying and storing fish for the winter. In the meantime, he allowed himself a mere half a fish every 48 hours. One day, the medical team came in for a routine check and discovered that his body mass index had dipped below 17% - an indication that he was actually starving.

When they evacuated him, the guy was severely emaciated, had something like 40 whole fish hanging in his shelter, and was screaming promises that he'd eat more if they'd just let him stay.

Point being: there has to be a balance between preparing for the future and nourishing yourself now. You can't sacrifice present-day you for future you; that defeats the whole purpose of preparation.

Moving On From Sunk Costs

Aside from the adventure and the challenge, the other reason I want to run this race is because I need something new and big to focus on.

Since leaving an academic job in 2016, much of my brain space has been taken up by thoughts of finding work, hating work, quitting work, feeling like a job hopper, feeling like a failure for not using my degree, and feeling like graduate school was a pointless endeavor. I've been sad about all of the knowledge I won't use and all the so-called friends I've lost now that we aren't in the same career field. I've obsessed about wasted time.

In other words, I've been focused on the things that didn't pan out despite enormous investments in time and energy - the sunk costs. And that's okay. It's okay (and necessary) to grieve.

But at this point, I'm ready to invest in what is working in my life instead of agonizing over my perceived inadequacies. I'm ready to place my focus on what I can mostly control.

Preparing for this race - because it will take a lot of preparation - is a way for me to redirect my attention so that I don't get stuck in the Land of Shoulda Wouldas and can keep moving forward.

I don't know where my "career," such that it is, is going, but this race gives me a better sense of where my life is going.

ANNNNNNYWAY, that was very long. Thanks for reading the whole post. Thanks for letting me dig into my thoughts. Thanks for listening. (And if you have annny interest in living in a running camp for four days and crewing for me, let me know.)


  1. I would be terrible at giving advice in this area but I am VERY excited for you! You're right to do it now while you can, and it's not in the grand scheme of things, a huge amount of money. I can't wait to hear about it after!

    1. Thank you! I'm really excited, and I haven't regretted signing up even for a second. So that's a good sign!

  2. It's a great idea to give yourself something to look forward to. You mentioned needing to dip into savings, but if it's happening next summer, won't you also have 6+ months to put more money aside and replenish savings as needed? Seems like a very considered decision in any case.

    1. That's very true! Our income will dip from January through May, but I can pick up some additional petsitting gigs if I need to earn some extra cash. Thank you for your supportive comment!

  3. You're my hero. Seriously. I could walk those kind of distances and feel like my legs were going to fall off the next day. No way I could do 3 in a row! Heck, I did walk 11 one day with blogger friends Miss Mazuma and Mr. Slowly Sipping Coffee, then 13 the next day, and it took me a week to recover!
    And I totally get the feeling that we're not getting any younger. There are so many things I wish I'd done at a younger age, but seem silly or unimportant today as I stand a week before my 37th bday.
    And in the grand scheme of things, $1400 for a memory you'll have for the rest of your life? A steal!
    Wishing you all the best luck ❤️

    1. Thank you, Josh! Wow - you guys covered some major miles. That is impressive!

      Weirdly, I was not at all interested in this sort of thing when I was in my 20s or early 30s! But I think it's common for runners to aim for longer distances as they get older.

  4. It sounds like it is going to be an incredible experience. IMO, responsible PFing is all about spending on priorities. There's no doubt this is a priority! Enjoy it.

    1. Thank you for being so supportive, Deborah! I appreciate it. <3

  5. Everyone needs a stretch goal and I'm a big fan of paying for experiences. Trust me when I say this is cheaper that traveling to run the London Marathon, one of my best memories. Run strong!

    1. Ooooh, that sounds fun! I'm glad it was such a good experience for you.

      Thank you for the encouragement!

  6. Last year, I spent twice as much on my exercise hobbies as I ever had before and it was 100% the best expenditure I've ever made! Enjoy yourself, lady!

    1. Thank you so much, Diana! I was thinking of you and your recent post as I wrote this.

  7. Congrats on signing up for such an awesome race. As a runner myself, I looked at this race a bit as well, but I already have a pretty full runner calendar next year.

    One of the races that I signed up for is called a "backyard ultra." Basically, you run 4.17 miles each hour for as many hours as possible. The last person standing is declared the winner. Just like your stage race, I am excited about the new running format.


    1. Nathan, that sounds really fun! Definitely the type of race I'd be up for. I'm going to keep an eye out for something similar where I live.

  8. Congratulations for deciding to do something you love! What good is paying off debt if you can't enjoy being debt free? Life is for living

  9. Congratulations! Here's what I think about money: You need money (because capitalism), but you can't forget the reason WHY you need money--to take care of you. Always putting off everything because of what horrible things might happen later is not good for your health. Running for days on end would be my definition of torture, but if you love it, you love it, and that's legitimate. I also think that price for a trip of that length is really reasonable.

    And not to get all self-involved, but I couldn't help but think about how my health took a surprise turn in 2018, such that running three days would not just be torture but an actual physical impossibility that might literally kill me if I attempted it. So no, you don't know whether you'll have the chance again, and you'll live with your memories forever.

    We save for a reason. We want to live. Let's LIVE. You're not spending like this without regard for tomorrow. You're trying to LIVE. So live. I hope you love the race.

    1. Thank you so much for such a thoughtful, sincere, and encouraging comment. I really appreciate it and will take it to heart.