Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Knowing when to fold 'em

The hardest thing for me to do in life is relax.
That doesn't mean I have ADD or jump around the house like a chipmunk on meth (or, as my current analogy fits better, a 1-year-old on a popscicle rush), but I can't sit on the couch all day and all night.
I can't allow myself much of a break.
I need to keep busy.

So when I got up at 2 a.m. Monday, facing my longest and toughest climb this year, and I felt a scratch in my throat, I blew it off, thinking it was no big deal, that I could still do 17 miles and gain more than a mile straight up.
It turned out to be one of the toughest days I've had in years.
I should have realized that as our leaders set the pace about the same as the Daytona 500 of hiking, as if we were park rangers and four climbers were hanging by their shoelaces off a ledge and needed our help. By the time we reached the base of the mountain, I was whipped and in need of food.
Instead, we scaled up a trough so treacherous that two rocks whipped by, one of them whizzing as if Randy Johnson had thrown it at my head. I ducked just in time, showing off my reflexes developed by pitching in slow-lob softball these last four years.

By the time we got near the summit, I was pulling a Floyd Landis, falling several minutes behind the leader, only there would be no Landis-like comeback. I crawled to the summit, shoved five Oreo cookies in my mouth, downed a bottle a Gatorade and tried to prepare for Longs, 1,000 feet straight up away.
The food helped enough to push me to keep up, and by the time we got off Longs and back to the trail that would lead us to our car, six miles away, I was feeling OK.
And then it started raining.
And then it started pouring.
And then...

There are many things about mountaineering that do not scare me. Heights? The cold? Rocks flying like fastballs at my head?
That's part of the deal. But lightning? And knowing that you are the tallest thing above treeline and therefore a target?
That scares the hell out of me.
For a half an hour, I prayed to the Gods that they wouldn't send a bolt my way. I've been good, I said, not chasing my draws when I don't have the odds, taking that first pitch in softball and giving my kid and wife a kiss every night.
It seemed to work. The storm cleared, and we had a wet but calm three miles down to the car and food, a hot shower and dry clothes.
When I got home, I started shivering. Must be the cold rain, I thought.
That tickle in my throat turned out be a 101 fever. I was sick with a cough.
So I was supposed to go hiking Friday before I led another group up the mountains Saturday for my 14ers group.
But I'm not going.
I'm taking it easy.
I'm relaxing.
Sometimes, you just have to know when you're beat.
Sometimes you have to fold 'em.

Song of the week: "The Illusionist" by Scar Symentery - Good, brutal metal with a catchy chorus. My favorite.
Movie of the week: "Shopgirl" starring Pot Committed, aka Claire Daines. This clever tale bombs out at the end, but the acting and story are too cute to not watch this.

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