Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
At the end of my week off from running - a week that included all kinds of drinking, staying up hours past my bedtime and lots of Vegas time with 80 of my closest friends - I honestly began to question why it is such a part of my life.
I was relatively pain free. I had more time to do stuff that was, well, fun. Despite a lot of my running friends telling me it would drive me crazy to take so much time off, I honestly didn't miss it.
Still, I had worked too hard to throw it all away because a week off felt good, and I started throwing on my running gear last Tuesday, two days after my Vegas trip, more out of habit than actual desire.
I expected my body to protest a bit more than usual as I started up the same old hill from my driveway and into my tempo-run route, even if I'd be taking it easier than normal. But it was more like a handshake with a buddy, something I didn't have to think about too much, and as I began to breathe hard, the machine started pumping again with only a few hiccups.
Still, that day was not about breathing hard. It was about getting back into a groove, and so I eased off a bit. Whoa, Tiger, I thought to myself (and won't that phrase take on an entirely different meaning now, given the headlines these days?).
In fact, the mechanics were so familiar to me, I found myself thinking about the past weekend, Christmas, a few stories I needed to write at work and, yes, even a couple world affairs, albeit briefly. I thought about poker and whether I really did play well at those live sessions or whether I just got the cards to do so, and how often the cards really can make us believe how well or how poorly we played when the opposite might be true. I solved a sticky point in a story I'm writing for New Year's Day about a family who battled cancer and a car crash in one year. I felt refreshed after the run, and for the first time in more than a week, my mind was clear.
The next day, our running group held its annual Christmas lights run. It's exactly how it sounds: We run around Greeley and look at holiday lighting displays. We got to one of those houses where you wonder if the owner really is a Christmas vampire (which is about the only Vampire plot I can think of that hasn't been covered this year) who doesn't sleep and instead works on his house. He even sets his house to music via a computer program, and we begged a guy to roll down the window so we could hear the music on the radio and watch the lights.
About a dozen of us went on the run, and there was laughing through the snow, as we went o'er the hills and our spirits were bright. Some of my best friends, who I hadn't seen in more than a week, were there with me.
It was wonderful.
Today, on our last day in Winter Park, Colorado, my alarm beeped me awake at 6 a.m., and I snuck out of our condo (where we're staying, it's not OUR condo) for a getaway weekend.
It was a hilly start, and we're kinda high up here (I believe around 9,000 feet), so it was cold and I was breathing hard right away. Yet the best part about going up for two miles is you get to go back down, and after a slow climb, I found myself running free and easy.
The snow crunched under my shoes, smoke seemed to curl from my mouth as I panted and the trees were coated in winter's beauty as the sun rose, spilling pink light over millions of flakes.
I'm a touch tired and sore as I finish this, but running is much more than a way to work my body.
It's a time to reflect, a time to restore relationships and a time to rejoice.
God how I missed it so.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Narrator: "Well, they were very sad at the loss of their friend, but they knew the best thing would be to get the women back to Christmas town."
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Monday, September 07, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
That's what I would have felt in the past. That's what I was feeling now. But I also felt something else: An undercurrent of fear.
This is the first year since I had kids that I began really stretching my abilities. I started with a climb in the Never Summers range, a climb up the Hart Ridge with Cirrus and Lead mountains. That was a nice warm-up, a couple of ridges, some exposure, even a little danger.
Then I really pushed it with a climb up Capitol the weekend before Saturday's attempt of Teakettle, 13,800+. I was fine up until K2, but as we started to crawl over its top and back down, I was a little nervous, and then, as I stared as its knife ridge, I felt fear.
I hadn't felt fear in a long, long time in the mountains, certainly not for five years, at least. And this fear was different. Tears actually sprang to my eyes as I gathered the group and told them I wasn't sure I should go on. It's not my life any longer, I told them. It's the lives of a 4-year-old and two 2-year-olds, and it was hard for me to justify risking their lives when they don't have a choice.
Before kids, when I climbed, I never worried about my life. It's not like I did the tango on a ridge or two-stepped a sprint across summits. I was always careful. But I was never really afraid either.
That changed, of course, and so when I was attempting Teakettle with Pete Krzanowsky, Adam McFarren and the Artist Currently Known As Piper, I felt that damn fear once again.
I knew I stood out a bit in this group. Climbing mountains is a hobby to me, something fun to do on an occasional weekend, a way to challenge myself and a way to get out and see Colorado. It's a lifestyle for Pete, Adam and Piper. I hadn't really obsessed over the peaks for a few years, since, I'm sorry to say, I finished the 14ers. This was my third time out this year. Pete said he'd been out close to 50 times. That kind of devotion to anything impresses me, and their skill levels reflected that.
I could not have paid for better guides up the peak, especially Adam, our leader. They knew the route cold, set a quick pace and helped me with gear.
Gear is really what prevents me from doing these kinds of peaks more often. I don't know anyone in Greeley, where I live, who has the equipment and the knowledge to lead climbs. Besides that, I struggle when it comes to gear.
Like, a lot.
If this frustrated Adam, Piper and Pete, they didn't show it. They were very good to me. To be honest, I don't know if I would have been as good if, say, I was on the summit of Teakettle, and one of my climbing partners not only didn't have an ATC with him, he didn't really even know what one was. That might have happened. It was pretty high. Altitude fogs memories.
They double checked my harness, helped me with knots, gave me an extra biner to back up my own and generally helped me get through the final, 40-foot summit tower. They also sent up an extra ATC to the summit for the guy who forgot one.
When I didn't have to worry about the gear, I could concentrate on the climbing, and that was really fun. That's something I can do for the most part.
Sure, rappelling was a little rough at first, but it came back to me fairly quickly, and that, too, was fun.
We made it back down off the final ridge before the tower, went back down the black gully (not nearly as scary as advertised, by the way, it was actually one of the highlights of the climb) and then worked out way down a horrible, awful, terrible, very bad slope filled with loose rock, screen and loose rock. Also there was loose rock. I haven't yelled "Rock!" that much since I went to a Metallica concert a decade ago.
Oh, why do we always have to pay for such fun with such crappy, loose rock that the Elks and the San Juans throw at us?
By the time we were headed for our attempt at Dallas the next day, I'd had enough. True, I'd only camped one night and climbed one tough peak, but parenthood's left me a little soft, I guess. I didn't sleep very well in the tent - I never really do - and wasn't looking forward to another night or hauling a heavy pack up to our campsite.
I was looking forward to Dallas, however, and so I was disappointed as well as relieved when rain started pelting our tent at 3 a.m. The attempt really ended with those first few raindrops, even if it let up twice and didn't rain on us again even hours later.
I reached a conclusion in my tent as the rain came down that I hope will help calm my fears as I do another attempt like this one next year (maybe Dallas again, I hope). I will continue to push myself and climb challenging peaks, but only under optimal conditions, if they're within my ability and if I'm with good people.
Teakettle matched all that criteria, even if I wasn't as good with the gear. Dallas, however, was not under optimal conditions, and Adam wisely recognized that and called it off at the base of its majesty.
In the past, I'd be crushed. I don't honestly know if I'll get to attempt Dallas again, at least for a while. And we spent the night out. But now I appreciate the beautiful hike up and a good reconnaissance mission and the company of new friends. I appreciate the chance to get out.
I still recognize the need to get out. I still want to get out. It's so damn fun.
And most importantly, it makes me appreciate the small things. Camping and climbing for a few days makes you appreciate a pillow, hot water cascading over your body, clean skin, a fresh scent, an uncluttered car, white fingernails, a freedom to pee whenever you want and without having to put on your boots to do it, four-lane highways, real food like a cheeseburger (not an energy bar, gel or chew), sheets, cotton T-shirts, a place to keep your stuff (and your back not having to be the place where it all goes), sandals, lip balm, a couch, water from a faucet (not filtered from a creek), healthy toenails, flat terrain clear of rocks, cell phone reception and shelter from a storm.
And I really appreciate my family thanks to the peaks. There are always good things, like my kids shouting "Daddy!" when I get home, and there are always bad things, like my kids turning bedtime into a Civil War (actually it's pretty uncivil).
In fact, as Swine Flu invades our house - Kate answered the door tonight as I was getting out of car tonight with a "welcome to your infected house" and a cough - I may continue to worry about pushing my limits on the peaks.
But I'm also already keeping an eye to a few trips next year.